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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 Georgia ELA standards are generally well presented and include most of the content necessary for a rigorous, K-12 curriculum.
The Georgia state ELA standards are organized into broad content strands. Three strands are common to all grade levels: Reading; Writing; and Speaking, Listening, and Viewing. A â€œconventionsâ€ strand is included for grades 3-12 and a â€œreading across the curriculumâ€ strand for middle and high school.
Each strand is broken down into sub-strands, and then into grade-specific standards.
Clarity & Specificity
The Georgia K-12 ELA standards are reasonably well organized and clear, with little vague language or jargon. In addition, the state provides helpful criteria for writing expectations across genres, as well as clear expectations about the number of books that should be read in each grade.
Clarity, however, is a mixed bag. Some standards are very clear and specific, such as the following third-grade vocabulary standard:
Identifies and infers meaning from common root words, common prefixes (e.g., un-, re-, dis-, in-), and common suffixes (e.g., -tion, -ous, -ly) (grade 3)
But others need greater detail or examples to clarify expectations, such as:
Uses general dictionaries, specialized dictionaries, thesauruses, or related references as needed to increase learning (grade 9)
In a few areas, Georgiaâ€™s standards could be organized more clearly. For example, the genre-specific writing standards are grouped together, rather than by genre, making it difficult to differentiate between standards that are common to all genres and those that are specific to a particular genre. In addition, rather than being grouped together as part of one specific strand, the research standards are dispersed across separate strands, which makes it hard to track the progression of content within and across grades.
Labels are a problem, too. For example, in fourth grade, two standards are labeled ELA4R1 but presented separately. One is focused on literary texts and includes nine expectations (labeled â€œa-iâ€). Another is focused on informational texts and includes eight expectations (labeled â€œa-hâ€). This makes tracking student mastery of essential standards difficult.
Taken together, the inclusion of vaguely worded standards and the minor flaws in organization noted above earn Georgia two points out of three for Clarity and Specificity. (See Common Grading Metric.)
Content & Rigor
The early reading standards are detailed and outline clear expectations for phonics, phonemic awareness, and fluency. For example:
The student demonstrates the relationship between letters and letter combinations of written words and the sounds of spoken words. The student
a. Demonstrates an understanding that there are systematic and predictable relationships between print and spoken sounds.
b. Recognizes and names all uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet…
e. Applies learned phonics skills when reading words and sentences in stories (Kindergarten)
The student demonstrates the ability to read orally with speed, accuracy, and expression. The student
a. Reads previously taught high-frequency words at the rate of 30 words correct per minute
b. Reads previously taught grade-level text with appropriate expression (Kindergarten)
The high school standards include a course devoted to â€œReading and American Literatureâ€ which provides detailed expectations that reflect the importance of reading American literature that reflects our common literary heritage. For example:
The student identifies, analyzes, and applies knowledge of theme in a work of American literature and provides evidence from the work to support understanding. The student…
d. Analyzes and compares texts that express universal themes characteristic of American literature across time and genre (i.e., American individualism, the American dream, cultural diversity, and tolerance) and provides support from the texts for the identified themes (high school American literature)
The expectations for the study of literary and non-literary texts are generally strong and delineate an appropriate progression of content and rigor across grade levels.
The elementary writing standards describe specific criteria for narrative, informational, and persuasive writing as well as for response to literature, such as:
The student produces informational writing (e.g., report, procedures, correspondence) that:
a. Engages the reader by establishing a context, creating a speakerâ€™s voice, and otherwise developing reader interest
b. Frames a central question about an issue or situation
c. Creates an organizing structure appropriate to a specific purpose, audience, and context
d. Includes appropriate facts and details
e. Excludes extraneous details and inappropriate information
f. Uses a range of appropriate strategies, such as providing facts and details, describing or analyzing the subject, and narrating a relevant anecdote
g. Draws from more than one source of information such as speakers, books, newspapers, and online materials
h. Provides a sense of closure to the writing (grade 4)
These criteria demonstrate increasing rigor from grade to grade.
While students are expected to study all writing genres each year, at the high school level the state indicates a clear focus area for each year. For example, the ninth-grade writing standards are introduced with a note indicating that:
All modes or genres are practiced at each grade level; however, in order to achieve mastery, each grade level has a particular writing focus. Technical writing is the focus for 9th grade; by the end of 9th grade, the student will demonstrate competency in technical writing…(grade 9)
Detailed performance expectations follow this introductory paragraph, and the state prioritizes persuasive writing in tenth grade and expository in eleventh and twelfth.
Research is also emphasized appropriately throughout the grades. The standards for conventions and vocabulary are detailed, specific, and rigorous, and the state provides clear expectations for listening and speaking.
While the standards provide very specific guidance about the number of texts students should be reading each year in grades 4-12â€”â€œa minimum of 25 grade-level appropriate books or book equivalents (approximately 1,000,000 words) per year from a variety of subject disciplinesâ€â€”it supplies scant guidance about what constitutes â€œgrade-appropriateâ€ books. For instance, while titles and authors are referenced sporadically in the â€œsample tasksâ€ that accompany the standards, the state provides no lists of exemplar texts or authors, or indication of the complexity of texts appropriate to specific grade levels.
Apart from the inclusion of a high school course devoted to American literature, the standards do not outline expectations for reading outstanding works of American literature or foundational documents that reflect our common heritage.
Finally, the standards addressing how to use multimedia techniques to present information are inadequate, particularly for grades K-8.
Although some content is missing, Georgiaâ€™s ELA standards are reasonably strong and set forth most of the essential content necessary to guide rigorous, college preparatory curricula and instruction. Accordingly, they earn six points out of seven for Content and Rigor. (See Common Grading Metric.)
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Georgia K-12 ELA standards are better organized and easier to read than the Common Core. Essential content is grouped more logically, so that standards addressing inextricably linked characteristics, such as themes in literary texts, can be found together rather than spread across strands. The high school standards include a course devoted to â€œReading and American Literature,â€ which provides a greater number of more detailed and rigorous expectations that address the importance of reading American literature. Georgia also more clearly specifies genre-specific writing expectations, and better prioritizes writing genres at each grade level.
On the other hand, while Georgia only specifies the number of books that should be read in each grade, Common Core appends a list that specifies the quality and complexity of the reading students should do. In addition, Common Core includes samples of student writing to help clarify writing expectations across grades. Georgia would do well to incorporate such guidance into its standards.
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