Delaware’s New Writing Standards Seek to Improve Lagging Skills in K-12 Students
Implemented this year, the new standards require more nonfiction education and writing, as well as history, social sciences and more.
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The Paradigm Shift
The change in the English language arts standards and curriculum has been described by some as a paradigm shift. Common core state standards are expected to make students college and career ready. Specifically, in their junior and senior years, they will be expected to:
• Develop arguments focused on discipline-specific content.
• Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific experiments or technical processes.
• Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.
• Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research.
• Analyze foundational American documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address).
• Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the arguments in works of public advocacy, such as a presidential address. (Sources: corestandards.org; corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy)
John Sell, an English teacher at Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown and the 2013 Delaware State Teacher of the Year, says the new curriculum will help teachers challenge students who are savvy with information they can access day and night.
In the past, teachers strived to expose students to literary writing and prompted them to interact with the stories on a personal level.
“There was more of an emphasis on introspection,” says Sell. “Now they’re moving toward more argumentative writing.”
For instance, the study of “Romeo and Juliet” might now also include the reading of “West Side Story,” and then prompt a compare and contrast essay.
Lisa Ali-Turner, an English language arts secondary curriculum specialist, has spent months developing a curriculum with the new standards for the Christina School District. Each theme will include literary and informative pieces from different eras.