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Tracing States’ Messages about Common Core Instruction: An Analysis of English/Language Arts and Close Reading Resources


by Emily M. Hodge, Susanna L. Benko & Serena J. Salloum - 2020

Background: A common set of standards enables the sharing of curricular and professional development resources across state lines. In a previous study of state-provided standards resources for English/language arts, we identified the number of state educational agencies linking to different organizations’ resources. We then identified the 10 most influential organizations; in other words, the organizations to which the highest number of states had linked as resource sponsors. However, little is known about the content of the resources from the most influential organizations.

Purpose: The first goal of this study was to describe the state-provided resources sponsored by the 10 most influential organizations, including the standards and topics addressed. The second goal was to identify the instructional messages about close reading present in those resources, as well as how consistent those messages were across resources and across organizations.

Research Design: This study used qualitative coding and descriptive analyses to identify standards and topics included in 177 individual resources in the form of articles, curriculum guidelines, instructional aids, professional development, and student work. We utilized social network analysis to visualize the connections between topics the resources addressed and their organizational sponsors. Then, we used qualitative coding and social network analysis to identify and visualize messages about close reading from a smaller set of resources.

Conclusions: This study finds that resources emphasized standards focused on reading closely and academic vocabulary. Resources focused most heavily on the topics of reading informational text, complex text and academic language, and reading literature; topics that were less represented included special student populations, curricular design, and narrative writing. This study also finds that the resources’ positions on how teachers should enact close reading diverged around the extent to which historical or background knowledge ought to be allowed to inform students’ reading. This work adds to a small but growing body of research applying social network analysis to visualize the relationships between organizations and ideas. We recommend that teachers, as well as state and district leaders, who are searching for helpful resources turn to literacy organizations like the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Literacy Association as organizations that are concerned with the profession as a whole rather than with one particular standards policy and may therefore present a broader and more integrated view of ELA instruction.



A common set of standards most states adopted almost a decade ago opened the door for the sharing of curricular materials and professional development resources across state lines during the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). New standards have also brought new controversies about English/Language Arts (ELA) content, with questions about what topics and instructional techniques will be prioritized under the CCSS. One debated topic in CCSS implementation has been the role of close reading in literacy instruction. The phrase close reading does not appear in the CCSS directly—the first anchor standard for reading asks students to “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” (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010, p. 35, italics added). However, the lead authors of the CCSS have used “read closely” and “close reading” interchangeably when discussing how to interpret the standards (Coleman & Pimentel, 2012; Hodge & Benko, 2014).


As teachers come to decide what new standards, and terms like close reading, might mean for their classrooms, they may turn to instructional resources from a variety of sources. Several large-scale teacher surveys have demonstrated that teachers turn to online materials for curricular resources to support the CCSS (Kane, Owens, Marinell, Thal, & Staiger, 2016; Opfer, Kaufman, & Thompson, 2016), though it is not clear from this research what instructional recommendations are included in these resources. Under the CCSS, there is no shortage of resources available to teachers; indeed, sharing of materials across state lines was a key part of CCSS policy entrepreneurs’ theory of action (Kornhaber, Griffith, & Tyler, 2014; McDonnell & Weatherford, 2013a). Common standards are thought to bring more coherence to the traditionally fragmented, decentralized system of American education, potentially bringing other components of the states’ educational systems into alignment, including assessments, curriculum materials, professional development, and classroom instruction (Cohen & Moffitt, 2009). Shared standards may also mean the diffusion of shared ideas, possibly leading to greater convergence in instructional approaches and curricular materials.


State education agencies (SEAs) are one key mechanism through which ideas about instruction are shared with street-level bureaucrats like teachers and administrators (Weatherley & Lipsky, 1977), as SEAs are important sources of support for local districts and teachers (Massell, 1998). Research on CCSS implementation found that teachers do turn to their SEAs, among other sources, for information about standards within their state (Kane et al., 2016; Opfer et al., 2016). SEAs can, and in many cases do, create their own curricular and professional resources or otherwise seek expertise internally (Goertz, Barnes, Massell, Fink, & Francis, 2013). However, research cataloguing the sponsors of all state-provided standards resources for secondary ELA demonstrates that most frequently, SEAs turn to a relatively small set of external organizations for resources (Hodge, Salloum, & Benko, 2016).


