According to the official Common Core State Standards (CCSS) website (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2014), there are 3 main shifts in the English Language Arts (ELA) standards that mainly focus around an increase in complex informational texts, the synthesis of such texts, and the incorporation of academic vocabulary.
However, if you watch the correlating video called The English Language Arts Standards: Key Changes and their Evidence, (The Hunt Institute, 2011), 2 of CCSS’s authors David Coleman and Susan Pimentel highlight 5 main shifts. They are:
- Text complexity
- Close Reading (Analyze, Infer, and Give Evidence)
- Writing to Sources (research papers/projects, shorter but with more regularity)
- Mastery of writing and speaking
- Academic vocabulary
For me, a high school English teacher, the only shift that I really need/want to implement with more frequency (I already do it once or twice a year) is the Writing to Sources. However, understanding that the ELA standards apply to EVERY CLASSROOM EXCEPT FOR MATH (and even then?), I have a lot of coaching to do with the teachers at my school (I’m the English chair). Specifically, I will be advising the social studies, science, and religion teachers about writing to sources, and expecting a better writing product from the students, complete with stronger vocabulary.
I know that the students are learning the Six Traits of Effective Writing (Education Northwest, 2014) because I teach them, year after year. The question is, do the other teachers in the other subject know them or expect to see them? A few years ago I coach the faculty on what they should expect in a well-organized paragraph (or Powergraph, as I call it). So, the teachers have been much happier with the organization of the content; however, what about sentence fluency? What about academic vocabulary? What about writing to the sources and synthesizing the research? Teachers need to hold students to more rigorous standards in every classroom, for every assignment. The students know what to do… they also “know what to do” when teachers let the bar drop. Maybe I can coin the term “Demand and Supply Principal”.? When teachers demand it, students supply it. Is this transactional? Yep.
So, I think I need to contact my principal and get my name on the agenda for the faculty meetings before students arrive. I hope English teachers and ELA specialists all over the country are instructing the teachers in their schools about the shifts in the ELA standards. All of this focus cannot be left to English teachers. No, this is an “all-in” effort! And, students are smart… and normal. They know which teachers are rigorous and which are not, and they will supply what the teacher demands (as long as there is proper guidance, scaffolding, feedback, etc – but that’s a different post!).
If you are an educator, what are your thoughts about getting “coaching” from the English department? If you’ve already received it, what are some of the results? Thanks for adding your voice!