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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 South Carolina standards are woefully vague and repetitive, despite some good content, such as the treatment of early reading, and some aspects of literary and informational texts.
The South Carolina standards are divided into three strands: Reading, Writing, and Researching.
Each grade level contains six â€œstandardsâ€ (three for Reading, two for Writing, and one for Researching), and a number of â€œindicatorsâ€ are listed for each standard. Introductory material states that â€œall of the six standards and their indicators carry equal weight and should be taught in an integrated manner.â€ Standards for high school are divided into courses, English 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Clarity & Specificity
South Carolinaâ€™s essential problem is that far too many of its indicators are repeated across grades, even though some of them are rigorous. Overall, the indicators are far too repetitive to be helpful for grade-level curriculum planning, instruction, or assessment.
Consider the following indicator for literary text response, repeated in grades 6-12:
Create responses to literary texts through a variety of methods (for example, written works, oral and auditory presentations, discussions, media productions, and the visual and performing arts) (grades 6-12)
In some cases, the indicators are both unmeasurable and repetitive, as in this example, repeated in grades 1-12:
Read independently for extended periods of time for pleasure (grades 1-12)
Excessive repetition of vague indicators casts a pall over the document and earns South Carolina one point out of three for Clarity and Specificity. (See Common Grading Metric.)
Content & Rigor
South Carolinaâ€™s indicators for early reading are systematic and thorough, as in the following first-grade phonics set:
Use onsets and rimes to decode and generate words
Use knowledge of letter names and their corresponding sounds to spell words independently
Organize a series of words by alphabetizing to the first letter
Identify beginning, middle, and ending sounds in single-syllable words Classify words by categories (for example, beginning and ending sounds) Use blending to read Spell three- and four-letter short-vowel words and high-frequency words correctly (See Instructional Appendix: High- Frequency Words.)
Use known words to spell new words (grade 1)
All of the early reading criteria are addressed (see ELA Content Specific Criteria) and often with examples. Appendices list the high-frequency words that students are to learn, as well as the roots, prefixes, and suffixes that they should know at each grade level. Vocabulary is addressed at every grade level, with a focus on word analysis. Spelling is also addressed within vocabulary.
From Kindergarten onward, literary and informational text are treated separately, with specific indicators outlined in each area, progressing in rigor across the grades, despite repetition in a number of places. Consider the following progressionâ€”on â€œpoint of viewâ€â€”in grades 2-7:
- Analyze the text to determine the narrator (grade 2)
- Analyze the text to determine first-person point of view (grade 3)
- Distinguish between first-person and third-person points of view (grade 4)
- Differentiate among the first-person, limited-omniscient (third person), and omniscient (third person) points of view (grade 5)
- Differentiate among the first-person, limited-omniscient (third person), and omniscient (third person) points of view (grade 6)
- Explain the effect of point of view on a given narrative text (grade 7)
With respect to informational text, some repetition also exists, but rigorous progression is evident in a number of places, as in this grade 5-8 sequence dealing with bias and propaganda:
- Analyze a given text to detect author bias (for example, unsupported opinions) (grade 5)
- Summarize author bias based on the omission of relevant facts and statements of unsupported opinions (grade 6)
- Identify propaganda techniques (including testimonials and bandwagon) in informational texts (grade 6)
- Identify author bias (for example, word choice and the exclusion and inclusion of particular information) (grade 7)
- Identify the use of propaganda techniques (including glittering generalities and name calling) in informational texts (grade 7)
- Analyze informational texts for author bias (for example, word choice and the exclusion and inclusion of particular information) (grade 8)
- Identify the use of propaganda techniques (including card stacking, plain folks, and transfer) in informational texts (grade 8)
To illustrate the quality and complexity of reading that students should master, South Carolina appends a suggested reading list organized by grade spans and genres. The titles represent a thoughtful selection of literary and informational texts. Although American literature is not required for study, a number of important works from American literature are included on the list.
The indicators for oral and written conventions are fairly well delineated across grades 1-6. They are somewhat repetitive in grades 7-12, but generally go farther than many state standards in defining specific objectives for grammar and usage.
The South Carolina indicators for writing are woefully repetitive, with many repeated verbatim across multiple grades in multiple instances. They focus mostly on process and do not describe specific expectations for products by genre in a way that is helpful to teachers. For example, in â€œinformational writing,â€ some version of the following indicator is repeated across grades 4-10:
Create informational pieces (for example, reports and letters of request, inquiry, or complaint) that use language appropriate for the specific audience (grades 4-10)
Even indicators for persuasive writing in high school mention only that essays should have a thesis statement and â€œuse support.â€ It would be more helpful to describe key aspects of persuasive writing such as anticipating and addressing potential counterclaims and the use of rhetorical strategies.
South Carolinaâ€™s indicators include none that address listening and speaking. Some â€œOral Communication and Vocabularyâ€ indicators are included, such as this high school indicator, but it is repeated verbatim in all four years:
Create written works, oral and auditory presentations, and visual presentations that are designed for a specific audience and purpose (grades 9-12)
Although it includes a Research strand, South Carolinaâ€™s indicators in this domain are thin. For example, â€œclarify and refine a research topicâ€ is an indicator in all grades 4-12. The equally thin â€œuse a variety of print and electronic reference materialsâ€ appears in grades 6-12. Paraphrasing and summarizing information is addressed, as is documenting sources, but these indicators are perfunctory and repetitive, as in this grade 6-12 indicator:
Use a standardized system of documentation (for example, a list of sources with full publication information and the use of in-text citations) to properly credit the work of others (grades 6-12)
Nowhere are specific characteristics for research products fully defined, such as essays that reflect the evaluation of primary and secondary sources or the synthesis of information. Multimedia indicators are addressed only occasionally. For example, consider this indicator, which appears under â€œVisual Aids in Presentations.â€ It repeats almost unchanged in grades 4-12:
Select appropriate graphics, in print or electronic form, to support written works and oral and visual presentations (grades 4-12)
Students should be expected not only to select graphics, but to analyze and produce multimedia products in order to be college- and career-ready.
Despite notable areas of rigorous content, such as early reading, South Carolina fails to define a systematically rigorous set of student expectations. Weaknesses in the areas of writing, listening and speaking, research, and media mean that South Carolina is missing close to 50 percent of necessary content and earns three points out of seven for Content and Rigor. (See Common Grading Metric.)
THE BOTTOM LINE
With their grade of D, South Carolinaâ€™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 Palmetto State has in place today.
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