In our prior study, we identified a set of organizations shaping the narrative about “CCSS instruction” at the state level by identifying all state-provided standards resources and their sponsors, and ranking the organizations to which the highest numbers of SEAs linked (Hodge et al., 2016).1 For example, prominent organizations providing resources for CCSS implementation are the Council of Chief State School Officers, Student Achievement Partners, and literacy organizations like the International Literacy Association. However, little is known about the content of the resources provided by these influential organizations, including the standards that the resources emphasize, their authors, and the extent to which particular topics are favored over others. Therefore, we seek to better understand the resources and the recommendations about ELA instruction that these resources describe, especially around the topic of close reading, as these resources come from the most influential organizations in CCSS implementation across all 50 SEAs. We use descriptive analyses to understand the standards and topics included in this set of resources, and we use social network analysis to visualize these relationships, adding to the relatively small literature base of studies using network analysis to visualize relationships between individuals or organizations and ideas (e.g., Galey-Horn, Reckhow, Ferrare, & Jasny, 2019; Leifeld, 2013; Reckhow & Tompkins-Stange, 2018). This analysis accomplishes several goals. It provides insight into the views on close reading from CCSS lead authors and other powerful organizations, positioning those views together with literacy research. It also illuminates the extent to which instructional recommendations are consistent within and across organizations, and, by extension, illustrates the coherence of instructional messages about close reading in state-provided curricular resources.   


In the following sections, we describe existing research on close reading, argue that curricular and professional resources are important tools to study for understanding the link between policy and practice, and describe the literature on the role of organizations, including SEAs, in educational reform. We next elaborate on how network analysis can be used to understand and visualize relationships between various entities, including organizations and their ideas about CCSS instruction. Then, we describe the methods for our study: an analysis of the standards and topics included in resources from the most influential organizations providing resources at the state level. We also conduct a detailed analysis of the resources’ and their sponsoring organizations’ positions on close reading, as a heavily debated practice in the conversation around standards implementation. Finally, we describe our findings and implications for policy, practice, and future research.


LITERATURE REVIEW


CLOSE READING IN THE ERA OF CCSS


Close reading has been a controversial topic within the conversation about how to interpret the CCSS into classroom instruction (Gewertz, 2012; Hinchman & Moore, 2013; Hodge & Benko, 2014). As traditionally defined, close reading examines texts as artistic objects independent of their historical contexts and focuses on understanding the relationship between the text’s meaning and its formal elements (Sperling & Dipardo, 2008). The term close reading is typically seen as having roots in New Criticism literary theory, a mode of literacy interpretation most popular before 1965, concurrent with a text-centric view of reading guided by behaviorist theories of learning (Pearson & Cervetti, 2015).


Although the phrase close reading does not appear in the CCSS directly (anchor standard one asks students to “read closely”), the CCSS lead authors highlighted the term close reading in their guidance on standards implementation. The lead authors published an influential curriculum development guide, the Revised Publisher’s Criteria (Coleman & Pimentel, 2012), in which they use the term close reading, or a synonym, over 50 times (Catterson, 2017). Hinchman and Moore (2013) note that close reading was not a focus of literacy research before the CCSS lead authors reintroduced the term; this may be because close reading was considered a mode of literary interpretation within literary theory, though CCSS advocates have framed it as a way to support the standards’ emphases on reading complex texts and using textual evidence (Shanahan & Duffett, 2013).


Those who believe that close reading will help to meet the goals of the CCSS provide varied rationales for why and how close reading will do so. Some CCSS proponents view close reading as a way to ensure that students are reading and analyzing text rather than responding to literature in non-text centric ways, like through personal responses or pre-reading activities that essentially summarize the text before reading (Brown & Kappes, 2012; Coleman, 2011; Shanahan & Duffett, 2013). Other proponents of close reading as part of the CCSS view it as an equity strategy, noting that the use of short texts, in particular, “enable[s] students at a wide range of reading levels to participate” (Coleman & Pimentel, 2012, p. 4). Similarly, close reading is described as an approach that will “give all students access to the content in grade-level complex text, through intentional, built-in scaffolds” (Student Achievement Partners, 2015, p. 10).


Others focus on close reading as a teaching strategy that will improve students’ reading comprehension. In addition to providing access to complex text, Student Achievement Partners define close reading as “an instructional approach . . . designed to help make students better readers” (Student Achievement Partners, 2015, p. 10). Similarly, Fisher and Frey (2014) argue that while self-selected reading is also important, close reading helps slow readers down so that they can better build their knowledge about passages being read. Brown and Kappes (2012) argue that the ultimate goal of close reading is for students to become independent readers and that, beyond supporting reading comprehension broadly,


it is a mechanism for teaching about logical arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others, for gleaning evidence from text and applying critical thinking skills. Close reading is as much a way of thinking and processing text . . . as it is about a way of reading a singular piece of text. (p. 2)


Across these definitions, close reading is seen as a way to help students attend to complex written work in the hopes of supporting comprehension.


Not only do rationales for close reading vary, but there are different ways of conceptualizing how close reading ought to be enacted in the classroom (Fang, 2016). Coleman (2011) describes close reading as multiple readings of a short, complex, often-canonical text in which students answer a series of text-dependent questions asked by teacher in a whole class setting. Fisher and Frey (2014) define five “salient features” of close reading including: (1) short, complex passages; (2) repeated reading for different purposes; (3) annotating text; (4) text-dependent questions that require textual evidence; and (5) discussion of the text, including argumentation (pp. 368–369). Fang and Pace (2013) argue that close reading involves selecting a quality text (or book); asking more, deeper, and text-dependent questions; and seeking answers to those questions through multiple readings and group discussion. Yet, others argue that close reading may also involve close examination of how a text positions itself amidst power structures, using a feminist, Marxist, or postcolonial lens (Appleman, 2014). Smith, Appleman, and Wilhelm (2014) revised Coleman’s (2011) close reading of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” into a close reading lesson that incorporates personal connections, ties the text to larger essential questions, and provides ample opportunity for student discussion in modes other than responding to text-dependent questions from the teacher. While there is some convergence around elements of close reading, such as asking text-dependent questions or analyzing short, complex passages, there are areas of disagreement, such as whether or not to provide historical or other background information related to the text. Because of these different definitions and interpretations of how close reading ought to be incorporated into the classroom, we analyze curricular resources for their areas of convergence and divergence about the elements of close reading.


CURRICULAR RESOURCES AS TOOLS FOR LEARNING ABOUT POLICY


One possible way teachers may come to understand the term close reading is through using curricular resources. Curricular resources serve as critical tools for translating policy into practice (Ball & Cohen, 1996; Coburn & Stein, 2010; Grossman, Smagorinsky, & Valencia, 1999), and they can take multiple forms. For example, some materials build teachers’ conceptual understandings about standards by providing information about instruction, such as articles and guidelines for curriculum. An example of a conceptual resource is a document from Student Achievement Partners about the “instructional shifts” that the organization encourages teachers to make when teaching under the CCSS. The document highlights three areas—complexity, evidence, and knowledge—and uses these foci to “illustrate how college- and career-ready standards contribute to transformative changes in the classroom that will better prepare students for opportunities after high school” (Student Achievement Partners, n.d.). Practical tools, like lesson and unit plans, also provide tools for instruction (Grossman et al., 1999; Hodge et al., 2016). Rather than building conceptual understandings about key issues in the standards, practical tools are meant to be immediately usable resources that teachers could implement in their classrooms. Professional development, as well as instructional coaching, can also connect teachers to policy goals (Coburn & Woulfin, 2012).


Curricular resources provide teachers an opportunity to learn more about what standards might look like in classroom instruction. Reports on CCSS implementation indicate that teachers are eager to find practical tools (Kane et al., 2016; Opfer et al., 2016); yet, these tools can be less educative when they are written as scripts for instruction without explaining the rationale behind the lesson sequence (Davis & Krajcik, 2005; Drake, Land, & Tyminski, 2014; Remillard, 2005). Practical and conceptual tools are both necessary to support teacher learning, and both are also, to some degree, available among state-provided standards resources (Hodge et al., 2016). However, in a recent interview, former CCSSO executive director Chris Minnich said he wished his organization had spent more time on supporting teacher learning about the standards:


I also just don’t think we were ready, once the standards came out, to have a serious conversation about training teachers and helping them understand the standards . . . the national funding community was very focused on the political side of this and trying to get this thing implemented at the legislative level, and there wasn’t as much of a conversation about helping teachers with curriculum and instruction and resources. (Hess, 2017)  


Tools provide one way for teachers to learn about standards and may support teachers’ understandings of important concepts within the CCSS. However, these materials come from a wide range of organizations and types of organizations, whose recommendations for instruction may not be consistent.


HOW ORGANIZATIONS AND STATES SUPPORT EDUCATIONAL REFORM


Generally speaking, organizations involved with educational reforms may be for-profit (such as LearnZillion), nonprofit (such as the International Literacy Association), or government-related, such as state educational agencies. Some studies on the use of research evidence in CCSS formation and adoption have illuminated the key role that organizations played in bringing states to the table (McDonnell & Weatherford, 2013b), as well as how organizations played a role in opposing the CCSS (McDonnell & Weatherford, 2016). Organizations have also played an important role in CCSS implementation by providing curricular resources and professional development. Our prior study examined how SEAs partner with other organizations to support standards implementation, cataloging the sponsors of the 2,023 curricular and professional resources that all 51 SEAs (50 states and DC) provided for ELA teachers on their websites in fall 2015. While SEAs did provide resources created within the SEA or by other SEAs, this analysis demonstrated that organizations occupy a prominent role in CCSS implementation across the country. Of the entities to which five or more SEAs turned for resources, 79% are organizations, and only 21% are SEAs or local educational agencies (LEAs) (Hodge et al., 2016).


Understanding who states partner with to implement educational reform provides an opportunity to see who is “sitting at the table” in terms of interpreting policy into practical classroom suggestions and to understand what messages are spread. This is especially important when policies like the CCSS include ideas like close reading, where people understand the term differently. We suggest that studying practical suggestions about close reading via SEA-provided resources is important because SEAs link a cross-state set of standards with LEAs. SEAs have long supported the implementation of their own state standards (Massell, 1998), and SEAs also have a long history of translating federal priorities and policy for LEAs (Fusarelli & Cooper, 2009). However, this set of common standards has enabled SEAs to look outside of the state for expertise and resources as a way to build capacity—a new intermediary role for SEAs in the domain of curriculum and instruction. The capacity of SEAs to oversee complex reforms has long been a concern for both researchers and SEAs themselves (Brown, Hess, Lautzenheiser, & Owen, 2011; Minnici & Hill, 2007; Sunderman & Orfield, 2006). New standards provide the opportunity to study how policy ideas are diffused throughout states; specifically, we aim to understand who is involved in spreading policy messages about CCSS instruction for teachers through state-provided resources and what these instructional messages are, specifically around close reading.


SOCIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS AS A TOOL FOR VISUALIZING RELATIONSHIPS


With the potential for multiple messages about CCSS instruction from a wide variety of actors, researchers must be ready to understand what messages are sent and by whom. These kinds of relationships are well suited to the use of social network analysis. Social network analysis (e.g., Scott, 2017; Wasserman & Faust, 1994) is an increasingly utilized research tool in the social sciences because it provides a way of visualizing and analyzing relationships between entities such as people or organizations. Network visualizations, known as sociograms, depict relationships by using a set of icons (circles, triangles, etc.) to denote entities, and, when there is a relationship between two entities, a sociogram uses lines to connect the icons. The icons indicating the entities are known as nodes, and the lines connecting the nodes are known as edges or ties.


Social network analysis has become an important tool in education research to understand the role of interpersonal relationships in educational reform (Daly, 2010), including how factors like trust and expertise influence communication networks between teachers and others in school districts (Coburn & Russell, 2008; Daly & Finnigan, 2011; Liou, 2016; Liou et al., 2016; Supovitz, Fink, & Newman, 2016). However, social network analysis is useful not only to visualize relationships between people, but any type of relationship between two entities, whether these are individuals, organizations, or ideas. One recent set of studies used social network analysis to visualize the relationship between foundations and funded organizations. For example, Reckhow (2013) applied social network analysis to the relationship between foundation funding and organizations at several time points, providing a visual illustration of how foundations’ funding priorities have changed over time. Similarly, Au and Ferrare (2014) examined the funding network involved in promoting charter school legislation in Washington state.


In literacy, social network analysis has not been often utilized, with the notable exception of a set of studies on the role of organizations involved in passage and implementation of the Reading First legislation (Miskel & Song, 2004; Song & Miskel, 2005, 2007). Because of the controversy surrounding approaches to reading and the distinct positions advanced by different interest groups (Pearson, 2004), Miskel and Song (2004) interviewed a set of “elite policy actors” identified by McDaniel, Sims, and Miskel (2001) as the most influential on national reading policy. By interviewing these actors and asking them about their positions on reading policy and the organizations with which they collaborated to advance those positions, Miskel and Song (2004) visualized the communication networks active in shaping reading policy at the federal level. They found that several interest groups (e.g., the American Federation of Teachers and the Council of Chief State School Officers) and governmental actors (e.g., the U.S. Department of Education and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce) were most frequently named as collaborators on Reading First legislation. Song and Miskel (2005, 2007) also identified actors involved in shaping reading policy at the state level, finding that, in general, government actors within the state had a greater influence on state-level policy than interest groups or other nongovernmental actors. This set of studies illuminated the collaboration networks involved in federal and state reading policy but stopped short of identifying particular positions held by these organizations and government actors so that the connection between organizations and particular positions on reading policy could be traced.


A newer application of social network analysis in education traces the relationships between organizations (or individuals) and ideas. A few scholars have applied a technique called discourse network analysis (Leifeld, 2013) to congressional hearings, identifying changes in policy preferences about teacher effectiveness, as well as the individuals who brokered particular ideas about teacher effectiveness across the Bush and Obama administrations (Galey-Horn et al., 2019; Reckhow & Tompkins-Stange, 2018. This technique can be used to visualize policy actors who share the same policy preferences, illustrate the most commonly held positions on a particular issue, and statistically model different aspects of policy networks over time. 


Our approach here is similar, in that we coded text from lesson plans, professional development, and other resources for topics and instructional messages about close reading, then visualized the topics and instructional preferences that are shared across organizations, as well as the messages shared across individual resources. Using social network analysis allowed us to identify the most commonly cited topics and messages about the nature of close reading, as well as identify the extent to which there are similar messages about the nature of close reading within and across organizations.


METHODS


RESEARCH QUESTIONS


In our national study of state-provided resources, we identified the number of states linking to resources from different organizations (Hodge et al., 2016). Our goals for the present study were (1) to describe the state-provided resources sponsored by the 10 most central organizations, and (2) to identify the instructional messages about close reading present in those resources. Specifically, our research questions were the following:


1.

What is the nature of the ELA resources provided by the 10 most central organizations providing state standards resources?

a.

What standards do the resources address?

b.

What topics does this set of resources address?

2.

What instructional preferences, or messages about instruction, do these resources provide around the topic of close reading? How consistent are the messages about close reading across the resources, as well as within and across organizations?


IDENTIFYING RESOURCES


In our prior work, we built a database of all secondary ELA resources that SEAs provided on their websites in fall 2015, tracking the organizational sponsors of these resources. Then, we used social network analysis to calculate the organizations to which the highest numbers of SEAs turned for resources—or the most central organizations.2 The degree to which an organization is considered central was calculated according to the number of SEAs linking to a particular organization (in-degree centrality [Borgatti, Everett, & Johnson, 2013]).


In this manuscript, we focus on the resources from the 10 most central organizations in the state-level resource network; these organizations had in-degree centrality scores between 30 and 13, meaning that between 13 and 30 SEAs linked to a resource sponsored by that organization (see Table 1). These organizations, in order of highest to lowest in-degree centrality, were: the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, Student Achievement Partners, the International Literacy Association, Achieve, the National Council of Teachers of English, Council for Great City Schools, the Public Broadcasting Service, the Teaching Channel, and the National Association of State Boards of Education.


Table 1. SEAs and Organizations Most Commonly Named as Sponsors of Standards Resources



Organization/SEA

Number of SEAs linking to org/SEA

Percent of SEAs linking to org/SEA

Council of Chief State School Officers

30

58.8%

National Governors Association

25

49.0%

Student Achievement Partners

24

47.1%

International Literacy Association

17

33.3%

Achieve

16

31.4%

National Council of Teachers of English

16

31.4%

Council for Great City Schools

15

29.4%

Public Broadcasting Service

14

27.5%

Teaching Channel

14

27.5%

National Association of State Boards of Education

13

23.5%

Note: The count and percent represents the number and proportion, respectively, of state educational agencies that provided a link to a resource sponsored by particular state or organization. Fifty-one SEAs are included (including Washington, D.C.).


To identify resources from the 10 most central organizations, we returned to our database of 2,023 initial resources, and we restricted resources to include only those that were sponsored by at least one of these 10 organizations, leaving us with 361 resources. We removed resources that did not provide codable messages about classroom instruction (such as lists of standards or links to organizational homepages); we also removed resources with broken links. This left 177 individual resources in the form of articles, curriculum guidelines, instructional aids (i.e., unit plans and lesson plans), professional development, and student work.


RESOURCE CODING AND ANALYSES


This study uses qualitative coding techniques, descriptive analyses, and social network analysis to address our research questions.


Coding and Descriptive Analysis of Standards and Resource Topics


Because our dataset consisted of a variety of resources in various media (video, print), we approached coding these resources for standards and topics differently depending on resource type. For printed text, such as curriculum guidelines, we carefully read each document from start to finish. For videos, we watched the entire video, reviewing any related transcripts and ancillary materials. To respond to our first research question, “What is the nature of the ELA resources provided by the 10 most central organizations providing state standards resources?” we first identified key aspects of each resource, such as standards addressed and any topics included within the resource. Using Qualtrics, we documented any CCSS anchor standards explicitly cited in the resource (for example, a video from The Teaching Channel on pre-reading referred to explicit standards in the sidebar of the webpage), including anchor standards for reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and any other literacy or other content standards. We relied on the resource developer’s claims about which standards were focused on, as indicated by the inclusion of the exact language of the standard and/or the standards abbreviation (e.g., CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10). Next, we recorded any sub-topics within ELA that the resource addressed. For example, because there are separate standards for reading literature and reading informational text in grades 6–12, we coded for the sub-topics of reading literature and reading informational text. The writing standards list the three genres of writing as argument, informational/expository, and narrative writing, so these became our topics related to writing. To identify these subtopics, we examined data for the explicit mention of these topics in the resource title and subheadings. If one of these topics was superficially mentioned, we did not include the topic—the resource had to be substantively focused on one of these topics. Once coding was completed, we tabulated frequencies for the standards and topics the resources addressed.


Network Analysis of Resource Topics


Therefore, we also utilized social network analysis to visualize the connections between topics the resources addressed and their organizational sponsors (Scott, 2017; Wasserman & Faust, 1994). To visualize the data, we first needed to account for any instances where resources had multiple organizational sponsors. For example, if five organizations co-authored a resource, then each of the five organizations received one tie from that resource. This process helped provide a clearer idea of how many organizations sponsored resources on particular topics. We also incorporated tie strength in the sociogram, which allowed us to represent how strongly organizations connected to particular topics: a tie, connecting a node representing an organization to a node representing a topic, will be darker and thicker if that organization has sponsored a resource focused on that topic multiple times.


Coding and Visualization of Close Reading Messages


Our second set of research questions asks, “What instructional preferences, or messages about instruction, do these resources provide around the topic of close reading?” and “How consistent are the messages about close reading across the resources, as well as within and across organizations?” We define instructional messages as explicit statements about the purpose and/or major elements of close reading, as well as recommended instructional strategies for close reading.


