Monday, August 20, 2012

Common Core + Reading Wars

Another fine summary from our research analyst at Laying the Foundation / National Math + Science (Sarah Jensen) on the big shift in reading that Common Core State Standards will create for the benefit of our students: 

Common Core opens a second front in the Reading Wars

·          CCSS specify the “sophistication of what students read is as important as the skills they master from grade to grade.”
o   “This seemingly innocuous directive—to read appropriately complex texts and to use scaffolding to help struggling students understand what they’ve read—is perhaps the most revolutionary element of the CCSS.”
·          It means picking sides – scaffolded texts or scaffolded instruction
o   One side: “reading comprehension will improve if teachers assess students’ individual reading levels and give them a bevy of “just right” books that will challenge them just enough to nudge them to read slightly more challenging texts.”
o   Other side: “reading comprehension improves as domain-specific content knowledge deepens and students are exposed to increasingly complex literature and nonfiction texts.”
§  Here the role of the teacher is more pronounced, and instruction more explicit. The instruction, not the text, is scaffolded to meet the students where they are.
·          “If you are to take the Common Core at its word—that the sophistication of the text is equally as important as the skills that students master—then it will be increasingly difficult for publishers of curricula that focus on matching books to readers, rather than scaffolding instruction to meet their needs, to claim that their materials are truly aligned with the new standards.
·          “Some believe that, by wading into this debate, the CCSS has violated the principles of the “grand compromise” of standards-driven reform, others believe that this guidance gives these standards more clarity and purpose than teachers have had for years.”

Note - we know we are on the right track especially taken in the context of this study on Core Knowledge in New York City:
“For three years, a pilot program tracked the reading ability of approximately 1,000 students at 20 New York City schools, following them from kindergarten through second grade. Half of the schools adopted a curriculum designed by the education theorist E. D. Hirsch Jr.’s Core Knowledge Foundation. The other 10 used a variety of methods, but most fell under the definition of “balanced literacy,” an approach that was spread citywide by former Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, beginning in 2003.
“The study found that second graders who were taught to read using the Core Knowledge program scored significantly higher on reading comprehension tests than did those in the comparison schools.”
web page on the Core Knowledge website links to the the NYC Department of Ed’s data, background on the program, a presentation on the research underpinnings andhow the curriculum works with Common Core State Standards.