By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — One of the unintended consequences of Common Core (or whatever your state’s iteration of Common Core is) has been an attack on the classroom library and independent reading.
In the move to implement a “Tier 1 curriculum,” the first thing to go is anything that does not align with that curriculum. In Louisiana, a Tier 1 curriculum “exemplifies quality.” As defined on the Louisiana Believes website, it “meets all non-negotiable criteria and scored the best possible on all indicators of superior quality.”
Louisiana’s version of Common Core is called Louisiana Believes and in ELA our Tier 1 curriculum is Guidebooks 2.0 which was “made by teachers for teachers” and “ensures all students can read, understand, and express their understanding of complex, grade-level texts.” It began in 2013 when the framework was developed and now in 2018 most parishes are well into implementation of the curriculum. In my parish we are in year two.
In at least two parishes there have been reports of ELA teachers being asked to remove novels, or anything that is not Tier 1 material, from their rooms: one report was from south Louisiana and the other report came to me from northwest Louisiana. To protect these teachers I will keep their names and parishes private. In one parish the teacher was able to strike a compromise with her administration after she provided research and documentation on the benefits of independent reading.
As Donalyn Miller so often makes the case, the research on independent reading “is ubiquitous” and not hard to find.
In defense of these school districts, I think that part of the problem is that we are so new to the implementation of this radically different, scripted curriculum that sometimes administrators and supervisors may not all be on the same page with regard to what is acceptable and what is not. I can think of no other reason to justify why an administrator might tell a teacher that “independent reading has got to go!” or to remove novels from the classroom. Sometimes these directives vary within a single district from school to school.
It is just difficult for an ELA teacher to hear that a student can’t read a book; it’s hard to justify that. And frankly, I don’t know how anyone who calls himself an educator would tell a teacher that students can’t read books. One of these teachers was told she “is resistant” to the new curriculum; if that doesn’t sound right out of Ray Bradbury I don’t know what does.
In fact, the Louisiana Believes website even states that the vision for students is that “Every day, students in Louisiana should build their knowledge of the world, read meaningful text, express their unique ideas through writing and speaking, and attempt complex problems.”
Given that, I don’t believe that the Louisiana Department of Education is truly against students reading books and so I can’t conceive of why they would want them removed from classrooms, yet I have actually talked to two teachers where this happened.
It is no secret that I have a classroom library and this has not happened to me; my students are reading AND they are participating in the Louisiana Tier 1 curriculum.
I can only hope that there was some misunderstanding on the part of these two teachers and that the issues have been resolved.