This report shows how systemic assessments of student learning that isolate skills like “finding the main idea” encourage teachers to place an unhelpful emphasis on the teaching of these “skills”. Drawing on examples from the United States, the report explains why this approach fails to lead to improvements in student learning. Nevertheless, student assessment can be both aligned with high standards and help to encourage the kinds of effective teaching practice that support student learning. The report concludes by suggesting what a more productive approach to curriculum-aligned student assessment would look like.
Common Core Standards
The Problem with Finding the Main Idea
The Problem with Finding the Main Idea (January 2019). Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Learning First.
Reading and Writing Instruction in America’s Schools
David Griffith and Ann Duffett. Reading and Writing Instruction in America’s Schools (July 2018). Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
This nationally representative survey of some 1,200 teachers looks at whether the Common Core State Standards have improved reading and writing instruction, eight years after implementation. Results indicate that the Common Core State Standards have encouraged a number of big changes, including a shift to more complex texts, particularly nonfiction, and content-rich curriculum. The standards are more rigorous, but can present challenges for teachers, particularly the tenet of having students of all reading abilities grapple with grade-level texts.
The State of State Standards Post-Common Core
Solomon Friedberg, Diane Barone, Juliana Belding, Andrew Chen, Linda Dixon, Francis (Skip) Fennell, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Roger Howe, and Tim Shanahan. The State of State Standards Post-Common Core (August 2018). Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
No matter how good they are, every state’s academic standards need to be updated periodically to reflect the latest advances in content and pedagogy, as well as the lessons learned during their implementation. The overarching goal of this report is to provide helpful guidance to states as they look to modernize their standards in the years ahead.This report focuses on states that have made the most substantive changes to the Common Core, or that never adopted them in the first place. By taking a close look at these states, plus a fresh look at the Standards, the authors identify ideas that are worthy of broader adoption, as well as major mistakes that states should avoid.
The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom
Melody Arabo, Jonathan Budd, Shannon Garrison, and Tabitha Pacheco (March 2017). The Right Tool for the Job Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom. Washington, DC: The Thomas Fordham Institute.
This report presents in-depth reviews of nine promising online reading and writing tools for ELA classrooms. Overall, reviewers found these new resources mostly reflect the instructional shifts called for by Common Core (such as including a balance of text types and text-dependent questions for reading and writing). They also lauded the innovative nature and usefulness of text sets as instructional tools, as well as online resources’ student assessment and data reporting capabilities. However, our reviewers cite a lack of information regarding accessibility and accommodations for students with learning disabilities.
Reading, Writing, and the Common Core Standards
Lazarin, M. (August 2016). Reading, Writing, and the Common Core Standards. Washington, D.C.: The Center for American Progress
This report examines these key shifts in the ELA standards more closely, as well as the research basis for their inclusion and the potential benefits for students. In order to fully realize the promise of more rigorous standards to help all students achieve at high levels and graduate from high school truly prepared for college and a career, the Center for American Progress offers the following recommendations to state and district leaders: (1) Push ahead with the Common Core standards and aligned assessments; (2) Strengthen training supports for prospective and current teachers, including teachers of other subjects; and (3) Ensure that teachers have access to and are using high-quality curricular materials and tools aligned to the Common Core.
Common core writing and language standards and aligned state assessments: a national survey of teacher beliefs and attitudes
Troia, G.A., Graham, S. Common core writing and language standards and aligned state assessments: a national survey of teacher beliefs and attitudes. Reading and Writing 29, 1719–1743 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-016-9650-z
A random sample of 482 teachers in grades 3 through 8 from across the United States were surveyed about (a) their perceptions of the version of the Common Core writing and language standards adopted by their state and their state’s writing assessment, (b) their preparation to teach writing, and (c) their self-efficacy beliefs for teaching writing. Regardless of grade, a majority of teachers believed that the adopted standards are more rigorous than prior standards, provide clear expectations for students that can be straightforwardly translated into activities and lessons, and have pushed them to address writing more often. However, many surveyed felt the new writing and language standards are too numerous to cover, omit key aspects of writing development, and may be inappropriate for struggling writers. Moreover, most did not feel that professional development efforts have been sufficient to achieve successful implementation.
How Well Are American Students Learning? With Sections on the Gender Gap in Reading, Effects of the Common Core, and Student Engagement
Loveless, T. The 2015 Brown Center Report on American Education How Well Are American Students Learning? With sections on the gender gap in reading, effects of the Common Core, and student engagement (March 2015) Washington, D.C. The Brown Center on Education Policy, The Brookings Institution.
Part I of the 2015 Brown Center Report on American Education: Girls score higher than boys on tests of reading ability. They have for a long time. This section of the Brown Center Report assesses where the gender gap stands today and examines trends over the past several decades. The analysis also extends beyond the U.S. and shows that boys’ reading achievement lags that of girls in every country in the world on international assessments. The international dimension — recognizing that U.S. is not alone in this phenomenon — serves as a catalyst to discuss why the gender gap exists and whether it extends into adulthood.
