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The Common Core Reading Comprehension Challenge

Written By Donna Schwontkowski . February 23, 2014

Raising the Reading Comprehension Stakes

Your child’s school is presently shifting to embrace all the changes of the Common Core Standards, including common core reading standards. And because these standards emphasize deep understanding and critical thinking, reading comprehension is now considered an essential facilitating skill, not an end point goal.  Reading comprehension almost most be mastered at an earlier age. Here’s a short list of how those changes will affect your child.

Emphasizing critical thinking

Very few teachers in the past taught students how to analyze information. An example of this might be analyzing two different viewpoints on why whales make certain types of sounds. In the new Common Core Standards, students will have to discuss differences in the two viewpoints and then decide for themselves which viewpoint is correct and why.

Comment:  This kind of thinking requires deep understanding and sequential thinking.  For kindergartners and first graders this will in many cases be unfamiliar territory, but by no means impossible if their language and learning skills are healthy.  If your child is a struggling reader or learner however, these new skill requirements will be extremely challenging.

The Common Core State Standards make reading and learning efficiency a more urgent priority earlier in a child’s career.  In particular, because the standards require thinking, reading and listening have to be automatic and efficient.

Gemm Learning uses Fast ForWord to work specifically on automating these crucial learning skills.

Read to learn

Read to learn plays a larger role from 3rd or 4th grade.  In the interests of time, current curriculum is delivered mainly by the teacher in class.  The Common Core State Standards provide more opportunity for independent learning, where students learn material through their own reading.

Comment:  This raises the bar for reading comprehension, and heightens the risk for students who are unable to learn by reading.

Accelerated reading standards

The goal for students is to get to college. Thus, common core reading comprehension levels have been broken down into precise standards with certain requirements in the reading text for every level. If students aren’t reading at their grade level, their teacher will be expected to do what it takes to get the students up to grade level.

Comment: While these standards overlook the individual learning curve of different students, the standards themselves appear to be reasonably well conceived and are well over-due.  American students are amongst the worst readers in the Western world, and reading as a childhood past-time is becoming far too rare, in part due to low reading skills that make books hard work and not fun.

Moving away from rote memorization

Critical thinking should be evidence-based. It should not depend on memorizing facts and taking multiple choice tests. They will be expected to make conclusions based on what they read from the pure evidence provided.

Comment: This is a well over-due and obvious innovation as it is how college education and business works in a post-Google world.  It replaces a knowledge memorization approach that belongs in the last century.  Importantly, because it removes the effort required to memorize screeds of material (that can be found easily online), it frees up time for students to practice deep understanding and critical thinking, the essential skills of the 21st century.

In summary, while the Common Core State Standards represent a hugely important step forward for the US education system, there is no question that the standards make the requirements make reading comprehension a key skill that has to be mastered earlier in life.  Reading comprehension in return requires decoding efficiency, a key target of the web-based reading software by Gemm Learning.

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