Monday, December 12, 2011

Making Connections

Recently I put together a 2-page summary of information on current initiatives that are directly affecting literacy. The administrators to whom I presented the information appreciated seeing everything in one place. I thought you might as well.

We have had several blog entries that discuss and elaborate on the new standards. With the new standards come new assessments and some adjustments to the current assessments (MCAS) particularly with regard to writing. If you have not already put the MCAS transition framework page on your "favorites", you may want to do so The chart shows that as early as next spring (2013), modes of writing emphasized in the 2011 Massachusetts English Language Arts and Literacy Framework will be considered for testing. The page tells us that districts will be notified regarding which modes will be tested at the start of the school year.

PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career , is providing a content framework booklet that outlines the year-long expectations for grade levels from grade 3 through 11. This suite of tools presents 4 areas for consideration for each grade level: a narrative summary of the critical standards for the grade level; a model content chart - suggested integration of standards throughout the school year; very complete explanations of all key terms and concepts; and progression charts for writing and speaking and listening standards. These are especially helpful as they show the standards side-by-side with the previous year and highlight what the current grade-level expectations are. This document is available for download at PARCC has other tools in development and opportunities for educators from each member-state to participate in the development of future test items. Educators who have worked on preparing MCAS items will tell you that this is a very enlightening and helpful way to participate in test development. If you are responsible for implementation in your district, you may want to take advantage of Webinars that are archived at the site.

The next generation of assessments promises to provide curriculum-embedded performance assessments (CEPA). This is a concept that the Massachusetts model curriculum units project is using as part of the development of its units. In each curricular area - science, social studies, math, and literacy - the model unit provides a performance assessment that integrates a number of standards. Every unit has been asked to include the relevant literacy standards. This has helped to raise everyone's understanding of the literacy demands in each core discipline as acknowledged by our new literacy framework. Please check the Department's website regularly because as soon as some of the units have been properly vetted, they will be available to all for piloting or use in the classroom. In addition, the Department will solicit a second round of educators to develop even more of these units. Being part of this project really helps you to understand the requirements of the new standards while using those standards to plan an engaging and rigorous content-based unit.

Two important initiatives that affect and influence all of our work with students are the Massachusetts Tiered System of Support (MTSS) and World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA). The MTSS information is available at in an interactive format. You may see the organization of all components in a chart and when you "click" on each component, it is explained and linked to the Conditions of School Effectiveness (CSE), its philosophical underpinnings. In addition, both the MTSS initiative and the Model Curriculum Units Project have taken Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into consideration. You may find more information about UDL at Please note that on March 13, 2012, MTSS will be introduced at a statewide meeting. I will provide more details when I have them.

The WIDA initiative is in the process of being adopted by Massachusetts. It will replace our current resources, materials, and assessments for use with English Language Learners (ELs). You may get a sense of the new materials and the concepts behind them at Until Massachusetts is a full-fledged member, we will not have access to all the online materials. However, the WIDA materials address all curricular areas and provide far more support to educators than the current system. Stay tuned for more in this area very soon.

Finally, as many of you know, Massachusetts, along with many other states, will be adopting a new educator evaluation system. The regulations have been developed and adopted. The timeline is ambitious with early adoption districts and Level 4 districts working already with the state on the pilot activities. In the southeast region, Wareham and Mashpee are early adoption districts. We hope they will be able to provide us with important information about this initiative as time goes on. In the meantime, you may access the available information at The new system incorporates student growth data. Some of you may be regular readers of Laura Tilton's SouthEast Educational Data (SEED) blog at If so, you have a good idea of what the growth model entails. If not, you may wish to follow Laura's entries as well. Laura is our Southeast DSAC Data Specialist.

There are a number of important initiatives in development or recently developed that either directly or indirectly influence our literacy work with students. Changes are in the works and many will particularly influence our work with the new standards. I hope this entry has provided some useful information as well as some opportunities to pursue the particular information that may be of greatest interest or most need.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Little More on Assessments

Regarding the PARCC naterials, district and school leaders will find a wealth of information in the content frameworks documents (There is one for Math as well.). You may also wish to watch and listen to the recent archived webinar. On the PARCC site, under the Implementation heading, there is a Common Core Implementation Workbook that may be downloaded and used as a guide for ensuring that the district is on track for adopting the standards. It is based on the delivery philosophy and is designed to help you manage the transition to the new standards and assessments. In addition, there are older archived webinars there that may provide useful information for other members of the district and school communities.

Please continue to check our website as well. Note that while the MCAS blueprint will remain unchanged, starting with the 2012-2013 test cycle, all modes of writing will be included in the written portions of each test - specific modes to be tested will be announced at the start of the school year (Grade 10 writing will not change.). The best advice is to begin paying attention to the writing types and purposes of the new standards. The opinion (W.1) and explanation (W.2) standards are based upon writing in response to texts. These are critical practices associated with the new standards. Incorporating them into classroom practice will not only prepare students for future assessments and the future in general, but will more than adequately prepare them for this year's assessment as well.

To access the PARCC materials visit http://www.parcconline/parcc-content-frameworks . Find the latest information for Massachusetts at .