When the Common Core Standards Initiative (CCSI) set forth its expectations in English Language Arts and Literacy in 2010 many educators were left struggling how to best respond and make change in the classroom.
At the ninth annual Jeanne S. Chall Lecture on Wednesday, October 9, University of Michigan Professor Nell Duke, Ed.M.’95, Ed.D.’99, who has spent time researching instruction methods in the classroom, helped educators navigate shifts in educational practice in response to Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
“She has devoted significant time to a question on all educators minds …: How can we best respond to the high expectations put forth by the common core standards to deliver the kind of literacy instruction that will truly inspire change?” said Professor Nonie Lesaux.
During Duke’s talk, “Shifts in Practice to Promote Literacy Achievement in the Era of the Common Core State Standards,” she discussed the CCSS, how some shifts have not been helpful, and outlined eight shifts worth focusing on that could make a difference.
The CCSS, designed by key state school operators, have been adopted by almost every state in the U.S. The core goal of the standards are to develop students so that they are college and career ready specifically through English Language Arts and history/social studies, sciences, and technology. The standards are broad and encompass many aspects of education from English to public speaking to math and science. Duke noted an equally important aspect of the standards is to also develop citizenship among students.
While educators have been making efforts at changing practices around the country to meet these standards, much of it is not promising, Duke said. As she travels the country, she often sees what she calls “standards stereotyping,” a phenomenon best described as educators trying to simplify these complex standards. “I hear three or four things that people boil the standards down to,” she said. In the case of literacy, she often hears that students must read more complicated and difficult text, read a lot more informational text, and read more closely. In the case of writing, she hears that students must write more persuasive essays.
“What we want to avoid is that kind of reduction of these complex expectations to these few nuggets of change, because that is probably not going to be adequate work,” she cautioned.
The eight shifts Duke highlighted included having more students write for a variety of tasks, purposes, and audiences; connecting more reading and writing together; reading and writing using a wide variety of text types; developing metatextuality; reading multiple text sets; reading with a more critical eye; writing with strong recursive attention; and paying more attention to vocabulary. Duke noted that many of these shifts have already proven successful in research.
Among the various ways Duke noted how to incorporate these shifts in the classroom are by creating more project-based learning opportunities, incorporating reading and writing assignments together such as writing and receiving letters, using a page layout outline versus the traditional numerical one in writing, and heightening awareness about the Internet’s trustworthiness by using the WWWDOT approach. The latter requires students asking specific questions about websites used for information, such as who wrote the site, why, and when.
“[These shifts in practice] are a start and a real promising direction we could go in the country,” Duke said.
Following Duke's lecture, Christina Dobbs, Ed.M.’06, Ed.D.’13 was announced as the recipient of the Jeanne S. Chall Doctoral Student Research Award. Dobbs’ doctoral thesis explores how middle graders learn and use different markers of academic language in their writing.
The Jeanne S. Chall Research Grant was also given to Linda Liss-Bronstein, the literacy and professional development coach for the Early Reading Lab School at Ramón E. Betances Elementary School. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Reading Department of the Central Connecticut State University. She received her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Central Connecticut State University in 2013. Liss-Bronstein’s research will focus on investigating how to utilize reading and spelling stage and phase terminologies more effectively in classrooms to improve reading acquisition for beginning readers and prevent word reading difficulties.