The Shift …

For the past several months, our department has been discussing the shift to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.  Generally, for English Language Arts, the CCSS emphasize much higher comprehension skills, reading and writing complex texts, and cross-curricular literacy instruction.

In the book, Pathways to the Common Core (Calkins et al), suggest there are some essential implications with regard to implementing the Common Core Reading Standards.

“The Common Core’s emphasis on high-level comprehension skills calls for a reversal of NCLB’s focus on decoding and low-level literacy skills.” For many years we have been providing instruction in decoding and low level comprehension.  Now, students will be asked to develop literal understandings of complex texts. 

“As you embrace high-level comprehension and analytical reading skills, you may need to acknowledge that many teachers never received any training or practice with these skills in their education or own reading lives.” Districts, schools, and grade level or department teams will need time to study and practice these skills.

“In order for students to do Common Core reading work, they’ll need explicit instruction in the skills and strategies of high-level comprehension.” Students will need a “tool box” of strategies in order to access and comprehend increasing difficult levels of text.  Clear instruction and practice are a must. 

“Teachers will need to assess the texts the kids are holding, and ensure they are texts on which they can actually practice synthesizing and critical reading.” Students will need to read texts that enable them analyze craft, structure, symbolism, and theme development at a deep level.

“Because reading will no longer be the domain solely of English Language Arts teachers, as it has been in most schools, science and social studies teachers will need to participate in professional development on reading instruction.” Students will need practice in these aforementioned reading skills in every text they encounter during the school day.  This will require a prioritization of the limited professional development time currently allocated.  In addition, students will need to read more non-fiction texts across the curriculum.  This table outlines the CCSS recommended distribution.

Level Literary Informational
Elementary 50% 50%
Middle 45% 55%
High 30% 70%

As we look at these implications, what then is needed for successful implementation of the CCSS? It will take the maximum effort from every educator in our district.

This will require intensive capacity building, professional development, and training for teachers, principals, and district staff. Smooth implementation requires clear communication and open discussions between, teachers, administration, parents, and students.

As we move towards implementation we look forward to working on the details of building capacity and professional development.

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