Report to the Steering Committee

From the ELA/ELL Content Panel

Dr. Bonne August

Mr. John Harmon

July 15, 2008



            The ELA/ELL Content Panel is a broadly representative group charged with reviewing the current New York State Standards for English Language Arts and English Language Learners. This review is the first stage of a multi-stage process, to include revision of the Standards, followed by the design of materials for curricular development, professional development, and assessments. Each stage will include consultation with educators from all levels and regions across the state, including post-secondary institutions, as well as with parents, employers, and other stakeholders. Drawing on the best current knowledge and practice, the goal is to develop and implement a set of standards for literacy, language, and literature that will ensure that the students of New York State are well prepared for the demands of higher education, the workplace, and life as productive citizens in the 21st century. Since the last major revision of the ELA Standards in 1996, the pace of growth in technology has continued to accelerate; therefore, it is a particular goal of this review to address the needs that today’s students will encounter in using the increasing range and complexity of tools provided by technology and to prepare them for effective communication using both traditional and emerging media.

            The Panel met for three face-to-face meetings during two-day sessions held in Albany in April, June, and July.  Between sessions, Panel members worked collaboratively in an on-line environment developed by the NYCC.  This on-line Portal has allowed members to complete assignments between meetings. 

            The Panel has had the benefit of consultation with members of the Research Team, led by Dr. Michael Kamil of Stanford University, both at a Research Forum held in New York City on March 27, 2008, and at the three face-to face sessions in Albany. It has also been greatly assisted in its work, both at the meetings and in the development of the Portal, by the New York Comprehensive Center. The staff of the New York State Education Department has collaborated with the Panel throughout the review process and provided extensive information, background material, and logistical support.





In its deliberations, the Panel considered several items in addition to its critical review of the most recent version of the 1996 New York State Standards, the 2005 English Language Arts Core Curriculum (Pre-Kindergarten-Grade 12)[1].


  • The “Working Principles” document approved by the Steering Committee in June: 

This “Working Principles” document effectively captures the Panel’s concerns and ideas and provides helpful guidance.


§  The Research Forum held in New York City: The Panel also thoroughly reviewed the discussions and participant comments from this meeting. 


§  Public Forums. The input from the six Public Forums held throughout New York State was of particular importance to the process.  The staff at SED distilled the hundreds of comments into broad categories, which, in turn, provided guidance as the Panel developed its recommendations.  The Panel finds that the concerns and opinions raised at the public forums generally echo and confirm those expressed in the “Working Principles” and in its own deliberations. Items of particular note include:

1. Technology:  This was the subject most frequently mentioned at the Forums.  Technology has developed well beyond what was imagined when the current standards were developed. The new standards need to integrate technology in ways that provide for advances in both current and future technologies. 

2. Disciplinary and cross-disciplinary literacy standards:  The Forums reinforced the concept that literacy standards should be incorporated across the content areas.

3. Assessment:  It is essential that ELA assessments are fair, valid, and sensible.  These assessments need to be based on current research and best practice.  They must also be aligned with the standards and performance indicators. Furthermore, Forum participants expressed a strong interest in multiple formative assessments which provide a more comprehensive view of students’ progress and achievement.    

4.  Format:  There is a critical need for a format that will make the standards clear, less redundant, and readily accessible to and usable by teachers, as well as parents and other constituencies.


  • Additional Material related to the Standards.  The Panel also discussed the 1996 ELA document and the Core Curricula for English Language Learners (ELL) and for Native Language Arts (NLA), and used materials available through NYSED’s Virtual Learning System (VLS).


§  Review of the 2005 English Language Arts Core Curriculum (Pre-Kindergarten-Grade12) --Highlighting of Standards/ Performance Indicators and Portal Comments.

            The April meeting of the Panel was devoted largely to a structured highlighting of the 2005 version of the standards and performance indicators, to gather panel members’ views regarding what should be retained, excised, revised, or added. The highlighted text was posted on the Portal in a color-coded print version. In addition, a summary of comments on the Portal was prepared. These comments are extremely useful in identifying the high level of consensus, as well as issues that need further discussion. The findings of the review are incorporated into the following recommendations and issues for further discussion.




