Teachers Adjust Reading Instruction For Common Core

A new report reveals that many teachers still have to revamp how they teach reading to fit with the adoption of Common Core State Standards. The report, released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, found that many teachers have not yet confronted the text complexity demands of the Common Core, according to Joy Resmovits of The Huffington Post.

The Common Core, adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, are designed to help students learn skills they’ll need after graduation for both college and the workforce. The report, In Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments, analyzes the texts English teachers assign their students and the instructional techniques they used in the classroom in light of the switch to CC.

Most teachers believe that the new standards promise better learning for their students, and an overwhelming majority of teachers say that their schools have already made significant progress toward implementing the standards, including relevant curriculum changes and professional development, according to the report.

American students have struggled with reading improvements for decades. Fordham’s Chester Finn, a former Reagan administration official, and Kathleen Porter-Magee, said in the report that readers stagnated because states set their own standards and the complexity of reading texts declined. Over time, teachers started focusing on reading strategies rather than deep analysis of text.

“In trying to improve reading comprehension, schools made a tragic mistake: they took time away from knowledge-building courses such as science and history to clear the decks for more time on reading skills and strategies,” they write. “And the impact, particularly on our most disadvantaged students whose content and vocabulary gap is so great, has been devastating.”

According to analysts, Common Core could be a potential remedy. Theoretically, it requires teachers to introduce more non-fiction, along with reading and writing based on evidence instead of personal narratives. Teachers are supposed to assign readings based on a reading level appropriate for the student’s school year.

The survey found that 64% of elementary teachers are still assigning books based on individual abilities. It also found that 51% of elementary school teachers picked novels based on students’ reading levels regardless of grade.

According to the survey, 73% of elementary teachers and 56% of middle school teachers emphasize reading skills over text-centered lessons. The most popular texts were Because of Winn-Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” the researchers found.

The FDR Group surveyed 1,154 reading or English language arts teachers, including 300 in elementary, 370 in middle school and 484 in high school. They were surveyed in February and March 2012.

The report said that Common Core implementation is now in its early phases and the next administration of the survey will be a better indicator of Common Core progress.

The new Common Core Standards also require students to be able to use a keyboard for assessments. Elementary schools across the country have focused earlier on teaching students how to type. Keyboarding skills have been taught in various forms for decades in middle or high school, but with Common Core, they are an essential part of elementary schools’ curricula.