Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments

Within months of the release of the final draft of the Common Core State Standards, forty-six states and the District of Columbia had adopted the CCSS standards for English language arts. Soon thereafter, districts and schools across most of the U.S. began the hard work of implementing those standards. As part of efforts to monitor CCSS implementation, the Fordham Foundation undertook a survey of ELA teachers from Common Core states, asking them to answer questions about the texts their students read and the instructional techniques they used in the classroom. This year’s data are meant to serve as a “baseline” that shows where we were in the very early stages of CCSS implementation. In this publication, the authors report some positive signs. Most teachers believe that the new standards promise better learning for their students, and a majority say that their schools have already made progress toward implementing the standards, including relevant curriculum changes and professional development. Some teachers say that they are already teaching with grade-level-appropriate texts, and that they already include at least some informational texts in their English language arts curriculum. But findings from this survey also showed that the heavy lifting of aligning curriculum and instruction to the rigor of the CCSS mostly still lies ahead. The survey found that many English language arts teachers (including 56 percent at the middle school level) assign none of the literary or informational texts listed in the survey, which represented both CCSS exemplars and other high-quality texts. The authors plan to do a follow-up study in 2015 whereupon they will comment on whether the instructional shifts have taken hold.

Content Comments 

This study looks at the results of a survey administered to 1,154 randomly selected public school English Language Arts teachers across all grade levels in the 46 States, and District of Columbia, who have adopted the Common Core State Standards. The focus of the survey was to highlight the types of text that teachers reported using in the classroom, and the process by which these text selections were made. The results provide some insight into what students are reading across grade bands, and the accompanying difficulty levels of the text, as determined by lexile score. The results of this survey are couched within the larger context of the higher level of text complexity required by the CCSS and the degree to which teachers are aware of, and prepared for, making the shifts in instructional practice and preparation necessitated by those shifts. While the authors do not delve beyond a surface level into those issues, the report does provide an initial scan of the gaps in CCSS implementation as they pertain to text complexity in the ELA standards.