The English Language Arts Standards
The standards presented in this chapter define what we believe students should know and be able to do in the English language arts. As the preceding chapters have made clear, we believe that these standards should articulate a consensus growing out of actual classroom practices, and not be a prescriptive framework. If the standards work, then teachers will recognize their students, themselves, their goals, and their daily endeavors in this document; so, too, will they be inspired, motivated, and provoked to reevaluate some of what they do in class. By engaging with these standards, teachers will, we hope, also think and talk energetically about the assumptions that underlie their own classroom practices and those of their colleagues.
The standards reflect some of the best ideas already at work in English language arts education around the country. Because language and the language arts continue to evolve and grow, our standards must remain provisional enough to leave room for future developments in the field. And it is important to reemphasize that these standards are meant to be suggestive, not exhaustive. Ideally, teachers, parents, administrators, and students will use them as starting points for an ongoing discussion about classroom activities and curricula.
The primary focus of the standards is on the content of English language arts learning. As we noted in the preceding chapter, content cannot be separated from the purpose, development, and context of language learning. As educators translate these standards into practice, they must consider the unique range of purposes, developmental processes, and contexts that exists in their communities.
The twelve content standards for the English language arts follow. Let us reflect briefly on the group as a whole before moving into more specific elaborations of each in turn.
The act of setting out a list like this one implies that knowledge and understanding can be sliced into tidy and distinct categories, but obviously literacy learning (like any other area of human learning) is far more complicated than that. We acknowledge the complex relationships that exist among the standards. Further, we do not mean to imply that the standards can or should be translated into isolated components of instruction. On the contrary: virtually any instructional activity is likely to address multiple standards simultaneously. Nor is the order of arrangement and numbering of the standards meant to suggest any progression or hierarchy. Numbering them simply makes it easier to refer to them concisely in discussion.
Readers will recognize that these standards can be grouped into clusters. Standards 1 and 2, for example, discuss the range of materials that students should read and their purposes for reading; the former emphasizes breadth and diversity of texts, while the latter concentrates on literary works. Like Standards 1 and 2, Standard 3 also concerns reading, but it addresses reading strategies or processes rather than texts. This third standard also relates to Standard 4; both emphasize the importance of students' knowledge of language use, variation, and conventions.
Standards 5 and 6 work together to move from reading and comprehending to creating texts. Both discuss the types of knowledge that students need in order to use language effectively as writers, speakers, or visual representers. Both of these standards also emphasize the connections between reading and writing and the importance of gaining a working knowledge of language structure and conventions. The next pair of standards, 7 and 8, concern research and inquiry. Standard 7 stresses student approaches to inquiry, while Standard 8 concentrates on the use of research materials, with particular attention to new, technologically driven modes of research and data synthesis.
The evolving needs of America's students—whose growing ethnic and linguistic diversity is changing the social makeup of contemporary classrooms—are taken up in Standards 9 and 10. Taken together, these standards suggest that a multicultural language arts curriculum is both useful and necessary today, offering students the language resources they will need to participate in the nation and world of tomorrow.
The last two standards build on the vital recognition that literacy has both social and personal significance for language users. Standard 11 stresses the use of collaborative learning as a way for students to use the language arts to find and develop a sense of community. In Standard 12, students, motivated by their own goals, learn that the language arts can help them discover a sense of their individuality as well.
Readers will find other ways of linking these standards: the issue of new technology, for example, addressed explicitly in Standard 8, on research materials, is also a central theme in the discussion of literacy communities in number 11. Student-directed learning, a theme throughout many of the standards, explicitly links numbers 7, 10, and 11. The structures and conventions of language, a central topic in all of the language arts, form a key focus in Standards 3, 4, 6, and 9.
The English Language Arts Standards.
In Standards for the English Language Arts (pp. 18-32). , : International Reading Association and National Council of Teachers of English.