Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Common Core English Language Arts Standards Arm Students with Necessary Literacy Skills Needed for College and Career, New CAP Report Says
Press Release

RELEASE: Common Core English Language Arts Standards Arm Students with Necessary Literacy Skills Needed for College and Career, New CAP Report Says

Washington, D.C. — As students and teachers head back to the classroom this month, a new report from the Center for American Progress outlines how the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy, or ELA, arm students with necessary literacy skills needed for college or a career. With a stark gap between the complexity of texts that high school students are reading and of those that they will confront in college, the workplace, or in the military, the ELA standards—as they are known—are designed to address some of these readiness gaps. The standards provide regular practice with complex and grade-level appropriate texts, the use of more informational texts, and practice with evidence-based writing. CAP’s report provides an overview of the development of the Common Core ELA standards and how they have increased the rigor of the reading and writing skills students need to be successful after high school.

“Readiness for college or a career means readiness to read and understand challenging and complex texts—a bar that many of today’s students are missing,” said Melissa Lazarín, Senior Policy Adviser at the Center for American Progress and author of the report. “But as implementation of the English Language Arts and Literacy standards continues in states across the United States, state and district leaders must listen closely to teachers and provide them with the necessary professional development and support to ensure success.”

The Common Core ELA standards identify the core knowledge and skills in four areas that students need to be college and career ready: reading, including literature and informational text across all grades and foundational skills in grades kindergarten through five; writing; speaking and listening; and language. There is no defined book list across grades, but the standards do include four required texts for high school students: the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

The new ELA standards are changing what students read and write, as well as changing the way teachers teach, CAP’s report notes. The ELA standards provide students with regular practice with complex and grade-level appropriate texts, increased use of informational texts, and evidenced-based writing across the curriculum—all of which challenges the way schools have traditionally approached reading and writing. Under the new ELA standards, all teachers, regardless of discipline, play an active role in teaching reading and writing, thereby sharing responsibility for literacy development across the curriculum.

In order to ensure that students are prepared to tackle texts used in college, the workplace, or the military, CAP outlines policy recommendations for state and district leaders. Those recommendations include:

  • Move forward with the Common Core standards and aligned assessments. While implementation has faced expected challenges, hints of progress as a result of the standards are beginning to emerge. Many states are now using more robust assessments to measure student learning that are aligned to the standards; instructional practice is changing; and more students are getting increased exposure to informational texts and are practicing evidence-based writing.
  • Strengthen training supports for prospective and current teachers, including teachers of non-ELA subjects. Teachers still report the need for more professional development, particularly regarding how to best differentiate instruction for students at various achievement levels, students with disabilities, and English-language learners; non-ELA teachers are especially lacking the preparation and support they need to carry out the standards effectively. Guidance and training on how to best support student writing about complex issues and persuasive writing are also in great demand.
  • Ensure that teachers have access to and are using high-quality curricular materials and tools aligned to the Common Core. The quality and alignment to the standards of most of the materials that are available to teachers has been problematic since implementation first got underway. States and districts, with teachers, need to play a more supportive role in vetting curricular materials.

Read “Reading, Writing, and the Common Core State Standards” by Melissa Lazarín.

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Allison Preiss at [email protected] or 202.478.6331.