Cal State

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K-12 Education

California State University Northridge

Transcript of Patrice Abarca
biography of speaker


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Ms. Joseph: Thank you. We will get to having a conversation about all that, but first we'll hear from Patty Abarca, member of the Curriculum Commission and a third grade bilingual teacher in Los Angeles Unified.

Mrs. Abarca: When Dr. Klein asked me to do this, I told him I could not justify leaving my third grade students another day. They continued to ask me to come, so I worked out that my students would have a field trip to Cal State Northridge. They are visiting three science labs, and ending with a trip to the gardens. That's where they're going to have lunch and their play time. So I would like you all to please acknowledge my students -- (Applause).

And this wasn't going to be part of my speech, but I do want to tell you how proud I am of them. This is a third grade class. There are 18 children in my class at this point. They are bilingual, biliterate class in English and Spanish. They started the year as a bilingual class. We were fortunate to have started the school year July first and were fortunate to have three quarters of the year in Spanish and continued with our bilingual program. While we knew the inevitable was coming, we were committed to the bilingual program. We hoped the lawsuit would end Prop 227-- it didn't. We knew it was coming. So some of us started early with English reading and continued still with our bilingual program. So what I did was, I had Spanish reading, and I had English reading going on at the same time, but different time periods of the day.

Fortunately, I did not listen to the powers that be. I started my students with decodables, took them through decodables, and my students are now reading a third grade text. They do not thoroughly comprehend everything that they are reading. They can decode it, but they need much vocabulary development. And it is so important that they get this vocabulary development and they get the sentence structure that will help them to truly become fluent in both languages. I just wish I could continue on now with my Spanish. My kids are going off now because they have another lab to visit. They have three labs to go to today. So I just wanted them to get applause, because I think they're just fantastic children.

Another thing I want to mention is, I got the United Teacher yesterday. I'm a union member out of UTLA. I'm a teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District and I just happened to get this yesterday. And in the United Teacher, there is the -- another piece of a six-part series about standards based promotions. This is part 5 of the series, English Language Arts Content Standards. Becky Robinson has a piece in here, and she has included entirely kindergarten through third grade English Language Arts Content Standards. In the next issue, they will have 4th through 6th grade Content Standards in their entire program. So good for UTLA!

The reason that I'm here is that I am a classroom teacher, but I'm also a curriculum commissioner who worked on the Language Arts Framework. It seemed a natural to me to talk about the Framework when we were talking about the Standards. In the Standards-Framework system, you have high expectations for all students. You have instructional programs that are aligned to the Standards. And adopted materials are aligned to the Standards. And with these adopted materials, this is a piece of the puzzle that we are going to hopefully put into place within the next few months. There's the 2519 adoption, which says that we are adopting materials that are aligned to the State Standards, and hopefully these will be put in the hands of classroom teachers as soon as possible.

This is so important. You can talk about standards all you want, but if you don't have the materials in the hands of the classroom teachers and the teachers have not been trained in how to use those materials, I don't care what standards you have -- it won't make any difference. It is vitally important that they be put in the classrooms. There's a quote in the Framework that has to do with this -- that I absolutely love, a quote by Kathi Cooper, a teacher with Sacramento Unified. "Teachers should not be expected to be the composers of the music, as well as the conductors of the orchestra." I want a good program. I want complete, comprehensive programs in the hands of every classroom teacher. Now, if you're an experienced classroom teacher, and you want to enhance that program on top of it, by all means, you are welcome to do so. But every teacher should have that comprehensive program, and every single student should have those materials available to them.

Also with a standards-driven system, you have teaching practices in line with the Standards. You have to reflect -- time for learning that reflects progress of those standards. And your time can be allocated based on the needs of students -- not based on the needs of the teachers or the schools or whatever. It has to be based on the needs of the kids. You need to support students -- their progress with the Standards. And with progress of the Standards, it's also vital that not only a classroom teacher knows, but children should know how they are doing, and the parents should know as well. That's so important. I am a parent, and as a parent, I really believe in that. I want to know how my two children are doing. There needs to be on going assessment. As you are assessing the children, you make adjustments to your grouping and adjustments to materials that you are using. To evaluate the students' progress based on the Standards, and district criteria. Depends on what your district's criteria is. My primary focus, though, is the needs of the students, what the Standards say, and how well my students are moving along.

The last point here is that parents need to be informed about how well their students are doing. Parents want to know. They want to know how well their children are doing and how they can help them. This is a quote taken directly from the English Language Arts Content Standards, showing what to teach, not how to teach it.

(Overhead 1)

That's where the Framework comes in. That's the next piece of the puzzle, the Framework. And hopefully the Framework will be out later this month.

