According to a new report from the Brown Center on Educational Policy, states that have adopted Common Core standards are likely to see a de-emphasis in use of fiction materials and increased use of nonfiction materials in language classes. This is in accordance with the Common Core recommendations. NAEP test scores have been lower, and some educators have charged that this is a consequence of these changes and other Common Core recommendations.
Yet, states that have not implemented the Common Core standards have seen a similar depression of scores. The Brown Center report concludes that whatever is depressing NAEP scores is more general than the application of one set of standards or another.
The team at Merit talks to educators every day. It is clear that educators need to be smarter about how, and when, they choose to use interventions to improve test scores.
We have observed that schools rely too heavily on leveled reading programs to help students catch up to grade level. Despite wide use, there is little evidence to show leveled reading programs close large, long-term gaps in reading comprehension beyond those in early primary grades.
The increased use of nonfiction has coincided with advances in text simplification tools, Text simplification tools have made it easier than ever to create, and use, leveled texts in language classes.
It is understandable that a school would want to use adaptive reading technologies for struggling students as an intervention, or for short-term test prep. However, leveled texts should not be the driver of classroom instruction. Leveled texts strip a lot of the meaning out of the content. Students would be better served if there were another way that they could participate in classroom activities to promote comprehension.
This is why we created News Punch — a program that builds comprehension through writing about texts. The program combines links to fun and fascinating news stories with step-by-step, guided writing prompts. New topics are created and deployed at least 40 times a year.
Recent News Punch topics have covered the Flint water crisis, the race to build reusable rockets, and a public wall in Seattle covered in chewing gum. Input on which articles to use is welcomed from educators and students. The Merit team can create custom activities for schools for a modest fee.
Research has shown that when students write about reading, as well as read challenging texts, there is a strong correlation to improved reading comprehension.
While we are just launching News Punch now, the program has been in test mode for several months. Many educators have already used it with students and they love it. Please contact us if you would like to try News Punch now too.