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New literacy initiative introduces CER writing to be implemented all classes

New literacy initiative introduces CER writing to be implemented all classes
Frances Leibovich

For the 2023-2024 school year, Jackson-Reed has introduced a new initiative that requires all students to write under the claim, evidence, reasoning (CER) format. This mandate states that all teachers must have their students write two CERs per term, no matter the class subject. 

At the start of each school year, each school in DCPS creates a Comprehensive School Plan (CSP) for the upcoming year. Each plan includes school-specific goals to be accomplished throughout the school year. The goals are often the result of academic trends seen in the previous school year, such as test scores and pass rates. This year, one component of the CSP for JR focused on literacy, especially preparing students for any writing they may face once they graduate. 

According to JR Instructional Coach Elizabeth Braganza, the Instructional Leadership Team at JR identified the domain of “written expression” as an area for student growth when the school year began. “By building this writing focus into all courses – with consistent practice and meaningful feedback – I believe that we will see a marked improvement in students’ writing abilities,” Braganza said. 

As part of their professional development, JR teachers underwent brief training to examine and create CERs in all different subjects to prepare for the school year. Every CER is graded on the same DCPS rubric, where students can earn up to 12 points total, four for each component of their response. 

English Teacher Jenna Postler noted that while the writing initiative has not made any noticeable difference in most English classes, it is still an important skill to apply to other subjects: “[A CER] gives us a unified language with which to approach the same skills, which in theory might show kids that all of these types of writing are connected,” Postler said.

While writing was already incorporated int

o the curriculum of classes like English and History, many of JR’s other electives are newly introducing CER writing. Digital Media Teacher Grover Massenburg is using the CERs as a creative outlet for students to explore their interests within the class subject. He is planning on having students analyze lyrics and different forms of media to write their CERs. “If students feel like learning is fun,” Massenburg said, “then they won’t feel like it is a chore.”

However, some students do not see the CER initiative as the answer to the problems that face student literacy. Senior Colette Bernards said, “Literacy is important, but I don’t think writing CERs in every class is going to help with this. I find them annoying because often they distract or prevent the class from completing the actual curriculum.” Bernards is also a teacher’s assistant (TA) for a world history class, and noted how CER is still a strong structure given its “clear formula” students can follow. 

Aside from the mandatory CER writing, there have been additional efforts to fuel the literacy initiative at JR. On January 11, JR hosted its first-ever Literacy Night, where students and parents were invited to view a series of presentations, including one about CERs. The presentation included information on what CERs are, why they are effective, and how parents can support their students’ growth as writers. JR is hoping to continue their pursuit of student literacy as the year continues.

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About the Contributor
Devan Mehta
Devan Mehta, Opinions Editor
Devan is the person on the Beacon with the best hot takes, which ultimately is why she is one of the fabulous opinion editors. She does theater, choir, and Bollywood dance but manages to still be opinionated in all of those things! You will often find her reading a romance novel, watching the Baltimore Ravens, or doing both at the same time. She also would give Taylor Swift literally any of her organs if necessary.
  • 2021-23: Junior Editor
  • 2022-24: Opinions Editor
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