I am not sure why this is a complaint. I will admit that the standards and benchmarks document for North Dakota is quite extensive for English Language Arts at each grade level. If the complaints are about the size, why is the size an obstacle?
Is it because it is difficult to maneuver through?
Is it because it is hard to find a particular benchmark that is needed on a lesson plan?
Is it because one school year does not seem long enough to cover all of them?
If the complaint is the first, the standards and benchmark documents are available in different configurations on the DPI website. You can get the entire standard and benchmark document by grade level or you can get an entire standard K-12. Is there another configuration that teachers would appreciate having?
If the complaint is the second, I understand. When I am asked to list the standards and benchmarks covered by a particular lesson I am teaching, I find it daunting to go through each standard, listing all of the benchmarks that a lesson covers. I have remedied this by listing the covered standards by unit and not by daily lesson. I find that the units I create actually cover a very broad number of benchmarks. The better the unit; the broader the scope of standards and benchmarks covered. I am also finding, as I become more proficient at this, that the coverage of a broad range of standards and benchmarks also translates to a better unit for diverse learners. For instance, when writing, reading, speaking, and media benchmarks are used in one unit, the different types and levels of learners can excel in different areas all within the same unit.
Finally, if the complaint is the last, I refer you to the previous paragraph. Units that are thoroughly thought out and well-designed, tend to cover a very broad range of benchmarks. If the unit does not cover an adequate cross-section of benchmarks, it should probably be rethought a little. I, by no means, am advocating scrapping units that have a lot of time and energy invested in them. I am, instead, suggesting that coordinating activities be added to a beloved unit to cover a broader range of benchmarks.
Finally, I have found that many of the benchmarks take very little effort to cover. Case in point:
My six year old entered my 10th grade English class a few weeks ago when we were discussing Edgar Allan Poe's "The Mask of the Red Death." (He comes through every day to get his lunch out of my refrigerator.) At this particular time we were talking about the symbolism of color. ND Standard 2: Students Engage in the Reading Process lists identifying the use of symbolism as a benchmark (10.2.4. Identify author’s use of figurative language including allusion, imagery, and symbolism).
Later that afternoon, as we were driving the one mile to our house, Reid asked why my class had been discussing colors. I told him that colors could symbolize people or objects or feelings. I started with the color green and asked what green could symbolize. He replied, "Grass, money, or 'go.'" We continued through many different colors. He showed understanding of symbolism with each.
Just then, my seventh grade son, Ethan, jumped in and asked how it might be used in a novel. I told him that F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby had a light at the end of a dock that was the color green. I explained that two lovers lived across the water from one another and that the woman had married someone else years before because the other had not been wealthy enough for her. He had gained riches and bought a huge house across the water so her could be near her. I asked him if, based on that little bit, he could tell me what the green light may have stood for. He replied, "Go" for the newly rich lover to come get his love from her husband and probably, "Money," because that was what stood between them before the light did. He then added, to Reid's previous symbolism lesson, that green could also be the symbol for "growth" because grass is green during the growing months.
Now, I am not claiming my two sons became proficient at identifying symbolism in text in those few short 5 to 7 minutes. But I am claiming that my 1st and 7th grade sons both have a 'real' knowledge of symbolism that is above the state standard requirements for their grade levels.
Every minute is a minute to be savored with our youth. They can learn concepts well above the expectations for them if they are taught in a way that has value and makes sense. There may be many, many benchmarks, but fully developed units can cover an amazing variety of them in a short amount of time.
*Please feel free to contact me at anytime by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear your feedback.