Saturday, March 12, 2011

Text Complexity and the Common Core

Ever since I attended the roll-out of the Common Core State Standards, I have been intrigued by the topic of text complexity. I have read Appendix A of the Common Core document and I am not surprised by the fact that the complexity of the texts we require of k-12 students has dropped. I could go into several reasons why I think this has happened, but I'll save that for another post.

Over the last two days at the Michigan Reading Association State Conference, I feel that I finally have a firm enough grasp on the complexities of text complexity to begin to share the information with my middle and high school staffs. I see this as being a process in which we formulate answers to three sets of essential questions: 1) Why is text complexity such a big deal? Why should we make sure that students are reading and comprehending more complex texts, both in narrative and expository reading? 2) How do we determine the complexity of text? How do we take into account the themes and ideas of a writing when we determine the level of complexity? and 3) How do we scaffold and instruct our students in ways that ensure they can get to a necessary level of comprehension? How do we formatively assess their progress so that they and we know what needs to come next in their growing abilities of comprehending complex text.

I am excited about the work that we have to do together to examine our expectations for students in our district. I look forward to the conversations about teaching and learning--conversations that, sadly, are too often missing in our day-to-day work. I am also excited about what it means for our students that we are bringing the science and social studies teachers into the conversation through the inclusion of the 6-12 Literacy Standards in Science, Social Studies and Technology in the Common Core.