Here is the cover of American Educator. I do not subscribe to this journal nor am I a member of AFT, but somehow this found its way into my mailbox. I tool one look at the cover and stuck the magazine into a stack of stuff to deal with later. Well, later has finally arrived. In an article entitled LETTING THE TEXT TAKE CENTER STAGE, Timothy Shanahan asserts that the CCSS will "transform the teaching of English and lead to the "greatest changes in reading instruction seen for generations." That is some claim. In order to build the case for this hyperbolic claim, Shanhan must first negate other forms of working with texts. Gone should be the strategy of matching kids to text (Fountas and Pinnell) in favor of having them grapple with more complex texts. A call out box gives samples from the Dick and Jane basal (is this still being used? They were reissued in 2003 but not for the purpose of teaching reading since that seemed to wane decades ago) to ULYSSES by James Joyce. Yes, I get it, some texts are more complex. But Shanhan says that until CCSS either one of these two texts could have been used to teach an old skill/standard/objective (really? did this happen much?).
Shanahan goes on to negate the practice of ensuring kids have background knowledge for reading claiming that it has "grown into something contradictory to good sense." Apparently Shanahan knows of legions of teachers who predigest the reading for kids, who tell them what the text is all about, and who require little on the part of the reader. I must hang out in more elite circles because the teachers I know do not violate the rules of good sense. I suspect some of what he might have observed follows from the step-by-step scripted curriculum which seems to dominate many classrooms. I think if teachers are given the autonomy to teach without constraints of scripts or fat teacher guides or formulaic approaches and programs, that the reading of text is something quite different.
There is more (too much more. I urge you to read the entire piece). In a discussion of close reading, Shanhan seems to advocate reading once for key ideas and details and then a second time for craft and structure. I wonder if it is possible (and even beneficial) to separate out these two "purposes" of reading? I know when I read that these are going on simultaneously. Isolating one from the other seems counterproductive to me. I wonder about how disparate readings will inform one another. Am I the only one?
As an aside, in another article in this magazine, rereading is deemed to have "inconsistent effects on student learning and may not be long-lasting" (Dunlosky). Indeed.