Stop! Before you do any more work on Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) implementation, make sure that your staff first understands the six shifts that have to occur prior to any CCLS work. The shifts have to be understood before any other CCLS work because it is the only way that the CCLS has any chance of making a significant difference in our schools and classrooms.
A close analysis of the six shifts (the shifts for ELA are detailed in this past edition of NTnews) indicates that some profound and significant changes are necessary in our curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Most significantly, we have to rethink the balance between fiction and nonfiction we ask our students to read and write because we have to rethink our orientation toward our students’ future and away from the adults’ past. Our obligation (and purpose for existing as an institution) is to prepare young people for their future. A consideration of their future indicates a paramount need for skilled interaction with informational (nonfiction) text. Adults, especially in their work, but also in their personal lives, interact with far more nonfiction than fiction. Of course, fiction provides a great richness and pleasure to our lives. Nonfiction, however, occupies all of our work and a good portion of our personal lives, too. As a result, we have to shift the balance of fiction and nonfiction in our schools.
Our primary classrooms have to use more nonfiction informational texts as students learn to read. As students grow older, informational text must be more prominent in intermediate classrooms as students make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. At the secondary level, students must write and closely read authentic texts in each and every content area. This does not include textbooks – they are not particularly authentic. Secondary teachers will have to identify the authentic texts of their discipline and use these in their classroom, teaching students how to read, write, speak, listen, etc. in their content area. If secondary teachers do this, students will learn the material more deeply and permanently as well as be better readers and writers.
These shifts are foundational; the shifts have to occur in order for any subsequent curriculum and assessment work to be productive and meaningful. Stop! Before going any further with curriculum and assessment you have to make these shifts. Then, and only then, can you pass Go.