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Reports from Policy Analysts

Intentions of Literacy

Submitted On: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Analyst: Nielsen, Kristen

How would Maryland define and foster literacy? Our state provides expectations and guidelines for financial literacy (via the MSDE website), family literacy (including Take 15 for the Family), and technology literacy (Standards through Grade 8). When I inquired about state-level literacy policy from MSDE’s Reading Team, I received the following prompt reply from Ava Spencer, Maryland’s Coordinator of Reading/English Language Arts:

The development of curriculum at MSDE involved the full implementation of the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards, known nationally as the Common Core State Standards, this 2013-14 school year.  The Maryland Frameworks were developed to indicate the essential skills and knowledge required of the Common Core Standards.  These Frameworks have received acceptance from the State Board.  Groups of teachers from all the districts worked to develop unit models for each grade level, which include sample lesson plans and lesson seeds.  All these resources are on MSDE's Blackboard website.  In addition, educators also worked to provide a glossary and clarifications for all standards pre-K-12.  These will be added to Blackboard soon.

All work on curriculum has been done by educators recommended by the district Assistant Superintendents.  The work was facilitated by specialists here at MSDE.  The work is submitted for acceptance and approval by the State Board.

Each school district provides their own curriculum to teachers, however, MSDE resources are developed and provided to support teachers in implementing the standards.  Professional development on the standards and resources is given to teachers around the state via webinars, workshops, Educator Effectiveness Academies 2011-2013, and this summer through the College and Career-Ready Conferences.  All PD is available to pre-K through higher ed.  Most of this summer's conferences will be held at institutions of higher education in order to include them.

As a part of the PARCC consortium, Maryland will use the PARCC assessment to assess students on the standards.  Sample items and Practice tests are available to all educators on the PARCC website to support teachers.

Forty-three states have adopted the CCSS, which recommend the following shifts: “complex texts,” responses “grounded in evidence,” and “building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction.” CCSS Text Exemplars are provided for K-11. While this list is extensive with some variety, the reliance remains on classical literature with few modern, multicultural, or young adult texts included per grade levels.  

Common Core’s desire to infuse literacy (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) in all subjects is laudable, but we teachers must consider how and why we are teaching as important as what we are teaching: inquiry, argumentation, critical thinking, citizenship, collaboration, empathy, and literacy.

How are we selecting and using complex texts? How are we assisting our diverse students in living fulfilling lives? Are we inspiring students to eschew aliteracy and become life-long learners? Are we guiding the navigation of a digital landscape? While we are claiming to prepare “all students [to] graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live,” are we lighting fires or force filling pails?

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