Friday, July 15, 2011

Our New Framework - Final Version

It has been much too long since I have written. Spring and summer used to be a time for winding down. They are not that way anymore!

The final copyedited version of our English Language Arts and Literacy Framework is printed and available on our web page at http://www.doe.mass.edu/candi/commoncore/. Keep in mind that it is our Framework, a singular frame like that of a building on which to create the rich conversations, explorations of text, opportunities to communicate, and to build knowledge that only literacy is able to so thoroughly support. Thomas Friedman spoke of standards as a platform upon which creativity and innovation build.

It is tempting to dive right in to the standards that most affect our own personal work. However, as you begin, or continue, the exploration of the new Framework I urge you to spend some time with the ancillary pieces of the work. Like any other informational text, it is filled with philosophy, advice, research underpinnings, and connections to all areas of our work.

The Introduction consists of the first ten pages. Reading and studying it, you will understand why we have these standards rather than the ones that were developed during the regular five-year revision process that were due for release in 2009. You will be able to explain how and why Massachusetts added a very small number of unique standards to the Common Core State Standards. On the very first page (p. 3) you will find a desription of The Literate Person of the Tewnty-first Century, the goal of all of the work contained in the Framework and its standards.

The next pages point out key design considerations for the standards. It is worth noting what was intended by College and Career Ready Standards and knowing that the standards are grade-specific except for the grade bands at grades 9-10 and 11-12. The focus of the standards is the result, not the means. The standards represent a year-end floor, not a ceiling and as educators, we are asked to bring our considerable experience and expertise to the instructional process. The standards describe the what; we provide the how. One very important point is that the standards are integrated. As you get to know the standards within the four strands, you will see seminal ideas that repeat. Finding these connections will be important to teachers as they begin to work with the standards.

Research, use of various media, and shared responsibility for student literacy development are all big ideas that permeate the standards. Changes in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), provided impetus for the emphasis on increases in the use of informational text and increases in the volume and types of writing. Appendix A contains the complete history and explanation of the connections and how they informed development of the new standards. On page 6, the document clearly outlines what the standards do not address.

As you consider realignment of the curriculum, pages 7 and 8 describe the Massachusetts Guiding Principles, each of which begins, "An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum...". These ten principles demonstrate the ways that schools and districts may infuse the literacy curriculum with thinking, cultural heritage, informational texts and multimedia, oral language, writing for various purposes, high expectations for all students, appropriate skill instruction for reading and writing, knowledge building, common ground, and sustainable relationships with families and communities. Explicitly connect the principles to your district's literacy action plan and strategic plan, as well as to the threads that bind your pre-K through 12 curriculum.

The last page of the Introduction, presents the organization of the document. Be sure to take note of the last paragraph on the left side of the page. This is where the abbreviations used throughout the standards pages are explained. Each of the strands is highlighted as well as the sections. Certain key ideas, text complexity and language progression, for instance, that are found in the Pre-K - 5 section, are repeated in the Grade 6 - 12 section.

In an earlier blog, I reminded everyone to take time getting to know the Framework. As you can see, I am still encouraging that same approach. Get to know the entire document well. You will have many years to work with the standards. We expect every district to receive copies of the final printed version of the ELA and Math Frameworks for all teachers within another month. Remember that your DSAC Team and members of the Math and Literacy Offices are always ready to respond to your questions and concerns.

Next week I will be working with the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute in Cambridge. We have over 100 educators from grades 4 - 12 and higher education assembling to connect our new Framework with use of the Internet and the various digital tools that it prescribes. The week following next, I will be working with the educators across the state who decided to work on model curriculum units and curriculum-embedded performance assessments through the Race to the Top Grant Project. I plan to communicate about each of those projects here.

In the meantime, enjoy the weather, some relaxation time, and the new Framework, in which ever order you choose!