Sunday, March 23, 2014

Connecticut and the Common Core State Standards

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to hear the esteemed thinker and writer, @DianeRavitch speak at Columbia's Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. She had many wonderful points to make about teachers, and many not so supportive points to lay out against the Common Core.
To be clear, I support the Common Core as a guiding post for educators. I support the need for some type of quantitative feedback on how we are doing.  And I have begun to align my school's curriculum with the Common Core by adopting CollegeBoard's SpringBoard for English Language Arts and Math.
This morning, I came across a thoughtful Op-Ed by Sara Littman (via Jonathan Pelto) in which she spends a significant portion of the piece examining the supposed down-turn in reading complexities, and specifically pointing out the anomalies of the Lexile Framework, a strong advocate for the Common Core.
Not familiar with the Core's exploration of this trend, and not believing the Core supports only measuring text complexity based on Lexiles, which as a former READ 180 teacher, I know don't necessarily connect with pointing students to deep, meaningful texts, I thought I would take a look.
In the appendix of the Common Core, to be exact, Appendix A, the approach is laid out.
The Common Core suggest three ways to determine text complexity.  The first component described is the qualitative, which "refer to those aspects of text complexity best measured or only measurable by an attentive human reader, such as levels of meaning or purpose; structure; language conventionality and clarity; and knowledge demands." Secondly, the quantitative component "...refer to those aspects of text complexity, such as word length or frequency, sentence length, and text cohesion...and are thus today typically measured by computer software."  Finally, the standards include the reader and the task, which are "...variables specific to particular readers (such as motivation, knowledge, and experiences) and to particular tasks (such as purpose and the complexity of the task assigned and the questions posed)" stating that "such assessments are best made by teachers employing their professional judgment, experience, and knowledge of their students and the subject."
As a non-expert in either the defense or destruction of the Common Core State Standards, I am having a hard time making sense of what I read in the CCSS's description of text complexity and the interpretation of it by a growing number of people, both in and out of public education.