Are English Language Arts Teachers Ready?

Across the United States we have teachers, schools and/or districts on varying levels of implementation in regards to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Some are preparing to implement while others are partially or fully implementing. What most excites me about the standards is the instructional shifting that results when fully addressing the initiative.

student reading textbookEngageNY has recently produced a series of videos to address six shifts teachers will need to make in order to systematically attend to college and career readiness. The panel discussions are facilitated by Kate Gersen, Senior Fellow for Educator Engagement & The Common Core, USNY Regents Research Fund and attended by New York State Commissioner of Education John B. King, Jr. and Common Core Contributing Author David Coleman.Take a moment to watch the six videos in this series.

From the six part video series, Shift 3: Staircase of Complexity is the one I will focus on for this blog because “The clearest differentiator in reading between students who are college ready and students who are not is the ability to comprehend complex text” (Reading Between the Lines: What the ACT Reveals About College Readiness in Reading; 2006). We know that a large number of students nationwide are graduating and ill-prepared to comprehend the complex texts required for life after graduation. In fact “…about 40 percent of entering college students are required to take at least one remedial course before enrolling in credit-bearing coursework” (Computed February 9, 2011, using NCES PowerStats, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, 2007-08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study).

What research from MetaMetrics, an endorsing partner of the Common Core Initiative, has found is that the text complexity of K-12 textbooks has become increasingly easier over the last 50 years yet the text demands of college and career have either remained the same or increased in complexity. The discrepancies show that students are not leaving high school prepared to grapple with and comprehend the type of texts they will need to be college and career ready.

Which texts should students read in order to advance comprehension and college and career readiness? Text complexity is figured using a qualitative evaluation, quantitative evaluation, and matching reader to text and task. CCSS provides grade-level text exemplars in Appendix B.

ELA teachers across the states are beginning to look closely at what texts are considered grade-level appropriate texts and which ones make sense for the audience they are assigned to teach. Which texts are you using to address this issue of grade-level appropriateness? Which ones do you need to retire?

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