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Reinforcing NYS Assessment Writing Arc - May 2022 News & Notes

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

The design inherent in the NYS assessment system for writing is brilliant. This is only perceived if examined from a long view. It is created to support student acquisition of Next Generation State Standards for English Language Arts through its spiraling effect from grades 3 through 12. Emphasis is on working with documents which is a serious and critical skill throughout the education enterprise.

There are two types of writing within the grades 3 through 8 standards. While the short-response (SR) items do not require any more than an inference and two supporting details, the extended-response (ER) item requires an expository writing task based on a bulleted prompt which may be equated with an essay-writing assignment. Although the task is untimed, it is a challenge for all grades and requires student writing opportunities of this nature on a regular basis; a monthly ER task within the curriculum would not be too often to prepare students. However, it does begin with a review and application of the NYS Writing Rubric for Expository Writing Evaluation and anchor papers to understand application of the rubric to inform the scoring of an ER and development of writing power.

State rubrics for the ER are set for grades 3 through 5 and grades 6 through 8. Grade 3 ER require students to work with a single passage; whereas, grades 3 through 8 require students to work with paired passages. Criteria within each of the writing rubrics are based on four levels of performance in which the goal is level 4 and a target of level 3, proficiency. A completed paper needs to contain a logical introduction and a concluding statement that follows clearly from the topic. In addition, it needs to show analysis of the content by conveying ideas and information with evidence from the text(s) with a logical, coherent style. Control of conventions of language are important, particularly in supporting clarity of expression.

The writing arc begins at grade 3 and spirals from elementary grades to middle and on to the high school. Writing tasks associated with Regents exams in Global History and Geography, English 11, and U.S. History and Government all have writing tasks which are similar to those at all previous levels. They all require working with passages and documents which result in a systemic expectation to inform teaching, learning, and assessment.  

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

 

 

Interplay Between Content Knowledge & Student Performance - April 2022 News & Notes

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

The interplay between the acquisition of content knowledge and student performance as designated in state learning standards is the basis for effective instruction and student learning. They are related and serve as the basis of cognitive growth. Learning requires the acquisition of all types of information from literary to informational.  

Free public schooling was based on preparing American youth to live and prosper in a democratic society. Education could not reside only with the wealthy; it was necessary that it be available for all. Recommended content was prescribed to assist in attaining the goal. To strengthen the process, state content standards currently exist for nearly all subjects. While content standards provided the WHAT, state learning standards address the HOW for student performance, with a clear emphasis on literary and informational reading standards.  

Therefore, the initial phase of curriculum is deciding on and arraying content for all grade-level subjects. It’s not necessary to re-invent the wheel in this instance because there are many sources and guidelines to assist, as well as determining text complexity. Capturing the content in each subject and grade should be computerized within a framework that allows teachers in all grades and subjects to access it easily. This allows for review to avoid duplication and opportunities for integration, as with U.S. History and Government and grade 11 English. In addition, parents and the public should be able to know what the content is.  

Knowing how best to read the content and strengthen comprehension lies within the reading standards initially identified in Common Core Reading Standards. The standards reside within three reading domains: Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. The plan should be for students to embrace the standards as the means to acquire the rich vocabulary associated with them and the manner in which they move surface reading to a deeper understanding of the text being read. From the importance of details and ideas to the use of language and the author’s point of view to working with visuals and relating texts, a student’s reading power is enhanced.  

For these reasons, content cannot work in isolation from reading standards, nor can reading standards be taught in isolation from content. This is supported by a basis, reading rule: Content determines process. Said another way: The content selected will have much to do with the standards to be employed to comprehend it.   

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com.   

New York State of Inferencing: The Key to Deep Reading Comprehension - March 2022 News & Notes

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

  Of all the skills inherent within the new reading standards, inferencing is the key. It exists within the first standard and affects all that follow. State reading assessments are replete with items requiring this skill, particularly short- and extended-response items. Yet, students continue to be challenged to be able to infer, conclude, surmise, reason, or deduce and how to support these similar actions.

