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With Common Core, D.C. Students Read More — And More Deeply

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The Common Core State Standards often require repeated readings of the same passages.
Quinn Dombrowski: https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/3605597056
The Common Core State Standards often require repeated readings of the same passages.

D.C.'s traditional public schools have been at the forefront of adopting the Common Core State Standards, which are the new, more rigorous learning standards. But what does that actually mean for students in the classroom?

"I cannot tell you how many times I saw a reading lesson with no text being discussed, no evidence the children had read the text," says Brian Pick, who oversees the Common Core implementation in DCPS. He says they've spent a lot of time choosing books that are interesting and include a range of people, places, experiences.

Kelly Rabin, a social studies teacher at Browne Education Campus, says she really pushes her students to do more in class.

"We were reading a text about urbanization and a student said one of the positive effects of urbanization is job opportunities," Rabin says. "All he said was 'jobs,' so I said 'who’s getting jobs?' He said 'people.' I said 'what kind of people?' 'People who are moving to cities' so I really pushed him to expand that one word to build an argument."

Ashley Bessicks, an English teacher from Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School says students also do what are called “close reads” or “deep reads,” in which you read and re-read the text.

"So the first time we may read for comprehension, the second time we may take a look at characters, the third time its more analysis, the authors’ craft, or the author’s purpose," Bessicks says.

Bessicks says that in the past, struggling readers had just one shot at a passage and if they didn't understand it, that was it. Now they get multiple opportunities to go over the text.

Jessica Matthews-Meth is in charge of reading for secondary schools in DCPS. She says they've also worked to create what are called “text sets" — different types of texts about the same content.

So for example, in addition to reading say, a book about the Holocaust: "We might chose a series of nonfiction articles that build content knowledge of the context of that time, we might read poetry from that time, video clips and artwork."

Text sets also include several other books about the Holocaust that are easier to understand. These books act as stepping stones as students build up to being able to understand the main text.

Partial support for education reporting comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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