The Panel reached consensus on the following major points:  


1. One set of standards. Following the “Working Principles,” the panel recommends that a single set of standards should apply to all students, including English language learners, students in Native Language Arts (although some additional performance indicators may be needed to address features of the native language) or Special Education, struggling readers,  advanced learners, and other students with special needs. The Panel remains committed to the scaffolding and support which some students will require to implement this recommendation. 


2. Replace the items currently designated as “standards.” Currently, New York has four ELA “standards”: reading, writing, speaking, and listening for (1) “information and understanding,” (2) “literary response and expression,” (3) “critical analysis and evaluation,” and (4) “social interaction.” We believe that the first three of these are better considered as functions or purposes of literacy rather than standards. We recommend, therefore, that they be retained and highlighted in the standards document as essential elements of thinking about literacy, but not as standards.  This change would have the immediate practical effect of reducing redundancy significantly. The fourth current standard, “social interaction,” should be infused into the new standards.  The new performance indicators should remain faithful to its goals of underscoring the social nature of literacy and communication, the importance of communicating competently in a culture, and the development of sensitivity across cultures.


3. Use the “Core Performance Indicators” and “Qualities” from the State assessment rubrics to develop revised standards.  The Panel recommends that new standards be drawn from the more global and overarching items now included in “Core Performance Indicators” and the “Qualities” assessed in the rubrics of the State-wide assessments. These standards could both indicate the important goals of instruction in ELA and serve as major organizational categories for the more specific performance indicators. Although final decisions have not yet been made, based on its detailed review, the Panel agrees that a substantial number—perhaps 50% or more--of the current performance indicators will remain.  These remaining items will be much more serviceable, however, in a new, streamlined, and more clearly organized structure. At the same time, some current performance indicators, which relate to minor features, more appropriately belong with curriculum guidance.


4. Embed literacy into all of the content areas. Students need to engage and produce a complete range of text and media genres across disciplines. This goal cannot be achieved if literacy is viewed as developed only in relation to English Language Arts. The standards of the other content areas should be expanded to include the literacy demands specific to those content areas with performance indicators specific to the literacy requirements of those areas and of increasing difficulty in upper grades. In recommending that literacy standards be applied across all of the content areas, the Panel recognizes that a definition of literacy needs to be agreed upon and that a framework of expectations and outcomes needs to be developed.  The Panel also considered the reciprocal effects of applying literacy across the content areas. The New York Library Association (NYLA) 21st Century Information Literacy Standards offer useful guidance in this area. When students practice literacy skills in the content areas, their skills grow stronger, and they also acquire background knowledge essential to increased comprehension. At the same time, their learning in the content area is deepened by actively using the knowledge.


5. The study of literature and language should be emphasized and elevated as an endeavor separate from literacy. Teachers of English above the elementary level have traditionally assumed a dual responsibility, providing instruction in literature and continuing to be responsible for more advanced instruction in literacy. Although literacy will remain an important part of the work of English, sharing responsibility for it with other content areas should make possible a renewed emphasis on the value and importance of literature in the curriculum, and standards and performance indicators should be recast to support this emphasis. In so doing, we will provide new opportunities for students to explore the creative arts and to develop as creative thinkers, as well as critical thinkers and writers.


6. Add viewing and (re)presenting. The revised ELA/ELL standards should include “viewing” and “(re)presenting,” as discussed in the “Working Principles.” This addition is intended to include competencies related to the use of technology, media, and information literacy as well as more traditional representations in the form of illustration, graphical material, sounds, etc.  Viewing and (re)presenting should be added as parallel domains to reading and writing and speaking and listening, with the understanding that the various receptive and expressive skills are often used in combination.


7. Format revision is essential. Implementing recommendations 2 and 3 will have the effect of reducing the size and complexity of the standards document. Although the format of the final document cannot be determined completely until content has been developed, we recommend that the formatting of the standards document be directed to achieve several goals:

o      Increase the impact of the standards by creating a format that is truly useful to teachers and enables them to be thinkers about curriculum.

o      Make the standards comprehensible to educators, parents, employers, public officials, and other constituencies by avoiding jargon and carefully defining important terms.

o      Reduce unnecessary repetition of performance indicators, while underscoring appropriate connections and overlaps and indicating increasing expectations for student achievement.

o      Ensure continuity across all documents related to the standards, so that there truly is one set of standards.

o      Consider formatting that draws upon the power of modern technologies.

