By David Yockey
Milford has recently initiated a new language arts curriculum in grades 6-12. This curriculum was designed and written by our teachers and is directly aligned to the New Learning Standards in Ohio.
Text complexity has increased at each grade level in order to align to the National Learning Standards. For example, texts that in the past might have been a grade 9 or 10 text now align with the grade 8 text complexity requirement. Writing expectations have increased significantly (although Milford has a long history of high expectations in writing) to align with the focus on informational/expository writing as well as argumentative writing.
Argumentative writing has a strong focus in the National Learning Standards as a type of writing particularly needed for college readiness. It is an expectation that students are writing argumentative essays not only in English Language Arts but also in science and social studies. For example, students have rich and rigorous conversations which are dependent on a common text. Teachers insist that classroom experiences stay deeply connected to the text on the page and students develop habits for making evidentiary arguments both in conversation, as well as in writing to assess comprehension of a text. Writing needs to emphasize use of evidence to inform or make an argument rather than the personal narrative.
In other words, the curriculum requires more evaluation rather than simply knowing what the author is saying. While the narrative still has an important role, students develop skills through written arguments that respond to the ideas, events, facts, and arguments presented in the texts that they read. In addition, students constantly build the vocabulary they need to access grade level complex texts. By focusing strategically on comprehension of pivotal and commonly found words and less on literary terms, teachers build students’ ability to access more complex texts across the content areas.
I have visited Language Arts classrooms and see students facing challenges that were more traditionally related to college classes. Today’s curriculum standards are far more advanced than most of us as adults can fully appreciate as the academic challenges continue to move down to earlier and earlier grade levels.
David Yockey is a candidate in the November 5, 2013 school board election. Visit his website at www.davidyockey.com.