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18 January 2013 @ 06:28 pm
What do you know?  
Background Knowledge: that was the final element of assessment when it comes to determining text complexity from the article I read the other day. (here is the link to the article: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar12/vol69/num06/The-Challenge-of-Challenging-Text.aspx). Here is how the authors deal with this element: "Students' background knowledge, including developmental, experiential, and cognitive factors, influences their ability to understand the explicit and inferential qualities of a text."

Yes, that is correct. So, why have I read in so many places that the standards are not concerned with background experience? Like so many other things that puzzle and confound me, this has been the nature of CCSS from the outset. Statements are made; there is push back; changes are put into place.

So, if we consider background information as something important, there is much of the canon that drops from the curriculum. That cannot happen as the standards call for use of classic texts. Background knowledge, coherence, and the rest be damned, I guess.

Here is another example of the wizard behind the curtain analogy from yesterday's post. When the standards were issued, the ways in which we were asked to determine text complexity were represented by a triangle. Here is a slightly different diagram with the three features to be considered:


This seems reasonable on the surface as it permits us to include texts using a combination of these factors. However, as you read on, here is another diagram with Lexile "recommendation." There is also one with grade level recommendations.


My concern here is how difficult it will be to add texts using these various measures. In addition to re-writing the curriculum and assessments, now teachers will be faced with arduous processes for including texts not already deemed appropriate by their inclusion on the list of Exemplar Texts.

So, what makes a text complex? Is it discrete measures? Can it be reduced to grade levels and lexiles and text structures? Or, like the kids we teach, is a bit more COMPLEX?
Current Location: Dallas
Current Mood: distresseddistressed
kaymcgriffkaymcgriff on January 19th, 2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
I spent two days at a conference devoted to raising reading and writing scores on state assessments. I did learn some good things I can take to my classroom, and I learned some interesting "insider" information about how tests are written and scored. Test writers deliberately choose reading passages that they think students will lack background knowledge for. I was blown away, and so were my students when I shared it with them.