To respond to our second set of research questions on close reading, we reduced our sample of resources to 31 that focused on close reading. Some resources were included in our sample more than once (for example, multiple states linked to the Revised Publisher’s Criteria, Coleman & Pimentel, 2012); therefore, our sample was composed of 16 unique resources.


For resources in a print format (e.g., lesson plans, curriculum guidelines), we coded the documents themselves. For resources in multimedia formats (e.g., videos), we coded either the video transcript (if provided) or used selective transcription (Fielding & Thomas, 2008) to transcribe all portions of videos with guidance for teachers. We used a combination of deductive and inductive coding to code the resources’ positions on close reading (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2014). We generated an initial deductive list of close reading’s purpose and elements based on controversies around close reading documented in research and reports (see Appendix B for a list of codes and sources). As we read each close reading resource, we coded it for language indicating agreement with one or more of these positions. While we attended to any language about the purpose and recommended elements of close reading on our list of a priori codes, we also carefully read for recommended elements of close reading in the resources that were not on our initial list of codes, adding the codes “Provide vocabulary definitions before reading” and “Spend more than two class periods on close reading lesson.” As a last check, we also used the “find” feature for any resources in the form of Word or .pdf documents, searching for the words “close” and “close reading” within each resource to make sure we had recorded all relevant messages.


As a final step, we condensed each resource’s positions on key aspects of how teachers should enact close reading into two matrices that could be used to generate sociograms of (1) the relationship between sponsoring organizations and positions on close reading, and (2) the relationship between individual resources and positions on close reading. In the first matrix (used to generate Figure 2), each row in the matrix was labeled with a sponsoring organization, and each column was labeled with a position on close reading. In the matrix used to create Figure 3, each row was labeled with a resource, and each column was labeled with a position on close reading. Then, a binary code of ones and zeros was used to represent the presence or absence of a relationship. We used UCINET and NetDraw (Borgatti, Everett, & Freeman, 2002) to generate sociograms of the relationship between sponsoring organization and close reading positions, as well as between individual resources and positions on close reading.


Looking across all phases of resource coding and analysis, the research team used several strategies to code resources in a consistent way. Some of the resources from the 10 most central organization were duplicates, meaning that multiple states had linked to the same resource, such as the CCSS Appendix A, B, and/or C. There were 17 groups of duplicate resources ranging from a group of 2 to a group of 14 (Appendix A), representing 85 resources total. Duplicate resources were “collaboratively coded” (Saldaña, 2016, p. 36) by two team members with the greatest expertise in ELA instruction. Each of those resources was coded one time, but the responses were duplicated so that the resource would be appropriately weighted in our sample. The remaining resources were coded individually, half by each rater. Resources were coded over a 10-week period during weekly coding meetings so that coding discrepancies and questions could be answered as they came up. During these meetings, raters also coded 1–2 resources collaboratively each week to guard against rater drift. To code close reading resources, the research team collaboratively generated a deductive list of positions on close reading (see Appendix B) and reviewed resources that had been identified as focused on the topic of close reading, looking for evidence of these positions as well as generating additional inductive codes by studying the close reading resources together.


FINDINGS


ANALYSIS OF STANDARDS


Recall that our first research question was, “What is the nature of the ELA resources provided by the 10 most central organizations providing state standards resources?” For this set of resources, we identified the standards that the resources explicitly addressed and the resource topics.


Table 2 demonstrates that, of the 177 total resources from the 10 most central organizations in the state-level network, only 63 resources, or 35.6% of the resources in this sample, addressed one or more specific standards. The ELA standards include subsets of standards that focus on the content areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. Of the 63 resources that mentioned one or more standards, 93.7% referenced at least one reading standard, about half referenced at least one writing (54%) or speaking and listening (49.2%) standard, and 41.3% addressed one or more language standards (see Table 2). Importantly, 64.4% (114 resources) did not mention any specific standard, meaning that these “standards based” resources did not offer clear direction to a teacher trying to understand the meaning of particular standards.


Table 2. Categories of Standards Addressed by Resources (n=177)


Standard category

Frequency

Percent of total

n=177

Percent of resources with standards

n=63

Reading

59

33.3

93.7

Writing

34

19.2

54.0

Speaking and Listening

31

17.5

49.2

Language

26

14.7

41.3


Within the reading standards, the resources emphasized several standards over others (Table 3). Thirty-six resources (57.1% of resources cited specific standards) addressed the first reading anchor standard: “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 (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1).” CCSS lead authors often link this standard to the practice of close reading because of the emphasis on “reading closely.” Table 3 also displays that forty-two resources (66.7%) addressed the fourth reading anchor standard: “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 (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4).” This standard was the most frequently cited by the resources in this sample and focuses on two skills related to close reading: understanding the meaning of words as one reads and understanding the effect of authors’ word choices. Standards one and four are the most clearly linked to close reading and appear to be the most heavily emphasized within individual resources.


