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The Path to Get There: A Common Core Road Map for Higher Student Achievement Across the Disciplines

reviewed by Kathryn Ado - October 11, 2013

coverTitle: The Path to Get There: A Common Core Road Map for Higher Student Achievement Across the Disciplines
Author(s): Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, & Cristina Alfaro
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 080775434X, Pages: 176, Year: 2013
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The Path to Get There: A Common Core Road Map for Higher Student Achievement across the Disciplines, by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Cristina Alfaro is set against the backdrop of the near nationwide adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in the United States.  The authors explain that this widespread adoption of the CCSS essentially requires “all teachers to focus on the literacy learning of their students” (p. x), an emphasis that they imply is very different from the way secondary teachers in the content areas currently teach.

This text is a useful resource for middle and high school content area teachers, particularly in the subjects of science, history/social studies, and technical subjects, who are seeking support in understanding what the CCSS mean, and who need strategies for integrating literacy instruction into their classroom practices. The book offers an explanation of each of the CCSS, as well as examples of instructional activities that support students in mastering the standards. The authors explicitly note that they will focus on all of CCSS, including the standards for speaking and listening and language even though “the standards for speaking and listening and language do not apply to teachers in history/social studies, science, and the technical subjects; the standards focus on reading and writing” (p. xi). The authors take this approach because they view speaking, listening, and language as part of “the full range of literacy processes” (p. xi). The authors also explain that although there is not a specific explanation of how the CCSS should apply to English Learners (EL) or students with disabilities within the CCSS, each chapter of their book would include a discussion of strategies that might be useful for these students.

The book is organized into five chapters that take into account differences in disciplinary literacy. In the first chapter, the authors establish the framework upon which the rest of the book rests. They redefine the concept of literacy, as it is outlined in the CCSS, as well as address the concept of disciplinary literacy, noting how “unique literacies are utilized in order to comprehend, produce, and communicate information” (p. 6). Despite these disciplinary differences, the authors succinctly explain that literacy across the content area includes comprehension, vocabulary, and composition and that instructional routines can be used across the disciplines to address each of these facets of literacy. Towards the end of the chapter, the authors include an explanation of the release of responsibility framework, which is the way they consolidate the different components of chapter one into a coherent set of instructional moves. This framework also represents the approach that they use any time they teach anything, whether inside or outside the classroom. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the challenges and opportunities that teaching English Learners (EL) and students with disabilities present in light of the CCSS. Throughout the chapter, the inclusion of classroom-based examples helps to make the theoretical discussion accessible.

Chapters Two, Three, and Four focus on the CCSS themselves. Chapter Two addresses the reading standards, including an explanation of each anchor standard and the clusters of the grade-level expectations, as well as examples of instruction that supports each standard. This chapter includes sections for each discipline, which represent the differences in the reading standards for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Chapter Three focuses on the writing standards and reflects the CCSS’ emphasis on argumentative writing. Like Chapter Two, it also includes concrete examples of lessons and activities that support students in achieving the standards. Chapter Four discusses speaking, listening, and language through the lens of history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. The speaking and listening section of the chapter emphasizes the development of comprehension and collaboration skills, as well as the use of video as a way to support speaking and listening skills. The language section of the chapter focuses on approaches that support content-area vocabulary acquisition.

Chapter Five addresses how literacy can support the practice of formative assessments, particularly checking for understanding, within any secondary classroom. This chapter was particularly useful, as it outlined strategies for checking for understanding through oral language, questioning, and writing. For example, the section on questioning included simple shifts in follow up questions that teachers could pose as a way to contribute to higher order thinking and deeper analysis of text. Connecting literacy practices with formative assessment practices seems particularly useful for teachers, who need to monitor student progress towards mastering the standards in both formal and informal ways.

In general, this book will be most helpful for middle and high school teachers who are already open to using student-centered, literacy-based practices but who are simply unsure of how to do so. Because of its clear organization both as a whole, and within each chapter, interested readers can easily navigate the text and locate the sections of the text that are pertinent to them. Also, the explanation of lessons or strategies related to the different strategies is in sufficient depth to allow a teacher to try them in his/her classroom. This book could be used in conjunction with school-wide professional development on shifts in instructional practice that could support students in meeting the new levels of literacy outlined in the CCSS or as a resource for content area reading courses within teacher preparation programs.

The primary critique that I can provide of this book is that aside from framing the lessons or strategies in connection with particular standards within the CCSS, it does not offer new or different literacy approaches to support the development of literacy proficiency for students. In addition, while there is a section in each chapter on supporting ELs and students with disabilities, the suggestions provided in these sections almost seem like common sense. For example, providing an audio version of the text as an alternative to the traditional text is one of two suggestions for supporting students with disabilities in connection to the reading standards. Thus, for educators already familiar with content-area literacy strategies, or with supporting ELs or students with disabilities, this book will most likely reinforce what is already known.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 11, 2013
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17274, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 8:26:54 AM

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About the Author
  • Kathryn Ado
    Farleigh Dickinson University
    E-mail Author
    KATE ADO is an Assistant Professor in the Sammartino School of Education at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she teaches foundational teacher preparation courses, as well as courses related to content area literacy. She is the author of “Keeping Them on the Bus: Retaining Early Career Teachers in a Successful Urban School,” published in The New Educator and “Action Research: Professional Development to Help Retain Early Career Teachers,” published in Educational Action Research.
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