The adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in more than 40 states around the country since 2010 has wrought two major changes: (1) a notable decrease in the use of fiction and literature in America’s reading and English classes and (2) lower reading and math scores on the U.S. Department of Education-mandated National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The Common Core standards — now instituted in more than 40 states — mandate that nonfiction books constitute at least 70 percent of the texts read by high school students.
The nonfiction-heavy reading regime has forced English teachers nationwide to ditch short stories, poetry and literary classics such as “Huckleberry Finn” and “The Great Gatsby” in favor of dry how-to manuals and dated dispatches from the Federal Reserve. (RELATED: Classic Literature To Be Dropped From High Schools In Favor Of ‘Informational Texts’)
Common Core “is having an impact on the content of reading instruction, moving from the dominance of fiction over nonfiction to near parity in emphasis,” Brookings Institution education policy analyst Tom Loveless wrote last week.
Loveless notes that there is little evidence that the shift toward nonfiction has had any positive effect on the collective reading ability of America’s public school students.
“Reading more nonfiction does not necessarily mean that students will be reading higher quality texts,” Loveless notes.
A list of suggested “informational texts” which have replaced world-class literature in public schools under Common Core includes “Recommended Levels of Insulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency” and “FedViews” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
There’s also “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy and Transportation Management,” a publication of the General Services Administration.
In 2009, about 36 percent of the material America’s fourth graders were reading was nonfiction. About 25 percent of the material America’s eighth graders were reading was nonfiction. In 2015, under Common Core, the percentages of nonfiction reading material have climbed to 45 percent for fourth graders and 32 percent for eighth graders, according to the Brookings Institution.
As far as test scores, scores under the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have failed to increase — and possibly decreased — since the implementation of Common Core.
Supporters of Common Core blame curriculum confusion over the shift to Common Core itself for any dip in assessment scores. But Loveless, the Brookings analyst, rejects this argument.
“Curriculum in the three states that adopted the standards, rescinded them, then adopted something else should be extremely confused,” Loveless explains. “But the 2013-2015 NAEP changes for Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina were a little bit better than the national figures, not worse.” (RELATED: Arne Duncan Threatens Everybody In Oklahoma Because State Backed Out Of Common Core)