English Statement of Beliefs
As language arts teachers, we recognize the crucial role literacy plays in all learning. It is a foundational skill, and therefore inseparable from quality education. Literacy comes from the pursuit of knowledge through wide and varied readings. A literate student is not merely one who possesses the requisite decoding skills to read a set of words, but rather a student who has been challenged by texts and who seeks out further challenges.
We further recognize that challenges can come in many forms. An author can offer challenges through syntax and diction, through figurative language or philosophical depth, and through style and subject matter. It is our responsibility as teachers to present texts to students that are challenging in all of these ways, helping them become literate thinkers and thoughtful citizens.
In teaching challenging materials to students, we recognize the responsibility to present materials that conform to the scope and sequence of the course. The literature we present to classes must be of sound literary merit, appropriate reading level, and necessary to the understanding of course material and the meeting of course goals. When considering the rationale for presenting challenging material in the classroom, the most important factor is the difference between a text’s content or subject matter and its message.
With the current Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) for Reading, Writing and Communicating, difficult texts of all types will become more, not less, common. The CAS for Reading, Writing, and communicating include the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which significantly raise the complexity of texts for every grade-level. And, this must be acknowledged, mature reading levels come with mature content. It is important for both sides to trust the intentions of the people involved in a student’s education.
A Three-Part Model for Measuring Text Complexity taken from the CCSS, Appendix A:
The Standards’ model of text complexity consists of three equally important parts.
(1) Qualitative dimensions of text complexity. In the Standards, qualitative dimensions and qualitative factors refer to those aspects of text complexity best measured or only measurable by an attentive human reader, such as levels of meaning or purpose; structure; language conventionality and clarity; and knowledge demands.
(2) Quantitative dimensions of text complexity. The terms quantitative dimensions and quantitative factors refer to those aspects of text complexity, such as word length or frequency, sentence length, and text cohesion, that are difficult if not impossible for a human reader to evaluate efficiently, especially in long texts, and are thus today typically measured by computer software.
(3) Reader and task considerations. While the prior two elements of the model focus on the inherent complexity of text, variables specific to particular readers (such as motivation, knowledge, and experiences) and to particular tasks (such as purpose and the complexity of the task assigned and the questions posed) must also be considered when determining whether a text is appropriate for a given student. Such assessments are best made by teachers employing their professional judgment, experience, and knowledge of their students and the subject.
The Standards presume that all three elements will come into play when text complexity and appropriateness are determined.
For a complete explanation of text complexity from the Common Core State Standards initiative, please refer to Appendix A: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf