Contrasting Opinions on Common Core Literacy Standards

First you have the “Quick Guide to the Common Core: Key Expectations Explained” written by Adam Berkin, Vice President of product development at Curriculum Associates.  They will cash in on the change as will many other curriculum companies and consultants.  He wrote:

Since the 1960s, text difficulty in textbooks has been declining (Source: CCSS Appendix A). This, in part, has created a significant gap between what students are reading in twelfth grade and what is expected of them when they arrive at college. As you might imagine, this gap is hurting students’ chances of success in college: the CCSS cites an ACT report called Reading Between the Line that says that the ability to answer questions about complex text is a key predictor of college success….

In order to be college-, career-, and life-ready, students need to be familiar and comfortable with texts from a broad range of genres and formats. The Common Core State Standards focus on a broader range and place a much greater emphasis on informational text. Colleges and workplaces demand analysis of informational or expository texts. Currently, in many elementary programs, only 15 percent of text is considered expository. The Common Core sets expectation that, in grades three through eight, 50 percent of the text be expository. Specifically, in grades three through five, there is a call for more scientific, technical, and historic texts, and in grades six through eight, more literary nonfiction including essays, speeches, opinion pieces, literary essays, biographies, memoirs, journalism, and historical, scientific, technical, and economic accounts.

Sandra Stotsky, a national expert on academic standards, in testimony given to the Utah Education Interim Committee in August said:

Common Core’s standards for English language arts are neither research-based nor internationally benchmarked.  Nor are the percentages for literary and informational reading in English classes supported by research or NAEP reading frameworks.

Common Core provides no comparison of its own sets of standards with any sets of international objectives in English or mathematics. I requested information on international benchmarking many times during my tenure on the Common Core Validation Committee, yet it was never provided.  To judge from my own research on the language and literature requirements for a high school diploma in Ireland, British Columbia, Canada, and Alberta, Canada, Common Core’s ELA standards fall far below what other English-speaking nations or regions require of college-intending high school graduates. In fact, that is the main reason that I and four other members of the Validation Committee declined to sign off on Common Core’s standards.

Nor is there research evidence to support the usefulness of the generic reading skills Common Core offers as “anchor” standards (and as grade-level standards). Common Core’s anchor standards are not authentic academic standards.  Only authentic academic standards can guide development of a coherent and progressively demanding literature/reading curriculum in K-12, and only such a curriculum can prepare students adequately for a high school diploma, never mind authentic college coursework.  Skills, processes, and strategies by themselves cannot propel intellectual development or serve as an intellectual framework for any K-12 curriculum.

Nor is there evidence to support the idea that having English teachers teach more informational reading (or literary nonfiction) and less literary reading will lead to greater college readiness. There is also no research to support Common Core’s division of reading into 10 informational and 9 literary standards at all educational levels.

Which will you believe?