Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reading, Writing, and the Common Core State Standards | Center for American Progress

Reading, Writing, and the Common Core State Standards | Center for American Progress:

Reading, Writing, and the Common Core State Standards

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  • Reading, Writing, and the Common Core State Standards
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During the 2014-15 school year, more high school seniors read the young adult-oriented books The Fault in Our Stars andDivergent than Shakespeare’s Macbeth or Hamlet, according to a report that tracks what K-12 students at more than 30,000 schools are reading during the school year. These books are generally self-selected, making it not all that surprising that students would prefer to read a contemporaryNew York Times bestseller than a 17th-century play written in early modern English. And while some of the books that students select are thematically targeted to a mature audience, they are not particularly challenging to read for the average high schooler. The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent, for example, have the readability of a fourth- or fifth-grade text in terms of sentence structure and word difficulty.
There is substantial evidence that much of what students are currently reading is not particularly challenging. This lack of complexity in students’ reading and writing is likely undermining their preparedness for college and the workplace. In addition, despite the predominant role that reading and writing serve in other subjects and disciplines, literacy development has long been relegated to the English or reading classroom.
Take the issue of reading complexity. Three of the top five most commonly assigned titles in grades 9 through 12 are To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible, and Of Mice and Men. All three books, while classics, are not particularly challenging in terms of sentence structure and complexity. Does that mean that Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which broaches issues of racial inequality should instead be introduced to elementary school-aged children? Most people—including English teachers—probably would not agree. Readability is only one factor when considering the intended audience of a work of literature.
But the difficulty of the reading material to which students are exposed is not inconsequential. An ACT report finds that “performance on complex texts is the clearest differentiator in reading between students who are likely to be ready for college and those who are not.” This holds true across gender, race and ethnicity, and family income levels.
Yet there is a stark gap between the complexity of texts that high school students are reading and of those that they will confront in college and in their careers. Students reading at the average level of high school texts, for example, may be comfortable with as little as 5 percent of university-level texts and with only one-quarter of the texts that they would encounter in the military or the workplace.
One only need skim the data to see that just a small proportion of students are on the path to graduate from high school ready for college and a career. Only one-third of fourth- and eighth-grade students—36 percent and 34 percent, respectively—performed at the proficient level or higher in reading, according to the most recent data, on the National Assessment of Reading, Writing, and the Common Core State Standards | Center for American Progress:

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