NYCC is currently researching standards documents from other states to assist us in developing a format that meets these goals.




These items represent areas where the Panel either needs further deliberation to reach consensus, or where our review has identified work that must be done to carry out the recommendations.


1. Viewing and (Re)presenting.  This addition to the standards will require further considerations, including:

  • Terminology: The Panel needs to reach a decision about which term-- “representing” or “presenting”—better describes the intended goal.
  • Specific elements

--information literacy, especially in the early grades, leading to the ability to distinguish

   among and make good judgments about sources

            --knowledge of how to use and participate in social networks

            --awareness of audience and interaction

            --ethics and an understanding of the distinctions between public and private


            --incorporating and interpreting graphical and multi-media elements in


  • Format and organization

--Standards related to technology should be written in a way that enables revision as 

   technology changes

--Should technology be separated or infused? At the elementary level in particular,

   technology has to be infused, because most subjects are taught by the same teacher.


2. P-16:  Connections between P-12 and college need to be made more explicit and systematic. We must include the ability to synthesize multiple texts, the ability to distinguish speakers and points of view in a document, and the ability to work collaboratively (required both for world of work and post-secondary education).

  • Professional development and regular communication are required to help P-12 teachers and post-secondary teachers speak the same language and improve the alignment for P-16.
  • It is important to consider the implications of these changes for teacher preparation systems.  Although the work of Achieve, as well as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, will provide valuable information regarding 21st Century learning goals nationally, it is essential to consult representatives of post-secondary institutions and employers in New York State, as well.


3. Support for English language learners, special populations, and students at different developmental levels:  We endorse the concept of one set of standards for all students.  In order to give each student the greatest possible opportunity to meet or exceed the standards, we are committed to developing a process that provides the appropriate instructional support required to address individual needs. This support may include additional instructional steps or intermediate performance indicators needed to measure progress. Students enrolled in ESL classes or Native Language Arts, for example, may enter the system at the elementary level or not until high school. They may arrive with a high degree of literacy in the home language or they may have literacy needs in that language. Differential instruction must be available to meet these different needs.  Sound assessment strategies, especially formative strategies designed to measure growth and to inform instruction, must be implemented. The Core Curricula for English Language Learners (ELL) and for Native Language Arts (NLA), which implement the current ELA standards, provide helpful guidance and support materials. Like ELL and NLA students, those students in Special Education or who have special needs also require instruction that supports a wide range of abilities.

            Research has identified three successful results in teaching ELL students: 

1. Teaching students to read in their first language promotes higher levels of reading achievement in English.  2.  What we know about good instruction and curriculum in general holds true for ELLs.  3.  When instructing English learners in English, teachers must modify instruction to take into account students’ language limitations.  The panel will continue to explore such research as it revises the ELA document.   


4. ­­­­­­Teacher knowledge The revised standards will require and should emphasize expanded teacher knowledge and skill, which should in turn inform teacher education, certification, and professional development. We do not currently train teachers in content areas and in the upper grades how to teach the literacy skills that we want them to teach students. Teachers at all levels also need to know about differential instruction and how to assist struggling readers. There will be increasing expectations, as well, for teacher knowledge and skill in the use of technology and the issues generated by the expansion of technology in society.


5. Is more specificity needed at the 9-12 level where there is currently considerable repetition of performance indicators? The Research Team reported that little is known about the developmental sequence of skills from upper elementary school on; therefore, it is difficult to make explicit distinctions between tasks or skills that are appropriate at, for example, 10th grade versus 11th grade. Certainly, students should be strengthening the higher order thinking skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation; however, the differences among grades are often in the level of performance and the types of texts. Embedding literacy across content areas is expected to contribute to students’ ability to comprehend a broader range of texts because of increased background knowledge and knowledge of relevant vocabulary.