Redesigning and Expanding School Time to Support Common Core Implementation
David A. Farbman, David J. Goldberg, and Tiffany D. Miller (2014) Redesigning and Expanding School Time to Support Common Core Implementation. Center for American Progress and the National Center on Time and Learning.
Redesigning schools with significantly more time for both student learning and teacher professional development and collaboration is one significant way to make certain that Common Core implementation is successful. Americans’ willingness to break out of the box of the 180-day, 6.5 hours-per-day school schedule can help with the transition to the Common Core State Standards, especially when targeting schools serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students. This report offers policy and strategy recommendations to support expanded learning time and help meet the demands associated with the Common Core.
Advancing Our Students’ Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts
Adams, M.J. (2011). Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.
The language of today’s twelfth-grade English texts is simpler than that of seventh-grade texts published prior to 1963. No wonder students’ reading comprehension has declined sharply. The author claims that literacy level of secondary students is languishing because the kids are not reading what they need to be reading. In this article, the author lays out the evidence and argument of her claim. She examines the options for developing students’ vocabulary and presents insights from a computer model of vocabulary acquisition. She also discusses a strategy for developing advanced reading and the role of a common core curriculum. She contends that a great benefit of a common core curriculum is that it would drive a thorough overhaul of the texts educators give students to read, and the kinds of learning and thought they expect their reading to support.
Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade, But We Need To
Hirsch, E.D., Jr. (2011). Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade — But We Need To. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.
Most of today’s reading programs rest on faulty ideas about reading comprehension. The author argues that comprehension is not a general skill; it relies on having relevant vocabulary and knowledge. He explains the need for a fact-filled, knowledge-building curriculum. He suggests that states should adopt a common core curriculum that builds knowledge grade by grade in order to serve all children to the best of one's ability and to increase reading achievement.
Getting a Head Start on the Common Core
Summer Matters (November 2013), Getting a Head Start on the Common Core, Oakland, CA: Partnership for Children and Youth.
This report describes how education leaders can use summer programs to stop summer learning loss, and build student and staff capacity to succeed in the new Common Core environment. Part of the "Putting Summer to Work" series developed by the Partnership for Children and Youth.
Using Instructional Routines to Differentiate Instruction: A Guide for Teachers
Kosanovich, M. (2012). Using Instructional Routines to differentiate instruction. A guide for teachers. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.
The Center on Instruction released a publication to help educators plan differentiated instruction using 72 formatted activities called Instructional Routines, which provide a structure for teaching specific foundational reading skills. Included is a table which displays the alignment between the Instructional Routines and the Common Core State Standards organized by the five reading components (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). This resource provides support in the alignment of instruction in schools that are implementing School Improvement Grants (SIG) and/or College and Career Ready Standards (including Common Core State Standards).
Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children's Learning and Health
Thai, M.T., Lowenstein, D., Ching, D., Rejeski, D. (2009). Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children's Learning and Health. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop
Younger and younger children are becoming immersed in the new gaming culture. If you think this is an unhealthy trend, you are not alone. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center addresses this concern in this policy brief. The report proposes that a national investment in research-based digital games can help children learn healthy behaviors, core skills like reading and math, and 21st-century strengths such as critical thinking, global learning, and programming design.
3.6 Minutes Per Day: The Scarcity of Informational Texts in First Grade
Duke, N.K. (2000). 3.6 minutes per day: The scarcity of informational texts in first grade. Reading Research Quarterly, 35, 202-224.
K-W-L: A Teaching Model That Develops Active Reading of Expository Text
Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39, 564-570.
This simple procedure helps teachers become more responsive to students' knowledge and interests when reading expository material, and it models for students the active thinking involved in reading for information.
Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners
Institute of Museum and Library Services (2012). Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners. Developed in partnership with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
This report calls upon policymakers, practitioners, and parents to make full use of libraries and museums, and the skills and talents of those who work in them, to close knowledge and opportunity gaps and give all children a strong start in learning. The type of learning that occurs in these institutions — self-directed, experiential, content-rich — promotes executive function skills that can shape a child’s success in school and life.
Common Core State Standards, Writing, and Students with LD: Recommendations
Graham, S. and Harris, K. R. (2013), Common Core State Standards, Writing, and Students with LD: Recommendations. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 28: 28–37. doi: 10.1111/ldrp.12004
This article examines the Common Core State Standards as they apply to writing and students with learning disabilities (LD). We first consider why the implementation of these standards is advantageous to writing instruction for students with LD as well as the challenges in implementing them. Next, we make the following four recommendations in terms of their implementation: (1) increase general and special education teachers’ knowledge about writing development; (2) create a writing environment in which students with LD can thrive; (3) employ evidence-based writing practices in general education classes (where most students with LD are taught); and (4) use evidence-based writing practices effective with students with LD. We conclude by considering research that still needs to be undertaken to help educators maximize the probability that students with and without LD meet the writing benchmarks proposed in these Standards.