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Common Core State Standards: Confusion Reigns Over What Students Should Read

The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton has a thoughtful — and fresh — take on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, detailing how educators seem to be misinterpreting the new requirement that non-fiction texts eventually make up 70 percent of a student’s classroom reading.

This is a wrinkle I haven’t yet seen reported, and it certainly raises a lot of questions. Here’s a couple of mine: If the expectation is really that non-fiction texts will be used by teachers in all subject areas, and not just English class, why are those critical instructions buried in a footnote in a 60-plus page primer on the Common Core — as Layton pointed out? If English teachers are indeed abandoning literature in favor of non-fiction in a misguided attempt to comply with the new standards, shouldn’t somebody be calling a staff meeting?

This is a critical juncture for the Common Core initiative, which has been adopted in some form by 46 states and the District of Columbia. States are currently aligning their student assessments to the new expectations, and it will take several years for the initiative to be fully incorporated. That doesn’t mean everyone is on board. Common Core has no shortage of detractors, many of them Republicans. (Mitt Romney had pledged that the program would receive no federal funding if he won the presidency.) I’m interested to see how policymakers respond to Layton’s reporting, and whether this turns out to be a short-term bump in the road or indicative of the need for a shift in implementation.

For more on why it’s important for students to be well-rounded readers, take a few minutes to listen to Benjamin Herold’s thoughtful piece for the Philadelphia Public School Notebook and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. You can also catch the kick-off session from EWA’s 65th National Seminar, held in May at the University of Pennsylvania: What’s in Store for the Common Core?

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