Key Shifts in the Standards
Through their selections, panelists validated three key shifts in instruction prompted by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and outlined by Student Achievement Partners (2012). The shifts described below identify the most significant elements of the CCSS for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (ELA/literacy). At the heart of these shifts is a focus in literacy instruction on the careful examination of the text itself. Thus the selections outlined below revolve around the texts that students read and the kinds of questions students should address as they write and speak about them. The standards sharpen the focus on the close connection between comprehension of text and acquisition of knowledge.
Shift 1 – Complexity: Regular practice with complex text and its academic language
Underlying the standards—and panelists’ selections—is research indicating that the complexity of text that students are able to read is the greatest predictor of success in college and careers (ACT 2006). Other research shows that the current gap in complexity between secondary texts and college/career texts is roughly four grade levels (Williamson 2006). Therefore, the first key shift required by the standards is exposing students to appropriately complex texts in both instruction and assessment. This important shift finds explicit expression in CCSS Reading Standard 10, which includes a staircase of increasing text complexity for students to read independently and proficiently. Rather than focusing solely on how students read, the focus also is on the complexity of texts read by students. Closely related to text complexity and inextricably related to reading comprehension is a focus on frequently encountered academic vocabulary—language common to complex texts across the disciplines of literature, science, history, and the arts. Thus, panelists also selected several standards (Reading Standard 4 and Language Standard 6) that focus precisely on academic vocabulary.
Shift 2 – Evidence: Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational
The second key shift required by the standards and reflected in panelists’ selections is the prioritization of textual evidence across the domains of reading, writing, and speaking and listening—a decision based on national assessment data and input from college faculty indicating that command of evidence is a key college and career readiness skill. For reading, the focus is on students’ ability to cite evidence from texts to present careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information, as described in Reading Standard 1. For writing, the focus is on analyzing sources and conducting research, as described in Writing Standards 7–9. For speaking and listening, the focus is on purposeful academic talk, in which students contribute accurate, relevant information about a multitude of ideas they have studied or researched in various domains, as described in Speaking and Listening Standard 1. The standards require students to answer questions based on their understanding of having read a text, or multiple texts, not entirely relying on prior knowledge or experience.
Shift 3 – Knowledge: Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction
The third key shift required by the CCSS and echoed in panelists’ selections is a focus not only on English language arts, but also on literacy across the disciplines of science, social studies, and technical subjects. Informational text makes up the vast majority of required reading in college and the workplace. Through an extended focus on literacy in the domains of science, history, and technical subject areas, students can build the knowledge that will prepare them for college and careers. Given that literacy across the disciplines is one of the goals of adult education, panelists placed special emphasis on standards for the comprehension of informational text.
Key Features of the ELA/Literacy Standards Charts
The charts below contain the panel’s selections from the earliest levels of learning through adult secondary education in the ELA/literacy domains of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Rather than present the selected standards grade-by-grade for K-12, the standards have been bundled into five grade-level groupings: A (K–1), B (2–3), C (4–5), D (6–8), and E (9–12) to more closely reflect adult education levels of learning: Beginning Adult Basic Education Literacy, Beginning Basic Education, Low Intermediate Basic Education, High Intermediate Basic Education, and Low Adult Secondary and High Adult Secondary Education. The CCSS Reading Standards: Foundational Skills (K–5) also are included, outlining a set of reading acquisition skills designed to develop proficient readers with the capacity to comprehend varied texts across a range of disciplines.
The CCSS define requirements not only for ELA but also for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. The rationale for this interdisciplinary approach is based on extensive research establishing the need for students to be proficient in reading complex informational text independently in a variety of content areas. Most required reading in college and workforce training programs is informational in structure and challenging in content (NGA 2010b, pp. 2–4). Given that most adult education classes combine literacy with science and history study, panelists often selected a science or history reading standard to serve as a specific application of an ELA standard. Where two reading standards are identical in wording, with one relating to literature and the other to informational text, both standard numbers were cited together, but the text of the standard was included just once (e.g., Reading Standard 1, Reading Standard 4, and Reading Standard 10 for each level are identical in wording for literature and informational text, so they include citations such as RI/RL.6.1, RI/RL.6.4, RI/RL.6.10). This notation also applies to the Writing Standards that are identified as W/WHST for Writing Standards in ELA and Writing Standards for History/Social Studies and Science and Technology subjects.
The standards are separated into four strands: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Each strand is headed by a strand-specific set of College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standards identical across all levels of learning. Each level-specific standard corresponds to the same-numbered CCR anchor standard. In other words, each anchor standard identifying broad college and career readiness skills has a corresponding level-specific standard illustrating specific level- appropriate expectations.
The CCR anchor standards provide focus and coherence. The same 10 CCR anchor standards for Reading, for example, apply to both literary and informational texts, including texts in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Another 10 CCR anchor standards for Writing cover numerous text types and subject areas. This allows students to “develop mutually reinforcing skills and exhibit mastery of standards for reading and writing across a range of texts and classrooms” (NGA 2010a).
The introductions to the Reading and Writing standards below are modified descriptions of those found in the CCSS, to respond to requests from the panel to clarify how the standards work together. The Speaking and Listening, Language, and Reading Foundation Skills standards introductions were taken from the CCSS. To show how the standards for Writing and Speaking and Listening progress, differences in wording from level to level are underlined.
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