In March 2011, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy. These new standards set high expectations for student learning and have caused districts across the state, including Salem Public Schools, to closely examine the way reading and writing is taught across the grade levels.
The main goal of the new standards is to ensure that students are college- and career-ready upon graduating high school. Using college readiness as the goal, the Common Core Standards define the literacy skills that students must master, starting in preschool, through grade 12.
The new standards emphasize that direct literacy instruction should:
Incorporate challenging reading into all grade-level and content area instruction;
Increase exposure, even at the early grades, to informational texts such as research documents, reports, historical accounts, scholarly articles, text from digital sources and textbooks;
Challenge students to use evidence from readings to support/defend their ideas and claims;
Develop students as writers who express their ideas in different forms of writing;
Be integrated into all content areas, not just English language arts.
The Salem Public Schools are taking deliberate steps this year to ensure that the district is keeping pace with the expectations of the new standards. For example, the district curriculum is currently under review. The first step in the review process involves aligning units of study for each grade level to the new standards. Each unit of study will specify reading and writing goals by grade level and essentially provide teachers with a map of when to teach which standards.
Once the units of study are mapped out, the district plans to work with teachers to assess the materials and resources that are currently used to support literacy instruction. Given the demands of the new standards, this review will likely surface some gaps and needs to be addressed.