I tried using the basic psychometric concept of student and task models to look at the structure of the Common Core ELA standards. My premise was that an individual grade level standard represents the student model, or "what we want to say about what a student knows or can do—aspects of their knowledge or skill." For example the grade 9-10 version of reading literature standard 5:
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
This is a particular manifestation of the anchor College and Career Readiness Standard 5:
Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
Which is rather similar to a standard from the English (that is for England) 2007 Programme of Study for Key Stage 4:
Students should be able to understand how meaning is constructed withinIt’s not too late for the Washington Post to insist that the City Council put Dr. Sandy Sanford, former Chancellor Rhee, Chancellor Henderson, former OSSE head Deborah Gist and others under oath. sentences and across texts as a whole.
I would note that deleting the word "understand" from standards is a very important ideological point in American standards politics. It is kind of a dog-whistle, but also emphasizes the collapsing of the student and task model in American standards, particularly the Common Core. The goals of learning, this approach says, should avoid fuzzy abstraction and focus on observable outcomes (but don't say "outcomes," that's another dog-whistle).
On the other hand, however, I keep forgetting that the standards also say "Students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade-specific standards and retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades."
So the "narrow" grade 9-10 literature standard 5 really also includes:
- Recognize common types of texts (e.g., storybooks, poems).
- Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types.
- Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.
- Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.
- Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.
- Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.
- Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
- Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning.
- Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.
Exactly how this ever growing list of standards is meant to be addressed is not spelled out. Should there be 10th grade questions about the kindergarten "types of texts" standards, just with an appropriately 10th grade range of text types? There's no real indication that there shouldn't be, or particular reason not to.
If we want to do a full comparison with the single standard from the English Programme of Study, we would also include the informational text standards:
- Identify the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book.
- Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
- Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
- Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
- Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
- Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.
- Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas.
- Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to the development of the ideas.
- Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.
- Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
And we also have History/Social Studies versions:
- Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).
- Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
And science (I'm just going up to 10th grade, btw):
- Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to an understanding of the topic.
- Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).
So... what the hell does all that add up to? Who knows? It isn't "fewer, clearer," that's for sure. And I don't understand people who say these standards make more sense the longer you study them.
But anyhow, if we're looking at this in terms of a student model/task model frame, I think one can read the individual grade level standards as the task model and the CCRS anchor as the student model. If you read the individual standards as "the situations we can set up in the world, in which we will observe the student say or do something that gives us clues about the knowledge or skill we’ve built into the student model," it all hangs together better, and it would make sense that the people from ACT and The College Board who we were originally told designed the standards would like that structure.