The Michigan State Board of Education is set to approve a new set of standards for preparing young teachers to work in the elementary grades.
Dr. Nell Duke:
Michigan is not where we want it to be in terms of literacy achievement, and so we’re looking for all different ways to try to address that issue. One of the ways we can address it is by trying to have our teachers as well prepared as possible to teach reading and other literacy skills.
The second reading is we’ve adjusted our grade certification bands in Michigan. The previous band was kindergarten through eighth (grade), self contained. That’s a pretty wide range; you can probably think about how different it is to teach a kindergartener in literacy than it is to teach a self-contained classroom of eighth graders in literacy. So, the state revised the grade bands so that there’s a band that’s specifically pre-K to grade 3 as well as a band that’s grade 3 to 6.
So, this really reflects cognitive differences between pre-K through third grade years and fourth grade through sixth?
I think when most people hear the term “literacy,” what probably comes to mind immediately is simply the ability to read. But looking at this definition in the standards, it says ‘literacy includes reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing and visually representing.’ What does ‘visual representation’ means as it relates to literacy?
Sure. So, the ability to, for example, put together a Power Point presentation. That would include written words, certainly…but it might also include graphs and diagrams and visuals that will draw the audience’s attention; that might include audio clips or short video clips embedded. That would be part of literacy; to be able to put those all together to communicate meaning.
Are we asking kindergarten or first grade students to be able to have those skills?
That’s a great question. We definitely would put this on a developmental continuum, and we aren’t expecting kindergarteners to, on their own, create a Power Point presentation like an adult might give to his or her boss. But we know we need to lay the groundwork for that very early.
We’ve done a lot of coverage on the Third Grade Law, which was passed a couple of years ago, but is really fully implemented next school year (2019). We’ve discussed the repercussions of (not) being proficient on the M-STEP test. I’m wondering if these proposed standards were set in motion before that that law was passed. Was that a proactive or a reactive measure to that law?”
I don’t know the answer to that question; I’m not sure when this process was first conceptualized. I can tell you that it’s pretty customary for states to revise their standards pretty regularly; every decade or so. But I will say that these standards make an important contribution to all the efforts that are going on in the state to try to improve the literacy of Michigan students.
If I were the parent of an elementary student, what would I need to be aware of in terms of helping my child become 21st century literate, in ways in which literacy was not expected of me during my era was I when that age?
Families might want to be aware of a concept we call ‘co-viewing.’ That’s the idea that as much as possible, rather than just putting our child in front of the TV or any type of digital device while we’re off doing something else…that as much as possible, we want to be right alongside that child so that we can talk about what we’re seeing, we can make meaning together, we can help them understand. I’m a busy working mom, and I totally appreciate that there are times when we can’t be right by our child’s side, but as much as possible, that’s something to strive for.