   Within Key Ideas and Details domain: the expectation for the reader is to understand how details function as the textual evidence to support an analysis of what the text says explicitly, as well as inferentially. Also within this domain, the reader is expected to state a theme or central idea and how it is conveyed within a text which is dependent on inferencing. This is true of summarizing. Whether reading literary or informational text, the reader’s understanding how a story, drama, plot or events unfold requires inferencing. A reasoned response to Why-questions or who, when, or what demands the inferencing skill for resolution.  

   The next domain, Craft and Structure, to determine the meaning of words, phrases, and tone as used in texts is based on inferencing, not to mention figurative language. An understanding of the importance of a sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza in a text and its contribution to development rests squarely on inferencing. How else to understand an author’s point of view without the reasoning power of inferencing.  

   Final and highest domain of reading standards, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, requires one’s perception based on reading and listening of various genres to compare and contrast what is seen or heard. How else may this be done without a deepened understanding of inferencing. To make a claim from one or more texts and support it is challenging and only works with a strong capacity for inferencing. 

   While our reading standards and the domains within them spiral similarly to a cognitive taxonomy, e.g., Bloom or Webb, the critical skill at each level is inferencing. The basis for conceptual understanding is inferencing. Concepts are ideas which are drawn from text from a careful and deliberate reading, ideally paragraph by paragraph. Readers of all ages are able to infer. This is strengthened with practice to cultivate the skill as text sophistication increases, concept load is heavier, ideas are more abstract, and information load becomes more concentrated.

   For readers to connect texts, elaborate, or fill gaps, inferencing is not optional for comprehension; it is demanded.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

State of the Art of English Grammar Usage - February 2022 News & Notes

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

I debated whether or not to comment on the state of the art of English grammar usage. Then, I thought, somebody ought to do it. So, here goes.

First of all, grammar is not an art, and currently, the state is chaos. It’s not just the English teacher inside me that prompts me to do this; it’s the fact that the abuse is all around me. This is the first layer of my concern which may rest on a single statement: “Me and my friend went to the show.” Since when do I come first. Remove “my friend” from the sentence, and the result is enough to cause the speaker to reconsider what was said. There are other abuses which appear on signs, billboards, and in the press. Have we wandered that far from the basic tenets of our language?

The performance items associated with NYS spring ELA testing for students in grades 3 through 8 provides an important source which includes grammar expectations as part of a writing rubric. While student scores are not affected by grammar usage, as long as readability is apparent, many students display a limited understanding of grammar. The abuses include: subject-verb agreement, sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and sentence sprawl. I don’t dare to get into issues with punctuation and spelling.

I am so old that I remember when English, as a course of study, was clearly focused on the English language. How many of you recall using an English textbook, such a Tressler or Roberts? How many of your parents would have put you straight whenever you used “ain’t” in your everyday conversation? I do acknowledge that it was once acceptable in British society, but not today.

In attempting to ferret out the reason for the current status of English grammar in speech and writing, I’m not sure I can put a finger on it. I could place some of the blame on technology with its push for abbreviations, or schools so overloaded with mandates that grammar has to take a backseat. But, my concern for our students impacts their future in a society where credentials dominate. A future where communication skills may determine or limit opportunity.

However, there is good news! Many NYS students demonstrate excellent use of grammar, particularly in their writing. In fact, there appears to be a strong correlation between control of grammar and higher scores on NYS tests. It stands to reason that appropriate use of grammar removes confusion and muddle headedness. Also, it is fair to say that grammar needs to be integrated into all aspects of communication in learning and not treated as an add on.

I came to believe that education was and is the basis for opportunity in life. No one told me this; however, I think every student needs to know it and learn early on that the command of the English/American language may be the key to opening desirable doors. It was for me.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

 

Academic and Social Emotional Blossom with Wisdom Stories - January 2022 News & Notes

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

In the not-too-distant past, I ran two conferences to enlighten and provide educators with support for the implementation of SEL with the academic. From those experiences the one need that was apparent was for educators to find ways to genuinely integrate SEL with academic growth. I found a pathway with the power to meet this need, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels.

Awareness of the work of Ralph Singh’s Stories to Light Our Way is a gift to curriculum workers in not only meeting State mandates, but also contributing to the intellectual and social emotional growth of our students. Opportunities to work with Ralph reflect his dedication to humanity and the goodness that it has to offer. Ralph is chair of the Wisdom Thinkers Network and is an author, educator, storyteller, speaker, and community builder. His stories work as instructional units which integrate the academic with the social emotional, while addressing anchor standards, resulting in a perfect Academic/Social Emotional Learning (ASEL) experiences for students.  