6. Assessments:  Alignment of student standards, assessments, curriculum, and teacher standards is critical so that tests are fair and that “teaching to the test” does not impoverish the curriculum.  It is also essential to communicate that performance indicators/standards are cumulative and recursive rather than discrete and sequential. To the greatest degree possible, high stakes decisions should be based on multiple measures and not a single measure. In order to achieve this goal, it is essential that teachers remain involved in the development of any new state assessments. 

            Beyond the state tests, assessment also includes formative assessments through which teachers and others observe and evaluate students’ learning of knowledge and skills and use their findings to tailor instruction at the individual, classroom, and local levels. Teacher preparation and professional development must ensure that teachers have command of a range of formative assessment tools. 


7. Conventions and grammar:  Although the conventions of communication, including but by no means limited to grammar and usage, often enhance the efficiency and power of communication, conventions themselves do not constitute communication.  The Panel affirms the importance of learning to speak and write using standard conventions.  We agree that such conventions will be reflected in the performance indicators. Effective strategies for teaching students how to observe conventions and to write and speak correctly are not part of this phase of the review, but will be important to include in curriculum guidance as the new standards develop.


8. Reading-writing process:  In early grades the distinctions between expressive and receptive literacy are stronger; however, by high school it becomes difficult to separate these different aspects of literacy.  We need to state these connections explicitly and consider them in the development of performance indicators.


9. Early Childhood:  This level is critical to the development of foundational skills, but is covered inadequately in the current document. SED is developing PreK-K standards. Staff members working on this project made a presentation to the Panel at the June 26 meeting. While the field of Early Childhood Education deals with children’s learning more holistically and uses “domains” rather than “content areas” to organize its framework for learning, it is clear that extensive reciprocal articulation with those responsible for this work in the State Education Department must be part of the standards revision.

The Panel has reviewed early childhood standards (pre K-grade 3) with a view toward the essential literacy skills needed by children in the early childhood years. The compilation of the standards for early childhood will focus on best practices in the nation. The revised standards will connect pre-school to kindergarten and pre-K. The Washington State standards were distributed to the Steering Committee as a model of exemplary early childhood standards including domains, skills and dispositions. The panel will also review appropriate intervention strategies which can be utilized in early childhood.

The ELA/ELL Panel participated in a presentation by SED representatives whose focus is Early Childhood Education.  The SED representatives recommend the following: 

            A P-16 approach to revising the ELA/ELL standards requires a critical analysis of not only the standards themselves, but the integration of prekindergarten and early childhood constructs. 

            Chapter 57 requires the Department to develop a discrete set of prekindergarten standards.  Those standards must be based upon research in early childhood development which uses the domains of Cognition, Communication, Language and Literacy, Approaches to Learning, Social/Emotional, Physical/Health and Content/Knowledge of the World and Parenting Strategies.  The standards will then be used to ensure that prekindergarten programs, regardless of setting, will be of high quality.  The challenge will be integrating early childhood domains into all standard revisions, including the current ELA/ELL standards revisions.  Consideration should be given to adding two areas to the ELA/ELL revision:  Approaches to Learning and Social/Emotional.  Also, second language skills for all children should be embedded throughout the work.

            A transparent standard on reading must be developed as a discrete standard.  The work the State Education Department and school districts have accomplished through Reading First has been significant. A standard incorporating phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and motivation must be brought to the forefront so that high quality reading instruction in classrooms will be a focus.



10. Text based strategies:  More specificity is needed in the performance indicators regarding text structure and texts. Text based strategies, such as compare and contrast and time sequence, need to be stated more explicitly, and more strategies for comprehending nonfiction texts are needed.


11. Terminology:  Terminology remains a crucial issue. We need a common language and nomenclature that is readily understood.  The New York Comprehensive Center is researching this issue; they will be making recommendations on the terminology as well as format.


12. Motivation, engagement, and volition:  The Panel regards these concepts, presented by the Research Team, as important factors for students in all content areas and all developmental levels. Motivation is the desire to start a project. Engagement is the degree of involvement in the work required. Volition is the willingness to complete the task.  Educational psychology has begun to look at how these attributes develop, and there are now instruments to measure them. Motivation, engagement, and volition should be addressed in the standards/ student performance indicators and in teacher knowledge standards.


