“Draw upon relevant prior knowledge to enhance comprehension, and note when the text expands on or challenges that knowledge.” Also added: “Apply knowledge and concepts gained through reading to build a more coherent understanding of a subject, inform reading of additional texts, and to solve problems.”
There’s a lot to like in these revisions, not least the fact that they shine a light on the role of knowledge in learning how to read, write, speak, and listen. The number of “illustrative texts” also has grown from four examples in the “pre-draft” version to ten now. We like much of what has been added, including Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!,” and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Not only are these and other works mentioned and excerpted but a “sample performance” activity is provided for each one to show how a teacher might use them in the classroom. These illustrative texts are included primarily to clarify what the standards-drafters mean when they say that students should “read texts of sufficient complexity.”
Their point is undermined somewhat by the inclusion of a business memo, a website, and newspaper as illustrations. It would be hard to imagine that someone who could master Austen, Whitman, and King would struggle to grasp the contents of a homepage, front page, or a memo on medical benefits. Sure, these resemble the kind of reading people must navigate daily, but school is a time when you encounter uncommon works of enduring value. The standards make that point, but more obliquely than they should.
In fact, despite the expansion of the number of standards and illustrative texts, the main weakness that still haunts these standards is their lack of specificity. There’s a huge gap between the “Common Core” ELA standards and what teachers need to put these in practice in the classroom. And how that gap is filled–specifically, what curriculum is used–will make all the difference. Too much is still being left up to interpretation.