Table 3. Individual Standards Addressed by Resources (n=177)


Standard

Frequency

Percent of total

n=177

Percent of resources with standards

n=63

R.1

36

20.3

57.1

R.2

28

15.8

44.4

R.3

25

14.1

39.7

R.4

42

23.7

66.7

R.5

24

13.6

38.1

R.6

23

13.0

36.5

R.7

15

8.5

23.8

R.8

19

10.7

30.2

R.9

15

8.5

23.8

R.10

18

10.2

28.6

W.1

8

4.5

12.7

W.2

7

4.0

11.1

W.3

2

1.1

3.2

W.4

11

6.2

17.5

W.5

18

10.2

28.6

W.6

1

.6

1.6

W.7

1

.6

1.6

W.8

2

1.1

3.2

W.9

9

5.1

14.3

W.10

0

0

0.0

SL.1

15

8.5

23.8

SL.2

1

.6

1.6

SL.3

2

1.1

3.2

SL.4

2

1.1

3.2

SL.5

0

0

0.0

SL.6

14

7.9

22.2

L.1

16

9.0

25.4

L.2

15

8.5

23.8

L.3

15

8.5

23.8

L.4

9

5.1

14.3

L.5

7

4.0

11.1

L.6

4

2.3

6.3


Of all the anchor standards across the various areas of ELA (10 anchor standards for reading; 10 for writing; six for speaking and listening; six for language), only two standards were not addressed by any resources. The first is the final writing anchor standard, “Write routinely over time (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10),” and the second is, “Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5)” from the speaking and listening standards.


Table 3 also clearly shows that, across this sample of resources, the division of standards across sub-areas (reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language) favors reading. Reading standards are addressed a total of 245 times, easily making it the largest area of emphasis in cases where standards were explicitly referenced. Writing standards are addressed only 59 times, about four times fewer than the reading standards, even though both reading and writing have 10 anchor standards. Speaking and listening standards and language standards each have six anchor standards; speaking and listening standards are addressed 34 times, and language standards are addressed 66 times. Language standards are addressed more than the writing standards (language standards have 66 mentions; writing standards have 59), even though the writing standards have four more anchor standards than language. Language standards can also be considered as related to close reading, as these standards focus more specifically on conventions, knowledge of language, and vocabulary.


ANALYSIS OF RESOURCE TOPICS


The second part of our first research question about the nature of ELA resources from the 10 most central organizations was to identify the topics within this set of resources. Table 4 and Figure 1 provide two ways of understanding the topics on which this set of resources focuses. In Table 4, we provide a count of the topics accounted for in this sample of resources. This table shows that reading informational text, complex text and academic language, and reading literature account for the top topics within this sample; this aligns with the finding described above that the reading standards were the most commonly addressed standards in the sample. Topics that were less represented included special student populations (0.6% of the sample), curricular design (2.4%), and narrative writing (3.5%).


Table 4. Topic Count from ELA Resources


Topic named

Count

Percent of total topics

Reading Literature

169

9.5%

Reading Informational Text

204

11.5%

Vocabulary

149

8.4%

Argument Writing

153

8.6%

Narrative Writing

62

3.5%

Informational/Expository Writing

136

7.6%

Speaking/Listening

111

6.2%

Language

92

5.2%

Complex Text and Academic Language

184

10.3%

Evidence from Text

138

7.8%

Content Rich Nonfiction

105

5.9%

Close Reading

93

5.2%

Special Student Populations

11

0.6%

Curriculum Design

43

2.4%

Supporting Students/Instructional Supports

71

4.0%

Other

58

3.3%

Total count of topics

1779

100%

Note: Italics indicate the three instructional shifts popularized by CCSS lead authors and some organizations.


Figure 1 displays a sociogram of resource-sponsoring organizations to resource topics. Unlike Table 4, which shows frequencies only, this figure allows visualization of the topics that are most emphasized by the resource-sponsoring organizations. So, Figure 1 allows the reader to understand the extent to which particular organizations emphasize particular topics. For example, the International Literacy Association has sponsored resources that focus on special student populations, content-rich nonfiction, complex texts and academic language, evidence from text, and argument writing. Additionally, Figure 1 represents the topics linked to more frequently by the size and location of the squares—larger squares placed closer to center of the sociogram represent the topics that were mentioned by a higher number of organizations (meaning that the topic has higher in-degree centrality).


Figure 1. Sociogram of sponsoring organizations to resource topics

[39_23019.htm_g/00001.jpg]

Note: Red nodes indicate resource-sponsoring organizations; blue nodes indicate coded subtopics from each resource; and yellow indicates the three instructional shifts popularized by CCSS lead authors and some organizations. Tie strength indicates the number of times a resource sponsored by a particular organization has listed that subtopic. Node size indicates how many organizations have addressed particular subtopics.

