Setting Expectations Using Common Core

By on September 29, 2012

As a college instructor, I am often disappointed by the fact that the expectations for students in high schools are not sufficiently high. When I make this comment, my colleagues from secondary schools often respond with "But I require a ten page paper with fifteen sources!" or "We make them read entire books."

If we examine the Common Core Standards, now adopted by forty-five states, we will notice that there is no mention of long papers or volumes to read. Instead, the focus is upon reading complex texts in depth: researching the rhetorical context, identifying key content, exploring text structures, and understanding how sentences and vocabulary are employed to achieve a writer's purposes. These standards also require students to understand how ideas, characters, or events are developed in a text and to compare or contrast these elements from different types of texts, including those in the on-line media.

In college, students are asked to write, principally for in-class examinations; other writing assignments tend to be short (1-2 pages), but often require a deep understanding of lectures or readings from the class. Writing is thus quick and focused, in many cases, demonstrating the students' understanding of the course material at an advanced critical thinking level.

Currently, I am auditing a politics of the Middle East class at my university, San Diego State. There, I'm finding just what I expected: reading assignments each week of 30-70 pages of complex text, quizzes requiring short answers, and papers of 1-2 pages that include a quote from the readings---and this question, "What does the author mean by....?"

What should our K-12 expectations be then? It appears to me that with the Common Core, the educational establishment has finally come upon a short list, consisting of nine anchor standards, that academics, as well as professionals, would agree should be central to student achievement. Our goal, then, should be to expect students to meet these standards at their respective grade levels.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

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