The Texas Education Agency adopted new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for English Language Arts and Reading in 2017. The 2019-2020 school year will be the first year of implementation for these new standards. Whenever I am faced with change, one of my first questions is, "Was this neccessary?"
I had to look no further than the first paragraph of the Introduction to get a satisfying answer. It reads, "The strands focus on academic oracy (proficiency in oral expression and comprehension), authentic reading, and reflective writing to ensure a literate Texas." That should be the goal of every educator, to ensure literate citizens, not just test takers. The strands that sentence refers to are the new seven strands the standards are broken into--a change from our current five strands. The new strands are: Developing and Sustaining Foundational Language Skills, Comprehension, Response Skills, Mulitple Genres, Author's Purpose and Craft, Composition, and Inquiry and Research. The titles of the strands alone illustrate the goal of creating literate students. I can get behind a change like this.
The next sentence was powerful as well. "The strands are integated and progressive with students continuing to develop knowledge and skills with increased complexity and nuance in order to think critically and adapt to the ever-evolving nature of language and literacy." Integrated, thinking critically, and increasing complexity are three keys in the new standards.
Integrated Though written as individual student expectations, the standards are meant to be taught in an integrated fashion. They were written so this can easily be done if teachers take the time to become very familiar with them. A decoding standard in Strand 1 will probably have an encoding "match" in Strand1 and an application "match" in Strand 6 (Composition). With a little study, teachers will see that the strands better align with each other and can make for a much more impactful learning experience if taught in an integrated manner. This makes sense to me. The more connected the learning, the deeper the learning is for students. I can get behind a change like this.
Thinking Critically About the new standards, Vicotria Young of TEA explains, "Every strand must include thinking, since the development of literacy skills is dependent on students’ ability to think clearly, coherently, and flexibly about what they are reading, writing, viewing, listening to, and discussing." I see this as something many classrooms are currently lacking and a skill one cannot survive without. I can get behind a change like this.
Increased Complexity As students develop metacognitive reading skills, they never truly reach mastery. Once a skill such as synthesizing information is mastered, the teacher can increase the text complexity and the opportunity for new learning and new understanding of the nuance of language is available. The student can apply the knowledge gained in the skill with new learning to continue to develop as a reader. This idea is a game changer because it shows students we can always develop as readers, what we can do well with one peice of text we may need to work on to do well with another, and that literate people are always developing their metacogntive skills to be more proficient readers. I can get behind a change like this.
There are lots of changes coming. They may seem overwhelming to some. But, take a step back and look at the overall vision. See the main goal--a literate Texas. Take the time to study the standards. Read them carefully to understand what they are really saying, how they complient each other, how nicely they align vertically, how nothing should be taught in isolation. This change is good.