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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Literacy

July 2018

Question:

What does the research say about the developmental appropriateness of the literacy content of the Common Core State Standards for young children (ages 4–8)?



Response:

Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for journal articles and research reports on the developmental appropriateness of the Common Core State Standards for literacy. Specifically, we focused on identifying resources related to young children (ages 4–8). For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Cress, S., & Holm, D. (2017). Demystifying the common core in kindergarten writing. Journal of Education and Learning, 6(4), 92–99. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1145373

From the ERIC abstract: “Having a set of standards, whether they are common core or state standards, appropriate for kindergarten children is a concern raised by many early childhood educators and parents. Given that at this point and time standards are recognized by many other stakeholders as a way of ensuring children are ready for the future, it is time to further investigate ways to infuse standards into the curriculum in an appropriate way. The developmental appropriateness, and the planning, implementation, and assessment techniques of the curriculum are key to meeting the standards. The article focuses on writing as one example of providing an environment where children can work at their own developmental level. Teachers must be knowledgeable about development, appropriate activities, and the fundamentals of literacy. Samples of kindergarten writing are used to illustrate and explore the possibilities of fostering an appropriate writing curriculum.”

Gehsmann, K., & Templeton, S. (2011). Stages and standards in literacy: Teaching developmentally in the age of accountability. Journal of Education, 192(1), 5–16. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1054644

From the ERIC abstract: “This article describes a model of literacy development as reflected in students’ spelling. The model, based on research that identified five stages of word knowledge, explains the development of this knowledge in readers and writers, and provides a framework for elementary-grade instruction that is intended to: (1) address grade-level expectations in the ‘Common Core State Standards, English Language Arts’; and (2) describe a developmentally appropriate approach to instruction. The model also informs the assessment of word or orthographic knowledge to gain insight into the range of developmental levels in a class and to guide instruction in whole-class and small-group contexts. Examples focus on a third-grade classroom in which the range of levels includes beginning, transitional, and intermediate readers and writers, and suggest implications of developmentally grounded instruction for students’ growth toward achieving grade-specific ‘CCSS/ELA.’”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. While REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Hiebert, E., & Mesmer, H. (2013). Upping the ante of text complexity in the Common Core State Standards: Examining its potential impact on young readers. Educational Researcher, 42(1), 44–51. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ995868

From the ERIC abstract: “The Common Core Standards for the English Language Arts (CCSS) provide explicit guidelines matching grade-level bands (e.g., 2–3, 4–5) with targeted text complexity levels. The CCSS staircase accelerates text expectations for students across Grades 2–12 in order to close a gap in the complexity of texts typically used in high school and those of college and career. The first step of the band at second and third grades is examined because it marks the entry into the staircase and a critical developmental juncture. In this article, we examine the theoretical and empirical support for three assumptions that underlie the acceleration of text complexity in Grades 2–3. Then we identify patterns in American reading achievement and instruction to illustrate the potential and far-reaching consequences of an increase in the first step of the CCSS staircase.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. While REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Marchitello, M., & Wilhelm, M. (2014). The cognitive science behind the Common Core. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED561076

From the ERIC abstract: “Raising academic standards has been part of the education policy discourse for decades. As early as the 1990s, states and school districts attempted to raise student achievement by developing higher standards and measuring student progress according to more rigorous benchmarks. However, the caliber of the standards—and their assessments—varied greatly from state to state. For example, Massachusetts adopted some of the highest standards and most challenging exams in the country and has some of the highest-achieving students in the nation. On the other hand, Mississippi set a low bar, and the state’s students are often ill prepared for college and careers. Recognizing that the previous patchwork system did not work, a group of bipartisan governors and state superintendents came together to develop a shared set of more rigorous, internationally benchmarked academic standards in English language arts and mathematics called the Common Core State Standards. Some worry that the standards have not been proven to improve student learning, as they were entirely new as of 2010. However, the Common Core is grounded in the latest cognitive science regarding how students learn. A review of the research base for the standards found that the Common Core promotes greater student learning in the following key ways: (1) Scaffolding student learning to provide a strong knowledge base on which new ideas and concepts are stacked; (2) Holding all students to high expectations, which promotes greater student achievement and growth; (3) Incorporating the latest research on how students learn to read to help close the literacy gap; (4) Employing both the traditional method of teaching math and conceptual strategies to provide students with a strong understanding of math and the skills to apply it; (5) Increasing the opportunities for students to learn from their peers and collaborate on assignments, which improves learning and interpersonal skills; and (6) Promoting problem- and project-based learning, which leads to a deeper understanding of concepts. If teachers and students are supported with high-quality curricula and instructional materials, a properly implemented Common Core will help prepare students to be complex problem solvers, as well as critical thinkers and readers. These six research-based practices get to the heart of how the Common Core will make that goal a reality for all students.”