(Overhead 2)

The role of the Framework elaborates on the English Language Arts Content Standards, describes curriculum and instruction necessary to help students achieve mastery. It provides for organizing instruction, so that the child meets or exceeds the Language Arts Content Standards. _That's the purpose of the Framework. So, the Framework gives you the way to implement the Standards.

(Overhead 3)

I wanted to show this. These are the Content Standards in a grid. It's the first part of the grid. And it shows from K-12, the English Language Arts Content Standards. It is one of the appendices in the Framework and goes on to a second page also.

(Overhead 4)

So you see that some of the standards are spiraling levels of mastery, and some of them start at kindergarten and go all the way up. For example, phonemic awareness starts at kindergarten and ends at first grade. But if by assessment you determine that children need phonemic awareness in second or third grade, you can teach it. And they can then move on and do the rest of the things that they need.

(Overhead 5)

This is the organization of the Framework. You see chapters 1 and 2 have introductory and organizational material. Chapter 3 to me is the heart of the Framework itself. It has to do with the K - 3 curriculum. Chapter four is 4th through 8th grades, Chapter five, grades 9-12. Chapter 6 has to do with assessment. Chapter 7 is also a very important piece of the puzzle having to do with universal access, having to do with English language learners, gifted and talented students, and special needs students. Chapter 8, responsibilities and support. Chapter 9 contains the requirements for evaluating instructional materials. The guiding principles of the Framework, the next overhead please -- are listed here.

(Overhead 6).

You use the Standards as the platform. They are the curricular guideposts. You stress the importance of a balanced, comprehensive program to assure that all students must meet or exceed the English Language Arts Standards. It emphasizes that children must be fluent readers at least by the end of grade 3. And, of course, that's vitally important to me as a third grade teacher. I have children who were expected to transition from Spanish to English at the drop of a hat. They started English in January. We are a modified concept six school. The children had March vacation, came back in April and took the SAT-9 test in April. They did pretty well. Not great. They will do better next year. And they will do even better next year when all the children have the materials, and the teachers have the materials. And I'm going to keep harping on that like a broken record. The Framework describes the important skills, concepts and strategies that teachers need to use up to grade 3. It provides specific guidance for educators and learners about what should be taught and learned; it promotes, and this is so important, a preventative rather than remedial approach. Assumes all learners will work toward the same standards. Addresses the full range of learners in classrooms. Universal access. Assumes that virtually all students can learn to read, including the older students, by building skills and strategies for knowledge -- for mastering the reading arts Content Standards. And it must be a useful guide for all consumers. Actually, can you put in the next overhead -- stresses the importance of a balanced and comprehensive program.

(Overhead 7).

A balanced program is what Marion talked about earlier. It's the instructional emphasis given a skill or standard, determined by its priority or importance relative to the student's language and literacy levels and needs. It is so important. Marion is right that it's not a little of this bad and a little of that good. It is a little of this and that if you are putting all of that together, so that the children are going to meet the students' needs. The children will be able to master the Standards. A comprehensive program is that the instructional program is complete. I am so tired of having to put together materials, take a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I would love to get a complete, full program, and it sure would be nice if the State of California would say, "you can have x number of dollars that you need so that you can have that comprehensive program in the classroom," so that the teachers don't have to keep going out and buying a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and spending thousands of dollars of their own on classrooms so that the children have that. The Framework emphasizes that children have to be fluent readers -- actually, skip that overhead. I just talked about that one. And skip the next one too.

(Overhead 9)

Third grade competence depends on the specific and cumulative mastery of skills in K through grade 3. Kindergarten teachers need to stop thinking of kinder as just a time for socializing. They have to realize that kindergarten is a vital time. Children in K and 1 especially are absorbing everything, and they need the good guidance and instruction from the very beginning.

(Overhead 10)

Okay. I have a couple more minutes and David, you might as well take a rest. I don't have much more time. The Framework also attends to higher skills in grades 4 through 12. If the children can learn to read and decode in the primary grades, they can spend that energy and emphasis from then on in vocabulary building, on sentence structure, and in higher-order thinking skills, and comprehension. But when they receive that instruction in grades 4 - 12 or even in 3rd grade, they need to have systematic, explicit instructions to learn all of that. When I talk about full range of consumers, the consumers include teachers, publishers of educational material, parents, providers of professional development, reading specialists, library and media teachers, principals, district and county leaders of instruction and curriculum, college and university professors, community members -- everybody has contributions and everyone should be reading the English language arts framework. (Applause).

Go to transcript of Carol Jago 


Contact the organizers

Postal and telephone information:

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K12 Education

College of Science and Mathematics

California State University Northridge

18111 Nordhoff St.

Northridge CA 91330-8235

Telephone: (Dr. Klein: 818-677-7792)

FAX: 818-677-3634 (Attn: David Klein)