Tuesday, September 17, 2013

CCSS ELA and IAS ELA in Focus


I have been struck by the fact that very few folks with strong opinions about Common Core ELA seem to have much in-depth knowledge of what is actually in the standards or in the state standards they are replacing.  We hear lots of talk about the high regard we hold for the Indiana Academic Standards (IAS) for ELA framework (even if our state test does an inconsistent job of holding students accountable for meeting the standards), but there is very little explanation, if any, as to how IAS and CCSS compare (let’s hope the IN DOE is working on this now!)  At first glance, it’s hard to ignore the similarities that exist between the IAS and Common Core ELA, particularly when it comes to how much priority teachers should be placing on the teaching of informational texts.

First of all, the IAS, like the CCSS, includes standard strands that prioritize equally the teaching of both literary and informational texts.  Standard 2 of the IAS deals exclusively with “Comprehension and Analysis of Nonfiction and Informational Text” and, across the grade levels, includes close to or the same number of sub-standard indicators as does the section covering the comprehension and analysis of literary texts.  Thus, despite the frequent criticisms aimed at CCSS for overemphasizing the teaching of informational text, the IAS seems resolved to make informational text a key component of the English curriculum as well.

Secondly, a careful reading of the informational text sections of both standards documents reveals lots of similarities when it comes to what they expect from students.  Although the CCSS tends to provide a more thorough set of expectations for the summary, comparison, and synthesis of ideas within and across texts, both the CCSS and IAS privilege the importance of nonfiction text structures and features in gleaning meaning from a text; the analysis of key ideas and details; and the value of identifying and assessing an author’s use of evidence.  I would invite you to do a grade-by-grade comparative analysis of the IAS and CCSS informational text standards, and I think you’ll find the same thing.

Third, the IAS, to their credit, embeds in the standards a list of suggested texts and instructional prompts designed to give teachers an idea of how to operationalize the standards in the context of their classroom.  While the CCSS does not provide a list of standard-by-standard suggestions (can you imagine the cries of outrage if they did?!), it does provide a list of exemplar informational texts that, like the IAS, includes a heavy does of science and seminal history texts.  It's worth noting that this slate of example texts included in the grades 6-12 IAS ELA framework has somehow escaped the criticism often aimed at the Grades 6-12 CCSS that it saddles English teachers with content-related responsibilities for which they are not equipped to teach.

More comparisons between these two standards frameworks in future posts…

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