College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading Key Ideas and Details

  • 1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • 2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • 3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure

  • 4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • 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.
  • 6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • 7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  • 8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
  • 9. Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

  • 10. Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
  • (Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, 6-12, p. 35, my emphasis)

Moore ct al. (2014) assert that the CCSS has ignored the extensive literature on critical literacy and does not foreground it in its conceptualisation of reading or language study. The above standards provide minimal reference to critical literacy, as shown in what I have italicised. However, there is scope for a skilled teacher to enact a critical literacy approach when teaching some of the standards, for example, “analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone” and “assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text”. (See Chapter 3 for models of critical literacy that further exemplify how this might be possible). Standard 8: “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence” promotes critical reading akin to that on the left hand side of Macknish’s (2011) table (See Table 2.3), or forms of critical reading that do not engage with issues of power.

The only mention of the word or concept of “power” as related to literacy in ELA is evident in the Grade 11-12 Reading Informational Texts standard - RI.11-12.6:

Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.

(English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Informational Text » Grade 11-12 -, my emphasis)

Further, the CCSS states that college and career ready students will be able to “evaluate other points of view critically and constructively” (p. 7, my emphasis) in efforts to understand other perspectives and cultures in culturally diverse education and workplace settings. Coupling criticality with being positive when evaluating a point of view can risk losing critical potency and the potential for robust debate. The implication is to conflate the two and move quickly towards polite agreeability and even consensus without fully attending to difference critically. As Avila and Moore (2012) note, “Standards will likely never overtly endorse critical literacy; however, the Common Core State Standards should not intimidate teachers into avoiding reciprocal approaches that encourage them to involve their students in critical literacy work” (p. 32).

Regarding text complexity, the assumptions underpinning “text complexity” are particularly alarming for EAL learners who are not well-served if encountering texts that are so lexically dense and grammatically intricate, and therefore cognitively loaded, that they cannot possibly access them. It takes a skilled teacher to provide the kind of access to such texts EAL learners need in order for them to comprehend the intended message and then to also critique and transform the texts in a tightly timed program of learning. I use the word “comprehend” with some hesitancy as it is often eschewed within a critical literacy paradigm. However, EAL learners do need to comprehend or access what a text is offering (through its vocabulary, grammar, text structure, images, and so on) before they can critique it, so initial comprehension of what is on offer on the page is an important part of the critical inquiry process with EAL learners (Hammond & Mackcn-Horarick, 1999; Huh, 2016; Janks, 2010; Lau, 2013; Hammond & Miller, 2015). McLaughlin and de Voogd (2004) have also argued that critical literacy and comprehension arc not diametrically opposed arguing that teachers can move from literal reading comprehension of what is on the page to reading the world in which the text is situated, and the kind of world the text seeks to construct.

Another publicly available US policy statement that is relevant to this discussion is the document called: Application of Common Core State Standards for English Language Learners presented below. (See http://www.corestandards. org/assets/application-for-english-learners.pdf for the full statement).

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