Students’ ability to read complex text does not always develop in a linear fashion. Although the progression of Reading standard 10 (see below) defines required grade-by-grade growth in students’ ability to read complex text, the development of this ability in individual students is unlikely to occur at an unbroken pace. Students need opportunities to stretch their reading abilities but also to experience the satisfaction and pleasure of easy, fluent reading within them, both of which the Standards allow for. As noted above, such factors as students’ motivation, knowledge, and experiences must also come into play in text selection. Students deeply interested in a given topic, for example, may engage with texts on that subject across a range of complexity. Particular tasks may also require students to read harder texts than they would normally be required to. Conversely, teachers who have had success using particular texts that are easier than those required for a given grade band should feel free to continue to use them so long as the general movement during a given school year is toward texts of higher levels of complexity.
Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Stuides Science, Technical Subjects Appendix A: Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards, p.8
Yesterday, I spoke about the unintended consequences of passion and expertise. A whole lot of people are passionate about offering readers choice, access to great texts, and the time to read them. A whole lot of people are also passionate about the promise of the Common Core, the potential it may hold for readers, and the call for rigor that seems to push against the use of instructional leveling.
There are fewer people who seem to be passionate about the use of evidence to inform our decision-making though, and even fewer who know how to go about gathering good evidence and using it in meaningful ways. Every time I say the word “data” it conjures visions of spreadsheets and testing, but honestly: my definition of data is not reduced to that.
I don’t know if increasing shared reading opportunities and ramping up text complexity will build better readers, but there is evidence to suggest that it might.
I don’t know if scaling back or eliminating independent or guided reading opportunities will harm readers either, but there is evidence to suggest that it might.
One thing I am certain of? The Common Core does not call for the elimination of choice. It does not compel teachers to use complex text exclusively, either, and it says little (if anything at all) about the use of workshop as a framework for literacy instruction. What’s more, the Common Core Learning Standards–distinct to New York State specifically—include Reading for Literature Standard 11:
Interpret, analyze, and evaluate narratives, poetry, and drama, aesthetically and philosophically by making connections to: other texts, ideas, cultural perspectives, eras, personal events, and situations.
a. Self-select text to respond and develop innovative perspectives.
b. Establish and use criteria to classify, select, and evaluate texts to make informed judgments about the quality of the pieces.
This standard doesn’t merely support choice.
It mandates it.
For all of the reasons, it’s made sense for the teachers I work with to establish balance within the block and study how specific practices and reading experiences seem to influence performance as well as interest levels.
We’re using evidence to guide the adjustments we’re making.
We need to get better at that part, we know.
So far, so good though.
I’m thinking that if this isn’t what aligning to the Core looks like in your world, perhaps it’s time that someone actually crack it open and read it.