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Language Arts, Vol. 91, No. 4, March 2014

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Common Core or Rotten Core?

  • Calls for Manuscripts [FREE ACCESS]

  • Thoughts from the Editors: CCSS . . . Are We Supposed to Write Folktales in First Grade? [FREE ACCESS]

  • Literacy Reform and Common Core State Standards: Recycling the Autonomous Model

    Stergios Botzakis, Leslie David Burns, and Leigh A. Hall

    Abstract: The Common Core State Standards (2009) currently being adopted by 46 states in the US are the latest in a string of education policy decisions predicated on the autonomous model of literacy (Street, 1984). As such, they focus upon learning outcomes and materials, with little regard for the need to adapting learning to students’ contexts. This article details an account of how the autonomous model attained its current state of prominence, starting with the National Reading Panel’s (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) report that defined effective literacy learning, which was a major driving force behind the No Child Left Behind legislation. This article also describes what the model neglects in terms of 21st century literacy and offers suggestions for breaking the cycle of ill-informed, demonstrably ineffective policy decisions facilitated by such an autonomous model.

    Keywords: Education Policy, Literacy, Pedagogy, reading models

  • Addressing CCSS Anchor Standard 10: Text Complexity

    Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey

    Abstract: To meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards, specifically Anchor Standard 10 in reading, teachers need to understand the quantitative tools used to determine text complexity as well as the ways in which text complexity can be determined qualitatively. As noted in the Common Core State Standards, there are a number of factors that contribute to text complexity beyond sentence length, average number of syllables, and frequency of unfamiliar words. We explain the four categories of qualitative text complexity and then provide excerpts from teachers collaborating to determine text complexity and plan instruction accordingly.

    Keywords: Reading Instruction, Text Complexity

  • Advocacy at the Core: Inquiry and Empowerment in the Time of Common Core State Standards [FREE ACCESS]

    Katherine Grindon

    Abstract: Many educators have reservations about the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This article describes one 7th-grade teacher’s experience as she reconciles the Standards with the critical literacy theories of Patrick Finn (2009) and Paulo Freire (1970). The author discusses her experience deconstructing the Standards, and how she sees these Standards fit with the “powerful literacy” Finn promoted (2009, p. ix). Beginning with a look at child labor, the author creates an “Advocacy Project” that empowers students to identify opportunities for agency in their own lives. Students read and write personal essays proclaiming their passions, investigate the facts surrounding their chosen issue, and present their findings to their peers in presentations and research papers. The student-driven “Advocacy Project” creates authentic opportunities for reading, research, and writing, while simultaneously meeting the rigorous Common Core State Standards. After a year of implementation and accountability, the author finds that the Standards do not stifle instruction, and students can become advocates as well as proficient readers, writers, and speakers.

    Keywords: Advocacy, Common Core, community involvement, Critical Literacy, Inquiry, Reading, Standards, Student Engagement, Writing Workshop

  • Commentaries: Common Core, Rotten Core

    Patrick Shannon, Christine Walsh, Jennifer Danridge Turner, Michael Ford, Richard Meyer, Joanne Durham, Mariam Jean Dreher, Rob Simon, and Sharon G. Kane

    Abstract: Several readers respond to aspects of CCSS implementation, addressing topics from their sociopolitical context to teacher training to a comparison with Finnish testing practices. Also included are several poetic responses that are sure to evoke a smile or a shudder.

    Keywords: Common Core

  • Research and Policy: The Origins of the Common Core: Untold Stories

    Donald Zancanella and Michael Moore

    Abstract: Discussions of the Common Core State Standards in most mainstream sources describe the Standards as having grown out of a coherent process of education reform over the past two decades. However, such accounts leave out the role played by global efforts to reshape public work, philanthropic foundations, and testing organizations. This article describes how Sir Michael Barber (a British reformer), the Gates Foundation, and ACT were involved in various phases of the development of the Common Core State Standards. They represent a set of new forces in the making of education policy—forces that are separate from the conventional district, state, and federal education authorities.

    Keywords: Common Core, educational policy, history of CCSS, Standards

  • Professional Book Reviews: Implementing the CCSS [FREE ACCESS]

    Abstract: Prior to the 1990s, publishers, rather than legislators, had one of the heavier influences on classroom curriculum. Then came national standards and legislative agendas like reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, aka No Child Left Behind, and the subsequent Reading First legislation. The most current top-down invention is Common Core State Standards (CCSS). While some teachers support them, others do not and are working on the long-term agenda to repeal them. Meanwhile, in classrooms all across the country, teachers who agree with the best practices advocated by NCTE and other professional organizations struggle with how to reconcile those practices with CCSS. We reviewed seven books, four of them published by NCTE, that suggest ways teachers can continue with best practices in the era of CCSS.

    Keywords: Common Core, Professional Development, Standards

  • Children’s Literature Reviews: 2013 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts [FREE ACCESS]

    Abstract: This column features the annual listing of 30 notable children's books in the language arts. This year's list was organized around the theme of "Stories."

    Keywords: children’s literature

  • Conversation Currents: The Framing of the Common Core State Standards [FREE ACCESS]

    Patrick Shannon, Anne Elrod Whitney, and Maja Wilson

    Abstract: In this recorded conversation, scholars Pat Shannon, Maja Wilson, and Anne Elrod Whitney unpack the context for and implications of the Common Core State Standards. What are their origins and intentions? What are their intended and unintended consequences? And how do they affect teacher and student agency? Shannon, Wilson, and Whitney discuss these and other questions at a moment when the Common Core is both ubiquitous and hotly contested.

    Keywords: Common Core, Standards

* Journal articles are provided in PDF format and can be opened using the free Adobe® Reader® program or a comparable viewer. Click here to download and install the most recent version of Adobe Reader.

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A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts