Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why this Stuff is Hard to Analyze

Is reading made up of:

  1. Key Ideas and Details
  2. Craft and Structure
  3. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
  4. Range and Level of Text Complexity

That's how the Common Core ELA standards breaks it down, with the first three comprising 30% of the standards each.

It seems like a lot of emphasis on "craft and structure," for example. Is it too much? Well, it is hard to say. As far as I can tell, nobody has ever broken down reading instruction in this particular way, so you can't just do an apples to apples comparison.

And it isn't clear it matters at all, because when you look at the corresponding "college and career ready standards" for, say, "craft and structure," they don't seem to hew very closely to the concept, for example:

Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and explain how specific word choices shape meaning and tone.

By my reading, that standard is as much about "Key Ideas and Details" or "Integration of Knowledge and Ideas" as "Craft and Structure." And if you go through the other ten standards, most are similarly hazy in their adherence to category.

So maybe these four strands just don't matter and should be ignored. First, if they don't matter they shouldn't be there. Second, when you go through the corresponding K-12 standards, there does seem to be an over-emphasis on "craft and structure," a lot of, for example:

Grade 7, standard 4, informational text: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including technical, figurative and connotative meanings, and describe in detail how an author's choice of words affects meaning and tone.

That's pretty heavy for informational texts. I mean, you can do it, obviously. How does my use of "heavy" "a lot" and "I mean" in the previous paragraph affect the meaning and tone of this text? But how important is that process, really?

Or, in that case, is the problem more that the document insists on going through nine out of the ten standards twice, separately for literary and informational texts?

I don't know what to do with this mess.

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