The Common Core State Standards have raised the bar dramatically for what we expect K-12 students to know and be able to do. As with any new initiative, buzzwords emerge, and on the ELA side, the main Common Core buzzwords have been "complex text," the goal of ensuring that students can comprehend the kinds of texts they will encounter in college and/or careers.
While it certainly makes sense that we want students to develop critical thinking skills, we can't get them there without basic foundational reading skills. Although these foundational skills are absolutely included in the Common Core, I worry that they are getting kicked to the curb as yesterday's buzzwords in current Common Core conversations.
There would be a lot less need to worry if these foundational skills of early reading instruction were already deeply embedded in teacher preparation and elementary classrooms. But this is sadly not the case: the 2013 edition of our Teacher Prep Review found that only 29 percent of the nearly 700 elementary programs we reviewed adequately address the Big Five essential components of effective early reading instruction.
My fears have only been heightened by an interview with Louisa Moats I came across recently. Besides being one of the nation's leading researchers and teacher trainers in the field of reading instruction, Dr. Moats is also the author of the reading foundational skills section of the Common Core. And she's worried too.
Says Dr. Moats: "I'm listening, but I don't hear the words "research based" as often as I did a decade ago -- and when CCSS proponents use the words, they're usually referring to the research showing that high school kids who can't read complex text don't do as well in college. Basic findings of reading and literacy research, information about individual differences in reading and language ability, and explicit teaching procedures are really being lost in this shuffle."
"We were making great inroads into beginning reading assessment and instruction practices between 2000-2008 that now are being cast aside in favor of "reading aloud from complex text" -- which is not the same as teaching kids how to read on their own, accurately and fluently," she warns.
We will never ensure that our kids achieve the lofty expectations of the Common Core if we don't first and foremost start them out right in the early elementary grades and ensure that they are fluent and capable readers. The Common Core Standards do not expect or demand that teachers abandon explicit and systematic skill-building instruction, without which too many kids will never become proficient readers.
Please help me generate some buzz for foundational reading skills.