13. Ethics of communication/literacy belongs in all areas, including but not limited to writing, library research, and online research. This should be evident in the standards/performance indicators starting at the upper elementary level.


14. Understanding authorship and audience needs to be included more broadly at all levels.




NEXT STEPS: Moving from Review to Revision


Review the report on Benchmarking from Achieve, expected September 4, 2008.


Continue to work with 21st Century Learning to identify higher-order skills, and integrate the key themes into each of the appropriate academic areas.


Review the report from NYCC on format and terminology used in other states.


Review the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) framework for literacy.


Develop a plan to achieve the goal of a cross-disciplinary literacy strand.


Finalize the standards and performance indicators.


Develop a preamble to the standards document. It is essential to explain to teachers, administrators, parents, students, and the community the thinking that went into the development of the new standards.  Clear, well-articulated explanations of the goals of the ELA/ELL standards need to be developed.  Also, this preamble should help teachers understand how to use the new standards. 


Develop a strong, robust professional development system which will support the educational community as it implements this first round of the new standards.  There should be an attention- getting rollout of the document, as well as immediately available, high quality professional development.  This professional development should include workshops, forums, print material, web-based material, hotlines, and frequent feedback sessions. 


Develop recommendations about the level of infrastructure needed to support the effort to enable all students to meet, and possibly exceed, the expectations of the new standards.
















ELA/ELL Content Panel Members


Regent Saul B. Cohen

Chairperson, Standards Review Initiative


Regent Geraldine Chapey

Regent Liaison


Dr. Walter J. Sullivan, Ph.D.

Coordinator, Standards Review Steering Committee

Superintendant (Retired)

Associate Professor and Director, Center for Educational Policy & Practice

The College of New Rochelle


Dr. Bonne August

ELA/ ELL Content Panel Co-Chair

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

New York City College of Technology, CUNY


Mr. John Harmon

ELA/ ELL Content Panel Co-Chair

Humanities Curriculum Coordinator

Skaneateles Central Schools


Mr. Stephen Bongiovi

New York State Teacher of the Year 2006

Seaford High School, Seaford Union Free School District #6


Ms. Ella Briand

ELA Coordinator

Syracuse City School District


Ms. Elizabeth F. Day

New York State Teacher of the Year 2005

Mechanicville Middle School, Mechanicville City School District


Ms. Andrea Gabor

Bloomberg Chair of Business Journalism

Baruch College, CUNY


Dr. Kate Hathaway

Associate Professor of Literacy

Graduate School, College of New Rochelle


Dr. Kathleen A. Hinchman

Professor and Chair

Reading and Language Arts Center

Syracuse University



Mr. Victor Jaccarino

Lead Chairperson of English

Herricks High School


Ms. Estee Lopez

Director of Bilingual/ESL

City School District of New Rochelle


Ms. Nancy Noonan

Assistant Superintendent

Curriculum and Instruction

Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES


Mr. Raymond D. Peterson

Principal and Project Director

Bard High School Early College


Ms. Susan Polos

Library Media Specialist

Mt. Kisco Elementary School


Dr. Jacqueline Pryce-Harvey

Special Education Teacher

7th Grade CTT at MS4

New York City Department of Education


Ms. Mercades Qualls, Principal

Humanities and Arts Magnet High School

New York City Department of Education


Ms. Elizabeth Sheffer, Assistant in Educational Services



Dr. Cheryl Smith Gabig

Assistant Professor, Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences

Lehman College/CUNY


Ms. Janet Smith-Hackshaw

Assistant Principal

Dr. Roland N. Patterson, PS 203X

New York City Department of Education


Ms. Daryl Stack, Kindergarten Teacher

Red Mill Elementary School

East Greenbush Central School District


Ms. Randi Welsh

Special Education Teacher

Rockland County BOCES at

Haverstraw Middle School


[1] The 2005 “ELA Core Curriculum” adapts the 1996 Standards to meet the NCLB requirement for a grade by grade listing of standards but does not substantively change the 1996 Standards.