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State English standards grow

Posted: February 12, 2012 - 12:09am

The newly proposed English language arts standards by the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development expands upon current standards for literacy and increases complexity for students.

Karen Melin, literacy specialist for EED, moderated a department webinar on Wednesday explaining the proposed regulations for English Language Arts.

She said the department estimates the new regulations will be ready for implementation starting the fall of this year, with the first testing based upon these standards in 2016.

The department has expanded the categories to reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. These categories are considered “anchor standards” of what students should be able to understand and do.

Each of the anchor categories has 10 standards of what’s expected, and it outlines what is expected of students at each grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade. Those 10 standards fall under four domains of their own — focusing on key ideas and details, craft and structure, integration of knowledge and ideas, and range of reading and level of text complexity.

There also are two different expectations in reading — one for literature and the other for informational texts.

For an idea of how the new standards compare to the Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) the state uses now, the expectations appear to have grown up from the old model.

For example, in reading (the GLEs only apply to K-10), standards focus on fluency, word identification skills, forming a general understanding, and analysis of content or structure. The proposed standards expect recognition of key ideas and details, craft and structure, integration of knowledge and ideas, and a range of reading and level of text complexity.

The new standards say they increase the complexity through reading a diverse array of texts.

Another example of the shift in standards is in the writing requirement. Currently, students are expected to “write using a variety of forms, structures and conventions, revision, cite resources and use resources. Under the new regulations they will be expected to identify text types and purposes, learn to produce and distribute writing, how to research to build and present knowledge, and a range of writing skills.

Melin said the difference between this and the GLEs also is that opinion writing will begin in kindergarten.

To look at the range of what students will be expected to learn, reading in literature has kindergartners “comparing and contrasting the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories;” naming the author, illustrator and describing the role of each person; retelling stories, naming common types of texts, and other criteria.

By fifth grade, that student should be able to find words in the text that make inferences, find the author’s message, explain how a series of chapters fits together to tell the story, determine point of view and compare and contrast stories in the same genre. By senior year, that student should be able to cite evidence to support an analysis of the text, determine several themes and ideas in the text and how they build on each other, “analyze the impact of the author’s choices” in how to develop elements in the story, along with many other analytical requirements.

This same assessment style and standard delineation occurs in the other three categories as well.

Melin said the standards put an emphasis on the foundation building skills in K-5, on the belief students should have mastery over the those skills by the end of fifth grade. After that, students should only need occasional reinforcement.

Melin said that in writing, research and use of technology are highly integrated. The standard also heavily links the reading standard.

The speaking and listening standards focus on gaining and presenting complex information and ideas. Melin said that there is an emphasis on formal presentations, however informal discussion also is important in this standard, which is geared to support collaboration and also incorporates technology by adding multimedia formats for presentations.

Melin said the language standards are set to prepare students for college or careers.

She said it was separated out from the current standards not because it should be taught separately, but because it is used as a key component across all other anchor standards.

For a look at the entire English language arts proposed standards see bit.ly/w5ajGC.

For more information on the entire standards proposal see bit.ly/xI9q8b.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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