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

October 22, 2013


Tim Shanahan

Ann Duffett

Foreword and Summary by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Kathleen Porter-Magee

As forty-six states and the District of Columbia implement the Common Core State Standards, questions abound regarding implementation, including the implications for curriculum and pedagogy. In Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments, researchers analyze what texts English teachers assign their students and the instructional techniques they used in the classroom. This study is meant to serve as a “baseline” that shows what the very early stages of CCSS implementation look like. This “baseline” study—with a follow-up slated for 2015—shows what the very early stages of CCSS implementation look like:

Most teachers believe that the new standards promise better learning for their students, and an overwhelming majority of teachers say that their schools have already made significant progress toward implementing the standards, including relevant curriculum changes and professional development.

But findings from this survey also show that, for the most part, the heavy lifting of aligning curriculum and instruction to the rigor of the CCSS still lies ahead:

  • The CCSS emphasize the centrality of texts in the English language arts curriculum. Yet the majority of teachers still report that their lessons are dominated by skills and are more likely to try to fit texts to skills than to ground their skills instruction in what is appropriate to the texts they are teaching. Indeed, an astonishing 73 percent of elementary school teachers and 56 percent of middle school teachers place greater emphasis on reading skills than the text; high school teachers are more divided, with roughly equal portions prioritizing either skills or texts.
  • The Common Core asks teachers to assign texts that provide language complexity appropriate to the grade level, but significant proportions of teachers—particularly in the elementary grades—are still assigning texts based on students’ present reading prowess. Specifically, the majority of elementary teachers (64 percent) make substantial efforts to match students with books that presumably align with their instructional reading levels. This happens less often in middle and high school, with approximately two in five middle school teachers selecting texts this way. This means that many youngsters are not yet working with appropriately complex language in their schoolbooks.

The CCSS call for students to have substantial experience reading informational texts (including literary nonfiction such as speeches and essays). Despite some public controversy over this, most of the teachers indicated that they are already devoting significant proportions of time to teaching such texts in their classrooms. Nevertheless, 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 represent both CCSS exemplars and other high-quality texts. 




Seven States Selected to Join Network for Transforming Educator Preparation

Seventeen national organizations commit their support


Paul Ferrari


One Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20001


WASHINGTON, DC – The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announces today that 7 states have been selected to participate in a 2-year pilot focused on transforming educator preparation and entry systems to the profession. CCSSO created the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) to support states ready to take action in three key policy areas to ensure all educators are ready on the first day of their career to prepare our students for college, work and life. The participating states include: Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington. They are joined by seventeen national organizations committed to support the states’ efforts to accelerate change in educator preparation and entry into the profession by helping to communicate with their members and serve as thought partners.

“States across the nation have raised expectations for all students and that means that we have a responsibility to ensure that educators are prepared to help all students graduate ready for careers, college and lifelong learning,” said Chris Minnich, CCSSO Executive Director. “These seven states are among those on the leading edge of making substantive changes in the policy and practice of educator preparation. Over the next two years they’ll work with educators, preparation programs, institutions of higher education, non-profit and for-profit education providers, districts and schools to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce. These states are taking a comprehensive approach to creating a system where educators are ready when they enter the classroom. By focusing on certification, preparation, program approval, and information on how graduates are doing in the classroom, these states will improve teacher readiness and thereby help students perform at higher levels.”

CCSSO released Our Responsibility, Our Promise -Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry into the Profession in December 2012. The report was developed collaboratively by state education chiefs and representatives of the National Governor’s Association and the National Association of State Boards of Education to identify key areas they can change to ensure every teacher and principal is ready on day one to help all students meet raised expectations. The report contains ten recommendations that focus on three state policy levers: licensure, program approval, and data collection, analysis and reporting, to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce. The states participating in the pilot will use these recommendations as the foundation for their actions and more specifically will:

  • Licensure: States will strengthen and change educator licensure standards and requirements to ensure teacher and principal candidates recommended for licensure demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the high expectations for all students, and help teachers and principals continuously improve their practice throughout their careers.
  • Program Approval: States will raise the bar on the approval process for all educator preparation providers to ensure they deliver high-quality, rigorous training to potential educators, as demonstrated by performance assessments that show that candidates can apply what they’ve learned in actual school settings and with the range of learners they will likely encounter.  
  • Analyzing and Reporting Information to Improve Preparation Programs: States will formalize and refine the process for collecting, analyzing, and reporting educator pre-service and in-service performance data to ensure this information is used as tools to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce.

The network will leverage promising practices several states like California, Missouri and New Hampshire have used to begin to change policy affecting how teachers and principals are prepared and licensed to practice as well as the variety of new pre-service performance assessments being developed.  

– See more at:


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