January 27, 2012
Today, Victor Jaccarino gave the teachers of West Babylon a lot to think about in regards to the Common Core Learning Standards. Mr. Jaccarino is the retired chair of English for Herricks Public Schools. He is an adjunct professor at Hofstra, and past president of both LILAC and NYSEC.
When justifying the changes in the Common Core Learning Standards, he cited some surprising data. In recent years, the reading levels of U.S. high school students have dropped by two grade levels, while countries like Singapore and Finland have seen their reading levels rise. 80% of questions asked in the college classroom are text-dependent, whereas 80% of the questions asked in a high school classroom are not. Most disturbing of all, he shared the same statistic that Kim Yaris has shared, that for every hour of reading instruction only 15 minutes of actual reading takes place. Worse, he went on to clarify that that statistic is for a reading class. In the content areas, for every hour of instruction, only 5-7 minutes of reading actually takes place. If these students don’t choose reading over video games in their free time, (ha) that is all the reading they are getting all day.
Enter the new Common Core Learning Standards which require kids to access information through text, rather than teachers delivering the material to them. The goal, according to Jaccarino, should be to create critical thinkers who can read and understand complex text. To that end, he offered tips for the close read module. He suggests teachers focus on short, dense articles and ask students to identify the evidence in the article for their answers. He claims that asking all students for evidence of their answer will be liberating for a teacher. You will ask the child who got the answer “right” to show you proof from the text, and you will ask the student who is completely off-base for proof from the text, so your initial response to both is the same. (Of course, in practicality, the teacher will still have to find a sensitive way to redirect the struggling student back to the text to find the information.)
A lot to consider as we muddle through the complexities of the Common Core….