Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Standards and Integration

Last week I participated in the first phase of Reading/ Language Arts standards writing organized by the Nebraska department of education organized by the very capable Tricia Parker-Siemers. Our charge was to consult with existing standards and rewrite them with an eye to the changes in our understanding of literacy. The changes we suggested (the process is long and we were merely the first stop) focused on the significant changes to the ways we understand literacy, primarily because of technology. We crafted the new standards to have an expanded notion of what counts as a text and aspects unique to online reading and writing. For example in Reading Fluency we added the notion of persistence and focus in online reading. This integrated approach seems o make sense at this point in time as a signal to teachers that they cannot separate technology integration from everyday classroom practice. The idea of "computers specials" once a week cannot help our students meet the standards necessary for them to be ready for college and work.

That being said I am also keenly aware that changing of standards is rarely correlated with a change in the ways teachers teach and even less with student achievement. So what is the hope? Why did I take two days out of my professional life to spend trying to re-craft a set of standards that may matter very little?

I believe that we can send a message and provide support for teachers that are working in the right direction. In the work on Tech EDGE Laurie and I have often invoked the multiple literacy standards as a way to justify and base our work with teachers across the state.

The danger of the integrated standards is that they can disappear into the background. When the standards were all together they had a "presence" that cannot be denied. I worry that when they are part of wider constructs (e.g. comprehension) they might only get a nominal mention and much would happen. On a second thought this is already happening in many classrooms anyway...

What I really hope is that the Nebraska State assessment will use these new standards to make better items and test environment that includes multiple literacies in wise and creative ways. Yes, I used state assessment, creative and wise in the same sentence; a man can dream, can't he?
If they follow in the footsteps of the work Don Leu and his colleagues have done we may have some interesting things in our future.

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