Standardization of English Language Arts Instruction

Standardization of English Language Arts Instruction—February 2005

OCTELA supports high standards for literacy for Ohio’s PK- 12 students.  However, the standardization of literacy education delivery has caused us concern.

OCTELA strongly supports timely and carefully produced curriculum goals and objectives (commonly referred to since the 1990s as “standards”).  However, we are concerned that the increasing emphasis on standardized delivery of these curriculum goals and objectives endangers differentiated instruction and the ability of teachers to use their professional knowledge about their students’ learning differences to inform instructional decision making.  We are concerned about increased rigid schedules of instruction being enforced in some districts that interpret standards and benchmarks through scripted instruction.  Teachers no longer have the option to pace instruction based on their students’ needs or to re-teach when necessary.  Highly qualified teachers should make instructional decisions based on their professional knowledge.   We believe that Ohio’s teachers have the talent and expertise to shape appropriate literacy instruction in their classrooms.

OCTELA strongly supports research which shows that students at all levels need contextualized, meaningful, and relevant literacy instruction using texts broadly defined (including print and nonprint texts) in order to improve reading and writing skills.  We also believe that students must have some choice built into their reading and writing practices.  We believe that, while we use standards to set our curriculum and instruction goals,  there must be room for student choice and relevancy.   

In Ohio’s current atmosphere of high stakes testing – tests that determine grade promotion and graduation- academic content standards may unfortunately be interpreted as the ONLY items that need to be taught.  Effective assessment not only sums up what a child knows and is able to do at any one time during the school year, but it should also help form decisions regarding future instruction for the child’s continuing literacy development.    We believe that by standardizing all assessment, literacy educators will miss many subtleties of the portraits of the literacy lives of their students, often  limiting instruction  to items that can be easily tested with paper and pencil and leading to teaching for coverage rather than teaching for understanding.

Realizing that a “one-size-fits-all” literacy education would end up being of benefit to very few (if any) students, OCTELA supports standards without standardization that are ultimately interpreted and carried out by Ohio educators.  OCTELA supports literacy instruction that insures that each one of Ohio’s PK-12 students becomes a competent, lifelong reader and writer.