Common Core ELA | Myths Versus Facts

There is a lot of hype going around about the Common Core.

Successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards requires parents, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders to have the facts about what the standards are and what they are not.

The following myths and facts have been published by the Common Core State Standards Initiative to address common misconceptions.

Myths About Content and Quality:
English Language Arts/Literacy

Myth: The standards are just vague descriptions of skills and do not include a reading list or any other reference to content.

Fact: The standards do include sample texts that demonstrate the level of text complexity appropriate for the grade level and compatible with the learning demands set out in the standards. The exemplars of high-quality texts at each grade level provide a rich set of possibilities and have been very well received. This provides a reference point for teachers when selecting their texts, along with the flexibility to make their own decisions about what texts to use.

Myth: English teachers will be asked to teach science and social studies reading materials.

Fact: With the ELA standards, English teachers will still teach their students literature as well as literary nonfiction. However, because college and career readiness overwhelmingly focuses on complex texts outside of literature, these standards also ensure students are being prepared to read, write, and research across the curriculum, including in history and science. These goals can be achieved by ensuring that teachers in other disciplines are also focusing on reading and writing to build knowledge within their subject areas.

Myth: The standards do not have enough emphasis on fiction/literature.

Fact: The Common Core requires certain critical content for all students, including classic myths and stories from around the world, America’s founding documents, foundational American literature, and Shakespeare. Appropriately, the remaining crucial decisions about what content should be taught are made at the state and local levels. The standards require that a portion of what is read in high school should be informational text, yet the bulk of this portion will be accounted for in non-ELA disciplines that do not frequently use fictional texts. This means that stories, drama, poetry, and other literature account for the majority of reading that students will do in their ELA classes. In addition to content coverage, the standards require that students systematically acquire knowledge in literature and other disciplines through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

For more Myths Versus Facts on the Common Core State Standards, visit: http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/myths-vs-facts/

Is Common Core Changing Reading Instruction?

Kathryn Starke is an urban elementary school reading specialist, literacy consultant, keynote speaker, and author of a multicultural children’s book, Amy’s Travels.

In 1998, my home state of Virginia developed the Standards of Learning, much to the dismay of students, parents, and educators who had been teaching a particular unit, theme, or objectives for many years. The SOLs, as they are often referred to, are a statewide curriculum created to ensure that all students receive the same instruction in the core subjects no matter what public school you attend in the Commonwealth. At the end of every school year, students in specific grade levels take statewide assessments to show what they have learned. Reading in particular is assessed starting in the third grade and throughout elementary, middle, and high school.

I learned everything about this new curriculum in college so as a first year teacher in Richmond Public Schools, I would be fully prepared to implement the SOLs in my second grade classroom. However, this change for veteran teachers was not so easy. In fact, the SOLs have added pressure to the lives of teachers in many schools due to the fact that the end of year tests results are often used to evaluate the classroom teacher’s instruction.

Common Core Standards:
A Teacher’s Blueprint

Have our state standards changed reading instruction? Yes. Has it been effective? Sure. Do the Standards of Learning still exist? Yes, in fact they have already been revamped to make more rigorous reading instruction in Virginia. I believe a similar transformation will be seen nationally with the common core curriculum.

Think of the language arts common core standards as your blueprint, while you, the classroom teacher, is responsible for meeting this standard by selecting books and developing lessons that motivate, engage, and educate your boys and girls.

It is wonderful that all children will be exposed to the same instructional objectives throughout the nation. It is important that teachers remember to be their creative and innovative professionals by making the standards work for your students. For example, we know that an elementary school community in Miami, Florida will not look exactly like one in Lincoln, Nebraska. While both third grade teachers may be required to use more nonfiction text to initiate close reading and deeper comprehension, each teacher must select a text or topic that matches the interests and backgrounds of his or her own students.

Teaching our students the strategies behind reading and how to think about a text will certainly change reading instruction in a positive manner. Encouraging our students to make connections, predict, reflect, analyze, and form opinions before, during, and reading a text is empowering and can be done with a variety of texts and through mini lessons from kindergarten to twelfth grade. As teachers, we are the leaders in our classroom and are responsible for our students’ learning. The common core standards may create a new style of teaching and new form of learning, but it’s how we implement these standards with our twenty-something students that will determine the change.

sitepicAbout Kathryn Starke
A native of Richmond Virginia, Kathryn graduated from Longwood University with a BS degree in elementary education and a Master’s degree in Literacy and Culture. She has taught first, second, and third grade and served as a literacy specialist for a decade in inner city/Title I schools in Richmond, Virginia.

Visit her website: www.creativemindspublications.com