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Classwork Found Lacking in Standards Content

"Checking In: Do Classroom Assignments Reflect Today's Higher Standards?"

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A review of the classroom assignments given out in six urban middle schools finds that many of them failed to meet the common-core criteria for literacy.

The Education Trust, a research and advocacy group that has long been a proponent of the Common Core State Standards, analyzed 1,500 student tasks assigned at the six schools over a two-week period in February and March of this year. The assignments were from English/language arts, humanities, social studies, and science classes.

The group found that about 4 in 10 of the assignments were aligned with their respective, grade-appropriate standard. In high-poverty schools, the average was closer to 3 in 10.

"The majority of assignments included keywords and phrases found in the common-core standards, fostering a comforting sense that 'we are aligned,' " the report says. "Unfortunately, this is not the case—much of this is window dressing."

In addition to examining whether tasks were aligned to grade-appropriate literacy standards, the group looked at how cognitively challenging the tasks were, whether they required the use of a text, and how engaging they were for students.

Among some of those other findings:

• Just 13 percent of the assignments required "high levels of cognitive demand." (The reviewers based this measure on Norman L. Webb's Depth of Knowledge Levels.) The report notes that tasks were also "overscaffolded," rather than "encouraging students to struggle with big ideas."

• While more than half of assignments were connected to a text, just 16 percent actually required students to cite evidence from the text—a key dimension of the common standards.

• Fewer than 1 in 10 assignments required multiple paragraphs of writing. (Most required just note-taking or one to two sentences).

• Only 2 percent of them met the reviewers' criteria for inspiring motivation and engagement.

Vol. 35, Issue 03, Page 5

Published in Print: September 9, 2015, as Classwork Found Lacking in Standards Content
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