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Class Readings Aim Too Low, Says Study

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

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A new survey shows that most teachers are still gearing class reading assignments to students' respective skill level, rather than—as the common-core standards envision—to their grade level.

The study, released last week by the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute, explores the practices of teachers as they begin teaching the common standards in public schools in 46 states and the District of Columbia. The researchers surveyed some 1,150 reading and English/language arts teachers in grades K-10 in February and March of 2012.

The findings highlight gaps between what the standards envision and how teachers are teaching. One such area was in teachers' judgements on how difficult a text their class can manage. Elementary school teachers were far more likely than those in middle or high school to say that they assign reading materials suited to their students' average reading ability, rather than on what is expected for their grade. Sixty-four percent of elementary teachers said they chose reading materials this way, compared with 38 percent of those in middle school and 24 percent in high school. More than 8 in 10 rated themselves as "very" or "somewhat" familiar with the standards.

That pattern was reflected in their choices of novels, specifically. Fifty-one percent of elementary teachers said that when they assign complete novels for the whole class, they base choices on the average class reading level, rather than grade level. (Another 22 percent said they based novel choices on grade level, and one-quarter based them on both of those factors and/or additional things.) The class' ability also drove novel selections for 40 percent of middle school teachers and 28 percent of high school teachers.

"These results reveal that many teachers have not confronted the new text-complexity demands of the common core," say the report's three authors, led by University of Illinois-Chicago literacy expert Timothy Shanahan.

Vol. 33, Issue 10, Page 5

Published in Print: October 30, 2013, as Class Readings Aim Too Low, Says Study
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