View Best in Class
Fordham's Reviews from the U.S. and Abroad
This is Fordham’s review of the state’s standards in place prior to adopting the Common Core. To return to our review of the common core standards (which this state has adopted), click here.
The Connecticut standards are a mix of good and bad. The Curriculum Framework outlines broad categories and standards for each grade, Pre- K-12, but is written in terms far too general to provide guidance to teachers. More specific grade-level expectations are developed for grades Pre-K-8 in the 2008 Curriculum Standards, but no such document exists for grades 9-12, leaving critically important expectations for high school grades unknown.
The Connecticut ELA Curriculum Framework is first divided into four â€œstandardsâ€ that are common across grades Pre- K-12: Reading and Responding, Exploring and Responding to Literature, Communicating with Others, and Applying English Language Conventions. Each of these standards includes an â€œoverarching ideaâ€ and a â€œguiding question,â€ and is then divided into two to four â€œcomponent statements.â€ For example:
Standard 1: Reading and Responding
- Overarching Idea: Students read, comprehend and respond in individual, literal, critical and evaluative ways to literary, informational and persuasive texts in multimedia formats.
Guiding Question: How do we understand what we read?
- 1.1 Students use appropriate strategies before, during and after reading in order to construct meaning.
- 1.2 Students interpret, analyze and evaluate text in order to extend understanding and appreciation.
- 1.3 Students select and apply strategies to facilitate word recognition and develop vocabulary in order to comprehend text.
- 1.4 Students communicate with others to create interpretations of written, oral and visual texts.
For grades K-8, each component statement is divided into a grade-specific expectation. The high school grade expectations, however, are combined for grades 9-12.
In addition to the Framework, Connecticut provides Pre-K-8 Curriculum Standards. These follow the same organizational structure as the Framework (in fact, they repeat the standards and component statements), but they also provide more detailed grade-level expectations for each component statement. No such document exists for high school.
Clarity & Specificity
For grades Pre-K-8, the Connecticut expectations are well organized and easy to follow. Unfortunately, the clarity and specificity of the expectations themselves are inconsistent at best. They are frequently vague, sometimes unmeasurable, and often repetitive across grades.
Consider the following vaguely worded vocabulary expectation, repeated verbatim in grades 3 and 4:
Define words and concepts necessary for understanding math, science, social studies, literature and other content area text (grades 3-4)
Similarly vague and repetitive wording can be found in many of the expectations.
Other expectations, particularly for â€œReading Reflection/Behaviors,â€ are unmeasurable, as in:
Reflect orally on reading behaviors when prompted, i.e., What did I learn today as a reader? (grade 1) Evaluate the quality and value of text (grade 5)
Explain how certain actions cause certain effects, e.g., how the Holocaust changed international politics today or how the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II affected traditional Japanese family structure (grade 8)
These shortcomings leave teachers with very little guidance about what students should actually know and be able to do and therefore earn Connecticut one point out of three for Clarity and Specificity. (See Common Grading Metric.)
Content & Rigor
The K-8 expectations contain some strong content. The early-reading expectations for phonics, phonemic awareness, and fluency are comprehensive and are broken into the following categories: â€œConcepts About Print,â€ â€œPhonological (or, later, â€œPhonological (or, later, â€œPhonemicâ€) Awareness,â€ â€œPhonics,â€ â€œHigh-Frequency Words,â€ â€œFluency,â€ and â€œVocabulary.â€ Specific expectations are outlined for each category, even words-per-minute fluency rates. The Pre-K expectations cover important ground in phonemic awareness and build a stronger foundation for Kindergarten than do most state standards, many of which skip Pre-K entirely. The use of glossaries and dictionaries begins early.
Connecticutâ€™s expectations for the typically content-less â€œwriting processâ€ category are better than most, such as this:
Revise: rework writing several times based on different points of focus, e.g., first readingâ€”add details for elaboration; second readingâ€”delete sentences or phrases to achieve paragraph unity; third readingâ€”reorganize ideas for meaning (grade 5)
This process expectation helpfully offers specific tasks for revising.
The expectations also offer reasonably clear expectations about what writing products (persuasive essay, news article, personal narrative, and so on) students should produce at each grade level.
Specific expectations for spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and usage are sprinkled throughout the grades, such as the following excerpts from grade 6:
Use parallel construction when listing verbs, particularly in informational and technical writing.
- Parallel: A scientist observes, hypothesizes, and analyzes
- Not parallel: A scientist observes, hypothesized, and analyzed (grade 6)
Although its expectations for conventions are presented as a long list covering spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and usage, which can be confusing, Connecticut is to be commended for including them.
The Connecticut expectations contain some unnecessary content, and priorities are difficult to glean. The reading expectations generally place as much emphasis on content-less and often unmeasurable comprehension skills and reading â€œreflectionâ€ and â€œbehaviorsâ€ as they do on important content. For example:
Make connections to text representing different perspectives [such as] family, friendship, culture and tradition, generating personal and text-based responses [sic] (grade 2)
Explain what good readers do and identify own good reader behaviors [sic] (grade 2)
Many expectations slip inappropriately into unmeasurable instructional strategies that distract attention from critical content and student outcomes. For example:
Activate prior knowledge before reading, e.g., Direct Reading-Thinking Activity, KWL Chart, Anticipation Guide, Response Notebooks (grade 4)
Other reading expectations mention essential content but only superficially, failing to provide the genre-specific details teachers need to guide instruction. Consider this grade 4 expectation about identifying literary forms:
Identify and explain the elements of particular literary forms, e.g., poetry, short story, biography, journalistic writing, narrative. (grade 4)
Finally, no requirements exist for the study of American literature, a major flaw in the reading expectations.
In writing, though the Connecticut expectations have some strengths (mentioned above), the state fails to prioritize genres from grade to grade. Specifically, it expects too many genres to be taught at each grade, which is unmanageable.
Listening and speaking expectations could focus more attention on specific expectations for recitation and oral presentations, including scoring rubrics.
Connecticut lacks expectations for research or media, leaving important college and career-ready standards unaddressed.
Finally, Connecticutâ€™s decision to rely on the brief, unelaborated expectations in the framework for the grade span 9-12, also leaves much essential high school content unaddressed. No guidance is tendered about which literary and informational genres should be studied, nor are their characteristics discussed. Writing genres are mentioned in passing, but no expectations for writing products are included. No specific expectations for speaking and listening are offered, nor are research and media addressed in any detail. Conventions are left unremarked upon.
Too much content, especially in high school, is omitted in the Connecticut standards, as much as 70 percent, giving the Constitution State two points out of seven for Content and Rigor. (See Common Grading Metric.)
THE BOTTOM LINE
With their grade of D, Connecticutâ€™s ELA standards are among the worst in the country, while those developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative earn a solid B-plus. The CCSS ELA standards are significantly superior to what the Constitution State has in place today.
Read moreABOUT THIS REPORT
Our review ofState Standards