Exciting things happening in Louisiana

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Don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but Louisiana Superintendent John White, despite great controversy, has been making strong leadership moves over in LA, writing smart op-eds, maintaining a clear focus on higher standards in the face of volatile political headwinds, working with innovative partners to develop online curriculum, and pulling teachers together to conduct thorough reviews of curricular options according to LA state standards (I wrote a little more about how their reviews compare against EdReports here.)

And now, White is continuing to steer Louisiana on the path to meaningful reform with a proposal to pilot a new form of assessment that recognizes the importance of background knowledge in reading comprehension. These assessments will do so by merging social studies and ELA texts and units throughout the course of a year. Here’s his explanation:

“Rather than administering separate social studies and English tests at the end of the year, Louisiana schools participating in the pilot will teach short social studies and English curriculum units in tandem over the course of the year, pausing briefly after each unit to assess students’ reading, writing and content knowledge. Students, teachers and parents will know the knowledge and books covered on the tests well in advance. Knowledge of the world and of specific books will be measured as a co-equal to students’ literacy skills. And teachers would have good reason to focus on the hard and inspiring lessons of history and books.”

This type of assessment is something I’ve been dreaming about for years, and that former NY State Commissioner and current Executive Director at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, David Steiner, has been talking about for years. At a Research ED conference back in September, I had a chance to chat with Steiner about this a little bit. It’s not a topic that non-wonkish education people seem to care about, but he is also passionate about this issue, and it’s really nice to see that this might finally get a chance to get “tested” by a state.

Too bad NY couldn’t get itself together to make this happen first.

Here’s a short video I had made about ideas for successful implementation of the Common Core standards back in 2014 in which I also make the case that all teachers on a grade-level should be held accountable by literacy assessments:

States don’t measure what kids actually know. That needs to change. John White / The Hill

 

My take on NY’s Revised Learning Standards

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NY State Ed Department just released a revised set of (c’mon, just say it, Common Core) state standards for public comment, open until Nov. 4th. NY teachers, parents, review and comment to add your two cents.

I haven’t looked at all of them yet . . . because unfortunately they only release them for public comment grade-by-grade, which restricts the public from accessing an overall progression across grades.

But here’s what I think from the grades I did review:

What’s good

  • They removed or clarified unnecessary or redundant language
  • I like the merging of informational and literary reading standards into one set. This is much easier for teachers to examine and utilize in practice, as having to go back and forth between those standards, when they are mostly redundant, was a pain.
  • The reorganization and merging of the writing standards is logical and more accessible.

What still needs revising

  • Seriously NYSED, get a graphic designer. Why do all of your standards documents have to be ugly tables with no visual appeal whatsoever?
  • Reading standard R.11 seems like a fluff addition to me. Unsurprisingly, it’s the one addition not originally in the Common Core standards themselves. Especially the idea of connecting texts: that’s already in standard R.9 (comparison of texts).
  • The text types in the writing standards all blend together in one long list. They need to be differentiated and stand out more.

What is not included that I’d like to see

(This is a reiteration of a prior post on what I’d like to revise)

  • Provide more explicit guidance within the literary standards for the study of poetry. (See Sandra Stotsky’s Curriculum Framework for a good model.)
  • Overhaul the writing standards to include literary analysis as a genre of writing.  Merge argumentative and informative/explanatory writing, as the distinction between those two is unclear and it’s of questionable value to distinguish them. Consider broadening the scope of narrative writing to that of creative writing, to include poetry.