Has The Common Core Helped Or Hindered Education Reform? Maybe Both
July 20, 2019
By: Natalie Wexler
The Common Core literacy standards were intended to shift instruction toward building knowledge and away from illusory reading comprehension “skills.” But many teachers have stuck with “skills” and added nonfiction—a losing combination.
For decades, schools—especially at the elementary level—have spent many hours trying to teach reading comprehension “skills” like “finding the main idea” or “making inferences.” But, as cognitive scientists have long known, the most important factor in reading comprehension isn’t skill; it’s knowledge of the topic. If schools want to boost comprehension, they need to build knowledge through history, science, literature, and the arts—the very subjects that have gotten short shrift to make room for comprehension “skills.”
After the passage in 2001 of No Child Left Behind, which made reading and math tests the measure of progress, this problem got worse. In an effort to boost scores, most schools—and especially those where scores were low—began doubling down on reading comprehension and math and devoting even less time to other subjects. Not surprisingly, reading scores failed to improve.