Issue Theme: Common Core or Rotten Core? Part II


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Language Arts
Volume 93, Number 4, March 2016
Issue Theme: Common Core or Rotten Core? Part II
 Calls for Manuscripts  Thoughts from the Editors: Thoughts on Common Core
Peggy Albers, Caitlin McMunn Dooley, Amy Seely Flint, Teri Holbrook, and Laura May #theStandards: Knowledge, Freedom, and the Common Core
Sarah Bridges-Rhoads and Jessica Van Cleave
Abstract: Despite the assurance of professional autonomy provided in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) document, teachers often do not feel free to teach in ways they believe best serve students. In this article, we demonstrate how we read the CCSS in ways that might help literacy teachers see all sorts of available options for acting/thinking/teaching in relation to the standards. Specifically, we used Foucauldian theories and the metaphor of the hashtag both to understand how the standards limit the circulation of diverse ideas about literacy teaching and to insert complexity into the standards when we felt limited. Such an analysis renders the CCSS flexible enough to be rewritten in multiple contexts-an absolute necessity to prepare students for 21st-century literacies yet to come. Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Speakerly Texts: Models for Young Writers
Terry Meier

Abstract: This article focuses on ways of building upon the well-documented linguistic abilities of children socialized in African American speech communities to help them become more fluent and effective writers.  It examines the use of African American English rhetorical features in five picturebook biographies written by Andrea Davis Pinkney. It describes how Pinkney employs these features to convey important ideas about her biographical subjects and to connect powerfully with her readers.  The article suggests strategies for using Pinkney’s biographies as mentor texts to model how students can incorporate African American English expressive features into their own writing in ways that are not only culturally relevant, but also help them meet the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Closely Reading “Reading Closely”
Maren Aukerman and Lorien Chambers Schuldt
Abstract: Should the Common Core-inspired emphasis on close reading be taken to mean that children should arrive upon one agreed understanding, or should it be taken to mean that many different close readings are possible and likely in the classroom? We closely examined what students said during and after a text discussion in their classroom in order to answer the following related research questions: Did a dialogic discussion in which there was no push for students to reach agreement-a communal close reading-still enable students to engage in and witness close readings of the text? What is the relationship between the positions students took publicly during discussion and the positions they took privately when the discussion was over? Our findings suggest that students did engage in close reading in the context of the public discussion. Indeed, they diverged in their textual opinions precisely because differing close readings emphasized different aspects of the text. We also found that students’ private positions did not always align with their public ones, making us wonder whether93, No. 4) consensus-driven communal close reading is even a theoretical possibility for more complex text, let alone a desirable one. Commentaries: Common Core or Rotten Core? Part II
Jennifer Kingma Wall, Sharon Kane, Judson C. Laughter, Helen Maniates, Susan D. Martin, and Sherry Dismuke
Abstract: These reader commentaries provide insight into member perspectives on Common Core. Research and Policy: Unbalanced Literacy: Reflections on the Common Core
Thomas Newkirk
Abstract: While the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in ELA were welcomed by many progressive educators, their implementation has raised serious questions of viability. This review looks specifically at two key features of the reading standards-the focus on “text dependent”  questions and the benchmarks for “text complexity.” It is argued that text dependency, with its limiting focus on “the text itself, fails to account for the transaction between reader and text. The higher standards for text complexity were created in the belief that the difficulty of texts in elementary schools has declined in recent decades, a claim disputed by reading experts. The review concludes that there is little empirical evidence that the proposed dramatic increases in text complexity are warranted or even possible. Professional Book Reviews: Exploring Resources for the CCSS
Victoria A. Oglan, Janie Riddle Goodman, and Brennan Davis
Abstract: Whether you are a supporter of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or not, they continue to be a hot topic of conversation in educational circles across the country. The new standards are not without drawbacks, but they do set the goal of establishing what students need to learn without dictating to teachers how to achieve that goal. Over the past few years, many teachers have been engaged in professional development initiatives focused on the CCSS, all in an effort to help them be properly informed and ready to implement the standards in the best possible ways. Those states adopting the CCSS are individually deciding which implementation approaches best suit the needs of both their teachers and students. As a result, educators are looking for diverse resources that offer guidance on how to address the Standards to meet the needs of all learners in K– 12 classrooms. In this issue, we look at a number of resources that offer teachers valuable information about ways to engage students in reading, writing, listening, and speaking that meet the requirements of the CCSS and have the potential to help students become more proficient learners. Children’s Literature Reviews: 2015 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts
Jean Schroeder, Shanetia P. Clark, Christine Draper, Evelyn B. Freeman, Pamela Jewett, Dick Koblitz, and Holly SimsAbstract: This column presents the 2015 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts. In selecting these books, particular attention is paid to language and how it is used. NCBLA books must, (1) explicitly deal with language, such as play on words, word origins, or the history of language; (2) demonstrate uniqueness in the use of language or styles; and (3) invite child response or participation. Conversation Currents: Shining Light between a Rock and a Hard Place
Joanne Larson and Patrick Shannon
Abstract: In this column, the editors of Language Arts talk with Joanne Larson and Patrick Shannon, scholars who spoke to the themed issue, Common Core, Rotten Core: Part II. These researchers highlight the role that the Common Core has served in informing the practices of teachers and the subsequent effects on student learning. They also discuss the importance of teacher decision-making as critical to positioning students to act democratically in the world.