Public School Initiatives Affecting Wisconsin Public Libraries


What is Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)?

The Department of Public Instruction, under the 2011 Wisconsin Act 166 (commonly referred to as "Read to Lead"), was required to choose an assessment of reading readiness for kindergarteners that would be given annually by all public schools, starting in the 2012-13 school year. DPI selected the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening-Kindergarten (PALS-K) assessment developed by the University of Virginia.

The purpose of PALS (or PALS-K) is to provide a direct means of matching literacy instruction to specific literacy needs and provide a means of identifying those children who are relatively behind in their acquisition of these fundamental literacy skills. The PALS-K Fall assessment window begins six weeks into the school year and lasts four weeks. Teachers will complete the entire PALS assessment within any contiguous two-week period during that time. All kindergarten teachers will be required to administer the test in the fall and the spring testing windows and may perform an optional mid-year screening.

How does PALS relate to public libraries?

As a librarian you might serve as a resource for parents and educators in regard to PALS. Specifically, you may be asked for assistance in understanding or information about the four main components of the assessment: phonological awareness, alphabetical knowledge, concept of word, and grapheme-phoneme correspondence. It is a good idea to show your awareness of PALS and support of early literacy to families with young children and your local school district.

PALS resources for public libraries

The PALS-Wisconsin website:

Using PALS Data identifies the main uses for PALS data and suggests situations where the use of PALS data should be limited.

Early literacy resources:

Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

What are the CCSS?

The Common Core State Standards are a result of the collaborative work done by the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. There are currently Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Literacy for all Subjects. Wisconsin adopted the CCSS in 2010.

How do CCSS relate to public libraries?

Wisconsin's adoption of the CCSS is a singular and statewide shift for K-12 learning. Public libraries offer significant support to students, parents, and educators. Whether hosting an open house for parents or communicating with schools on collection development practices, public libraries can exhibit awareness and application of the CCSS. Library displays, promotions, website content, and other marketing platforms help showcase commitment and collaboration.

What is the timeline for CCSS Implementation?

In 2011-2012, schools and districts will analyze the standards to gain a comprehensive understanding of them. In 2012-2013, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction will provide curricular resources for Common Core State Standard Implementation and schools/districts will incorporate the Common Core State Standards into their district curricula. In 2014-2015, the CCSS will be fully incorporated into school/district curricula.

How are the English Language Arts CCSS organized?

Within the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, there are four emphases: Reading, Speaking and Listening, Writing, and Language. Reading Standards are further broken out into Foundational Skills for Reading, Reading Standards for Literature, and Reading Standards for Informational Text. The Standards are organized by presenting grade-level benchmarks within these four emphases which build upon each other.

How do the CCSS classify text?

The CCSS has two broad classifications for types of text: literary text and informational text. Stories, dramas, and poems are considered literary texts. Stories include the subgenres of adventure stories, historical fiction, mysteries, myths, science fiction, realistic fiction, allegories, parodies, satire, and graphic novels. Dramas include one-act and multi-act plays, both in written form and on film. Poetry includes the subgenres of narrative poems, lyrical poems, free verse poems, sonnets, odes, ballads, and epics. Literary nonfiction and nonfiction are considered informational texts. Informational texts include the subgenres of exposition, argument, and functional text in the form of personal essays, speeches, opinion pieces, essays about art or literature, biographies, memoirs, journalism, and historical, scientific, technical, or economic accounts (including digital sources) written for a broad audience.

How do the CCSS measure the complexity of text?

The CCSS presents a new way of measuring text complexity. It is a three-pronged approach based on quantitative measures (referring to a readability score, often best measured by computer software), qualitative measures (referring to levels of meaning, structure, language and clarity, and knowledge demands, often measured by an attentive human reader), and reader-task considerations (referring to the background knowledge of the reader, his/her motivations, interests, and the complexity of assigned tasks, often best made by educators using their professional judgment).

What are the instructional implications of the English Language Arts CCSS?

The English Language Arts Common Core State Standards represent an increase in instructional rigor that will have an impact on instruction. Foundational reading skills are more clearly defined with grade-level benchmarks. Students will read increasingly complex texts from a broad range of cultures and periods. Students will shift to reading more informational text across content areas. Students will engage in inquiry, research, and the writing process as they write explanatory, argumentative, and narrative texts. Students will engage in rich and rigorous text-based collaborative discussions. These standards regarding texts will require educators to re-evaluate the texts used in classrooms, as well as how texts are used. Students will learn conventions, grammar, and vocabulary in context. Research and media skills are blended into the Standards as a whole. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards Literacy for all Subjects, instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language is a shared responsibility within the school and across disciplines, so all instructional staff will need to engage in explicit literacy-related instruction and assessment.

What are the implications of the greater focus on informational text for English Language Arts Classrooms?

The Common Core State Standards call for a 70/30 text split between informational and literary text in grade levels 9-12. This does not mean that English language arts instructors will decrease their use of literary text; rather, it means that teachers of other disciplines are responsible for and will need to be mindful of engaging students with authentic informational texts to ensure that students access the specified amount of informational text and engage with those texts in meaningful ways.


Find out how and why the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) apply to your work as a Wisconsin school or public librarian.

Common Core in School and Public Libraries:

The Common Core and the Public Librarian: Reaching Patrons and Students (webinar and toolkit from AASL)

CCSS Basics

Publishers' Criteria for selecting Common Core Resources

Wisconsin's Guiding Principles for Teaching and Learning

Links to Wisconsin's Common Core State Standards documents

Common Core State Standards—Resources from the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC)

School Library Journal—The Public Library Connection: The new standards require that public and school librarians pull together | On Common Core

Common Core Instructional Shifts with

Parents Guide to Student Success

Booklists from the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

  1. Got Text Complexity? Selected Literature for Common Core Standards in English Language Arts (Grades 6-12)
  2. Made for Each Other: Paired Texts for the Common Core Standards in Middle and High School Classrooms
For questions about this information, contact Tessa Michaelson Schmidt (608) 267-5077