To serve educators in their quest to move curriculum into the ASEL realm, Ralph has the professional learning and the textual/material base to make the transition easy and rewarding. His stories connect to students with a voice that nurtures positive behavior and habits while exposing them to skills such as compassion, self-control, empathy, and sharing. Stories with planned activities provide teachable moments to bring calm or impart an ethical/moral lesson. In addition, stories may be used to build class community to maintain a respectful learning environment and a school culture of respect.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge for educators is access to the right content to implement ASEL; Ralph Singh has done it for them. I have read the stories, and at my tender age (a little humor) I have experienced the effect the stories can have on ones thinking and behavior. Check it out.

 References

Social Emotional Learning Curriculum Stories to Light Our Way 2.0. “Stories have the power to change the world.” Ralph Singh. info@wisdomthinkers.org

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Curriculum: Standards & Reading - December 2021 News & Notes

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

Curriculum is the crucible which is dependent on standards and reading documents to work within a system. Standards set up expectations which become the basis for student performance in the acquisition of knowledge while reading represents both impetus and material base on which actions take place. It is important that the reading material base be carefully selected to provide a level of rigor to strengthen reading comprehension skills.

Aside from the safety and welfare of students and staff, curriculum is the foundation of a learning system. I capture it within this statement: Curriculum represents teaching, learning, and assessment within an integrated web. Also, it needs to be clearly displayed in a manner which allows it to be accessed by those who have to work within it or are interested in knowing it.

The integrated aspect of curriculum is its dynamic connectivity to all aspects of the teaching, learning process which includes instructional units and lessons, along with material support and assessments. Assessment lies within the curriculum and cannot be viewed as a separate entity residing outside of it. In reality assessment exists within every thought and action students display. It is a critical element because it figures into the learning process and allows for Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development to set up a learner’s path for growth.

With the advent of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the significance of reading bounded to new heights. All teachers are now regarded as teachers of reading, not reading teachers per se. Although the emphasis is on informational texts spread across all subjects which sets up rigorous content in history, science, art, music, and literature. But, it also supports the reading of great works of literature, as well as important non-fiction, such as the nation’s founding documents. The English language arts and literacy standards make clear what it means to read widely and with deeper understanding.

In allowing reading to take on the role it needs to, administrators and teachers must create a reading arc that displays all significant documents students are expected to read at each grade and in each subject. In doing so, we have the technology to capture this information and display it within the curriculum in a manner that gives everyone access to it who needs to know. As a 11th grade English teacher, should I be able to access key documents my current students have read and what would I do with that kind of information? Well, to start with, I would be able to instill the value of it by associating it with new knowledge and going beyond.

Curriculum captures, displays, and integrates all essential elements of teaching, learning, and assessment which has at its base, content knowledge.

References

Crain, W. (2010). Theories of development: Concepts and applications, 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching and student performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Comprehending Reading Standards - November 2021 News & Notes

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

Reading standards landed on the education stage nearly a decade ago with the advent of Common Core ELA and Literacy Standards. While not entirely embraced by many states, the standards did play an integral part in heightening the importance of reading across the nation and in all disciplines. Teachers were drawn to them due mostly from the role they played in federal and state testing requirements. The move to establish reading standards seemed pushed and employed in what appeared to be a hurtful manner before schools were ready. What role were they really designed to play?

First of all, they were dubbed COMMON to affect all schools across the nation. Next, they operated from the premise that ALL TEACHERS ARE TEACHERS OF READING. Finally, they were further designed to influence CONTENT READING. Beyond the primary years of language acquisition, the aim of reading is the acquisition of KNOWLEDGE. In this manner reading skills are reinforced as they are needed with the support of strategies to enhance reasoning with text for deeper understanding.

 Reading standards for literature and informational texts introduced or made significant literary terms such as theme, main and central idea, author’s purpose and meaning, and tone. More than this, the standards were built within three clusters: Key Ideas and Details; Craft and Structure; and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. In this manner, the standards spiral in much the same way curriculum does from foundational operations to a higher order. In their design they resemble Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain and Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) in categorizing the complexity of thought.

