Student performance has been the topic of much discussion in our community – but unfortunately, much of that discussion has centered around misleading information. As a Kent County High School English teacher, I have worked since 2011 for the Maryland State Department of Education to provide professional development, training, and support for teachers and administrators around the state. In this work, I found real value in the Common Core State Standards.
The English Language Arts standards deserve all the hype they receive, but for different reasons. They ask that students develop independent and proficient reading skills, and learn to read critically, write, and think. They ask that students be able to articulate clear thinking in not only writing but also in speaking. In short, the standards prepare students for college and the work force.
What they do not do is prescribe what texts to read, or tell teachers how to teach. In fact, at Kent County High School, the new standards have allowed us to center our curriculum around not only new and exciting pieces of literature but classic texts and plays. The standards have allowed us to teach an appreciation and understanding of informational texts. In doing so we have created a curriculum aligned to the higher standards, which asks students to push themselves to excel.
Are the higher standards paying off? Yes. Last year, the first cohort of students took the PARCC Literacy exam – and our scores are worth celebrating. While the perception is that Kent County falls towards the bottom of the state in achievement, the reality is that Kent County English scores have us 9th in the state and 3rd on the Eastern Shore.
Test scores are merely one measure of student learning, growth, and achievement, but for those of us who teach, the test scores have validated our knowledge, hard work, and dedication. The test scores show us that our perception that KCHS is a wonderful place to learn is truly a reality.
Gillian B. Spero is the English Department Chair of the Kent County High School