McDonnell, L., & Weatherford, M. (2013). Evidence use and the Common Core Standards movement: From problem definition to policy adoption. American Journal of Education, 120(1), 1–25. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1018622

From the ERIC abstract: “Despite calls for research-based policies, other types of evidence also influence education policy, including personal experience, professional expertise, and normative values. This article focuses on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative, examining how research use varied over stages of the process and how it was integrated with other types of evidence. By drawing on elite interviews, we find that CCSS promoters and developers used evidence in much the way that policy analysis research would predict and that while research evidence was a major resource, it was combined with other types of evidence depending on political and policy goals at different stages of the CCSS process.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. While REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Mesmer, H., & Hiebert, E. (2015). Third graders’ reading proficiency reading texts varying in complexity and length: Responses of students in an urban, high-needs school. Journal of Literacy Research, 47(4), 473–504. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1096837

From the ERIC abstract: “The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS/ELA) focus on building student capacity to read complex texts. The Standards provide an explicit text complexity staircase that maps text levels to grade levels. Furthermore, the Standards articulate a rationale to accelerate text levels across grades to ensure students are able to read texts in college and the workplace on high school graduation. This study empirically examined how third graders at two reading proficiency levels performed with texts of differing degrees of complexity identified as the Grades 2 to 3 band within the CCSS. The study also investigated the influence on comprehension of two text lengths. Results suggest that the compounding effects of text complexity and length uniformly affected reading proficiency of third graders. Typically, when presented with two texts of the same complexity level, readers had lower comprehension in the lengthier version of the text than the shorter version. Features of the single level where performances on texts of different lengths were not statistically significant are described, as are implications for educational practice and future research.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. While REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2012). The Common Core State Standards: Caution and opportunity for early childhood education. Retrieved August 12, 2018, from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/topics/11_commoncore1_2a_rv2.pdf [741 KB PDF icon ]

From the abstract: “As of fall 2012, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics. The development and adoption of these standards has drawn a great deal of debate in both the K–12 and early education fields. As states adopting the Core standards are moving towards implementation, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has developed this paper to provide a frame for this ongoing dialogue. This frame is built around the four central themes articulated in NAEYC’s position statement on early learning standards. These themes have guided the development and implementation of learning standards in early childhood, and are used here to underscore the potential contributions that early childhood field can continue to make in implementing learning standards for children as they enter school. In addition to providing a framework for dialogue, this paper encourages dialogue so that early childhood education can work in concert with K–12 education to ensure that learning standards for young children, before they enter school and as they progress through the early elementary years, are consistent with our accumulated knowledge and experience as a field. The paper closes with a summary of activities being undertaken by NAEYC and actions that may be taken by early educators to meet this goal.”

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2015). Developmentally appropriate practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the issues. Research brief. Retrieved August 12, 2018, from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/topics/15_developmentally_appropriate_practice_and_the_common_core_state_standards.pdf [1.12 MB PDF icon]

From the abstract: “In 2012, the National Association for the Education of Young Children recognized that the Common Core State Standards presented cause for both opportunity and concern. But as early educators implemented the standards in classrooms, they expressed concern that the standards are not appropriate for young children. This brief considers how implementation of the Common Core State Standards aligns with developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). We propose that educators’ concerns about the standards can be captured by three primary questions about content, instruction, and assessment:

  • Is the content of the Common Core State Standards appropriate for young children?
  • Will the Common Core State Standards change how I teach?
  • Will the Common Core State Standards lead to the inappropriate use of assessments for young children?

Mapping the specific drivers of concerns about the Common Core State Standards will ultimately be the only way to adequately ensure that DAP continues to guide classroom instruction in early childhood education and that developmentally appropriate practices are extended through the primary school years. We conclude by noting that these specific concerns originated before the Common Core State Standards were introduced, so regardless of the fate of that effort, our focus should remain on ensuring that young children’s experiences are grounded in developmentally appropriate practice. ”

Strickland, D. (2013). Linking early literacy research and the Common Core State Standards. In S. Neuman and L. Gambrell (Eds.), Quality reading instruction in the age of Common Core Standards (pp. 13–25). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Retrieved from Linking Early Literacy Research and the Common Core State Standards [133 KB PDF icon ]

From the abstract: “In recent years, the literacy education of young children has received increased attention, both in the public policy arena and in the classroom. This can be attributed to a large body of research evidence showing the links between successful achievement in early literacy and later school success. This chapter connects an emergent and integrated view of early language and literacy development with the key considerations for curriculum offered by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS; National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers [NGA Center & CCSSO], 2010). Connections will also be made to several current and ongoing early learning initiatives. Implications for policy, practice, and research will be offered throughout. The chapter concludes with some observations about the need for high-quality professional development for all of those involved in the education of young children, so that existing and future research findings might be shared and implemented in ways that better support learning and teaching.”

Methods

Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “common core” descriptor: “Language Arts” descriptor: “grade 3”: 27 results/17 full text

  • descriptor: “common core state standards” descriptor: “grade 3”: 3,202 results/1,712 full text

  • descriptor: “reading” descriptor: “common core state standards” descriptor: “grade 3”: 2,776 full text

  • descriptor: “common core state standards” AND descriptor: “grade 3”: 41 results/19 full text

  • research basis of common core

  • research basis of common core reading standards

  • descriptor: “common core state standards”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.