The initial three anchor standards inform the importance of knowing what the text says explicitly with its focus on ideas and details that are foundational in recognizing theme and the effect on characters and events. They represent the literal level of reading comprehension. In spiraling to the next cluster of standards, the focus is on the meaning of the text with an emphasis on words, phrases, and figurative language in determining the structure of texts, and speaker’s point of view. The final set of standards focus on deeper understanding of text through analysis of visual and multimedia elements in contributing to meaning, tone, or beauty of a text, as well as knowing how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text. Standards in this cluster are relegated to the interpretive level of reading comprehension.

Anchor Standard 9, while residing in the final cluster, takes reading comprehension to the applied level of comprehension for both literature and informational text. The focus is on comparing text in the same genre, as well as analyzing how modern works draw on themes, patterns of events, and character types. There is an emphasis on analysis and comparison of texts. As a whole, the standards are content-based and are to be employed in the act of reading.

References

Common Core State Standards. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washing D.C. 2010.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic performances. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

Reading Power I and II: Grades 4 through 12 - October 2021 News & Notes

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

The teaching of reading comprehension is the responsibility of all subject matter teachers. And, the process to be used depends on the nature of the content to be acquired. To ensure all students stand the best chance of understanding the content, regardless of reading level, the process of reading comprehension needs to be simulated or guided in a way that students internalize the skills in the process of reading.

The world of student reading changes after grade 3, it increases in sophistication, concept load is heavier, ideas are more abstract, and information load is more concentrated. Students are now challenged with content reading.

Point 1: Basic reading skills are not sufficient for critical reading

Point 2: The goal of instruction is simultaneous acquisition of content (concepts) and process (reading/reasoning skills) with neither being sacrificed.

Reading Power I and II are training programs for teachers in all subjects as teachers of reading: content reading in grades 4-8 and 9-12. It is based on the premise that all teachers are teachers of reading, not just reading teachers. A fundamental principal is at work in reading at these two levels: content determines process. The information source becomes the basis for determining how it is to be taught for the concepts to be acquired. To prepare teachers to deal with these reading challenges, they learn how to simulate the reading process in their subject with the use of comprehension and reasoning guides with respect for the importance of vocabulary. They are prepared to create the situation and conditions that approximate a reading process in their subject while their students experience reading comprehension skills in concert with content learning. In turn, students learn how to support the ideas expressed in text through guided engagement.

Point 3: NYS Next Generation Standards, super standards, are designed for the acquisition of knowledge and skills intended in a school curriculum.  

Teachers benefit from the program by acquiring a deeper understanding of reading comprehension and learning a sensible approach to reading comprehension for their subject. Their students’ comprehension skills are strengthened as a part of content learning with the prospect of internalizing the process. Also, with a reading process that integrates NYS learning standards into its approach, students stand a better chance of performing at a higher level on State tests.

Professional learning for Reading Power I and II ideally should be done with teacher access to technology to capture the instructional materials (i.e. strategies) to be housed in a system for easy access by teachers in their respective subject areas.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through strategic performances. His training, research, and work in reading comprehension has brought him to his current level of thinking in the realms of reading and curriculum.  Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

 

This Fall Use a Growth-Assessment Model - September 2021 News & Notes

Sponsor Opinion Piece by Dr. Bruce H. Crowder, Educational Vistas, Inc.

The use of a growth-assessment model would be most appropriate for SY2022 to garner the level of learning loss and to move instruction on a productive path. While students need to return to school to an environment that is warm and supportive, there will be a point early in the new year when the focus moves to an increased level of learning. Students understand this and will respond appropriately.

After having spent a year and a half from in-person learning and limited measure of learning, it is time to move the education enterprise back on track. To do so will require data and information. A rare opportunity exists this school year for school districts to use the unsecured 2021 NYS Assessments for ELA and math in grades 3-8. The ELA and math State testing in the spring of the last school year only included Session 1, objective portion, and that was somewhat reduced in the number of items. Session 2 was not required which is the performance portion, requiring students to demonstrate their knowledge in addressing specific standards. In the case of ELA, it would completely short tasks and an extended piece of writing.

Both of the NYS 2021 ELA and math tests may be used as pre-assessments for incoming students in grades 3 through 8. The assessmen