Florida’s newly established English Language Arts B.E.S.T. Standards are being integrated into public school curricula. The ‘Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking’ Standards were created following a state executive order in 2019, with the input of literacy experts and educators, to ensure students receive the education to prepare them for an evolving world. To help explain the B.E.S.T. Standards, Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) Coordinator of Elementary Literacy, Dr. Colleen Fletcher, joined Future Ready Collier for a virtual, community Lunch and Learn session.
Future Ready Collier was fortunate to have Lisa Morse, a School Success Goal Group co-chair and CCPS Director of Community Engagement & District Initiatives, as a session participant to introduce Dr. Fletcher. Opening her thorough presentation, Dr. Fletcher proudly noted that this is her 28th year as a Collier County educator, and that she has been a CCPS parent to her three children. The Lunch and Learn welcomed an audience of interested community members, including many educators, eager to know more about this new learning paradigm and its practical impact.
What are the B.E.S.T. Standards
Several guiding principles underpin the English Language Arts (ELA) B.E.S.T. Standards. It is important to begin by affirming that ELA as a discipline is meant to encompass more than a set of individual skills. Rather, there is rich meaning for students to internalize. Standards guiding ELA are intended to be clear and concise, supporting the use of texts that are meaningful and thought-provoking. ELA learning is integrated with coursework and instruction so students learn purposeful thinking, questioning, and analysis.
The B.E.S.T. Standards are organized across various categorical tiers, including grade level and anticipated learning benchmarks. Further, so-called ‘strands’ include foundation, reading, communication, and vocabulary, and help direct educators as to which standard pertains to which learning priority. Reviewing the standards, it is clear that there is a strategic progression from level to level and grade to grade, building complementary skills and empowering students to think critically.
Expectations are clearly established. For example, within the standards, students are progressively supported to: cite evidence to explain their reasoning, read proficiently at or above their grade level, learn active listening and classroom collaboration, and acquire the ability to choose the appropriate voice and tone for either written or spoken language. There is consideration for all students and the individuality of their learning paces and styles. Within grade-level benchmarks, the tool provides educators with examples of texts that may be appropriate.
Literacy in Collier County Public Schools
CCPS’ own policies and procedures align with the B.E.S.T. Standards. There is an emphasis on reinforcing learning through thinking. Students are presented with worthwhile, high-quality, grade-appropriate reading opportunities, and lessons are delivered with daily repetition. The goals for student achievement over time are many, and include: building knowledge of the world, gaining confidence, learning purposeful thinking and questioning, learning self-sufficiency and problem-solving, and acquiring the foundations that lead to long-term success in and out of the classroom.
At all points, CCPS strives to implement the B.E.S.T. Standards and its own frameworks with an eye towards the most current and actionable education-focused research. Educators and administrators examine established practices, and compare them against what’s newly evolving in the world of academic instruction. Referencing best practices like the Reading Rope informs understanding of concepts such as the overlap between language comprehension and word recognition in learning skilled reading. Also, educators embrace the nuances of how existing knowledge may influence reading comprehension, and how students’ established skills may be strategically enhanced to support the acquisition of related abilities.
These principles are just as applicable for students who may not speak English as their first or primary language. Within CCPS, in fact, over half of the entire student population reports that English is not the language principally spoken in their home. Helping students to learn literacy and reading comprehension when there is a language barrier can be greatly facilitated, for example, through supported knowledge building. Studies show that having knowledge about a topic can overcome weaknesses in technical reading ability. In addition, assisting students to recognize words’ base meanings from their Latin or Greek origins can be a useful tactic that spans many languages.
As well as doing everything to help students achieve their best academic success, CCPS takes steps to engage parents and families. CCPS maintains a website dedicated to parent resources. This includes tools like read-at-home plans, with videos of parents modeling the kinds of engagement and interactions that can accelerate students’ learning, and foster interpersonal connections within the home.
Future Ready Collier is committed to advancing interests in Collier County around literacy access and ability. To learn more about the network’s efforts, or to get involved, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. To watch a free recording of Dr. Fletcher’s presentation, click here.
Prepared by Caroline Ridgway of C1B1 Communications