Like Table 4, Figure 1 demonstrates that the topics of reading informational text and reading literature are two of the most heavily cited topics within this set of resources. Resources often referenced argument writing as a focus, sometimes mentioned informational/expository writing, and did not often refer to narrative writing. Less emphasized topics, located on the periphery of the sociogram, are how to meet the needs of special student populations (0.6% of topics), resources focusing on instructional supports to help students meet the standards (4.0%), curriculum design and evaluation tools (2.4%), and resources on narrative writing (3.5%). There are several isolates in this sociogram, such as NBC Education Nation. This is an artifact of how a few resources in the sample did not focus on any topics clearly related to the standards, such as an animated video that provided a rationale for why the CCSS are necessary to improve the quality of U.S. education.


This sociogram not only demonstrates how resources emphasized topics located directly within the standards, but it also demonstrates the popularity of the “instructional shifts” often associated with the standards. The three “instructional shifts” popularized in materials from EngageNY and Student Achievement Partners are (1) complex text and academic language; (2) evidence from text; and (3) content-rich non-fiction. These aspects of curriculum and instruction are considered by the CCSS lead authors to be core elements of how the standards ought to be enacted in classroom instruction, and imply a certain set of beliefs about the current state of classroom instruction and how it needs to be changed (or “shifted”).3 The resources from the most central organizations emphasize all three of these instructional shifts (as highlighted by yellow squares in the sociogram), as well as the practice of close reading.


NETWORK ANALYSIS OF MESSAGES ABOUT CLOSE READING


In addition to the descriptive analysis and network analysis of the resources from the most central organizations, we also conducted a discourse network analysis (Leifeld, 2013) of the resources’ instructional messages around the practice of close reading. Because close reading has been a controversial idea in the conversation around CCSS implementation and because there are differences in the ways people interpret what close reading should look like, we wanted to understand the fine-grained messages about close reading in the resources from the most influential organizations; how, if at all, should teachers enact close reading?


A variety of resource types contained explicit messages about close reading, ranging from the Publisher’s Criteria, to a set of lesson plans from Student Achievement Partners, to revised versions of those lesson plans from the Rhode Island Department of Education that built in an extensive set of student supports. Other resources included the following:


the EQuIP rubrics from Achieve

professional development on EQuIP’s precursor, the TriState rubrics, created by Massachusetts,New York, and Rhode Island

two videos sponsored by EngageNY and PBS featuring a conversation between David Coleman, John King, and Kate Gerson

a document from Achieve and two national principals’ associations with advice for school leaders on supporting CCSS implementation

a professional development handout from Rhode Island, adapted from Student Achievement Partners, with examples of text-dependent questions on the Gettysburg Address

a Teaching Channel video demonstrating a pre-reading activity4


Resources with messages about close reading were provided by the state education agencies of Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin (14 states). Most SEAs provided just one or two resources addressing close reading, but Rhode Island provided 13.


Instructional Messages


In general, these resources position close reading as an important practice within CCSS implementation. We did not expect much variety in messages about how teachers should enact close reading, as we might if we had examined resources with messages about both reading in general and close reading. Therefore, we were surprised at the degree to which the resources and their sponsoring organizations diverged in their positions on close reading. In Figure 2, sponsoring organizations are portrayed as red circles, and positions on close reading are portrayed as blue squares. The red circles surrounding the two blue squares labeled “Use text-dependent questions” and “Use complex text” indicate that most resources sponsored by these organizations expressed the message that close reading is a practice that should involve teachers asking students text-dependent questions about complex texts. All but one organization’s resources agreed that close reading should involve these two practices, demonstrating a high degree of organizational convergence on these two elements of close reading. That teachers should see close reading as a practice that improves equity and access, and that close reading should involve students re-reading the text, were two other commonly expressed messages. However, the four blue squares on the bottom left of Figure 2 display positions on close reading from only some organizations. For example, only two organizations (Student Achievement Partners and the Rhode Island Department of Education) expressed the messages that teachers should incorporate students’ historical or other outside knowledge into close reading.


Figure 2. Sociogram of sponsoring organizations to messages about elements of close reading

[39_23019.htm_g/00002.jpg]

Note: Red circles indicate resources’ sponsoring organizations. Blue squares indicate specific instructional messages about close reading. Tie strength notes the number of times a particular organization sponsored a resource in the sample expressing a message about close reading. The node size of close reading messages (blue squares) indicates the number of resources expressing that message (larger nodes indicate that more resources expressed a particular message about how teachers should enact close reading).

However, because Figure 2 links sponsoring organization to instructional messages about close reading, it can obscure how resources from the same organization sometimes express divergent messages. Divergent messages are better seen in Figure 3, which displays the relationship between individual resources and instructional preferences for close reading. Returning to the idea that teachers should incorporate historical or other outside knowledge into close reading, Figure 3 demonstrates that this idea occurs in only two of the six lesson plans from Student Achievement Partners, and both lesson plans from the Rhode Island Department of Education. Other lesson plans from Student Achievement Partners include questions for teachers to ask students that are strictly related to the text, and similarly, the Publisher’s Criteria exhorts teachers to “stay within the four corners of the text” in their questioning. Unlike these resources, Rhode Island’s adaptations of two lessons from Student Achievement Partners encourage teachers to connect to other historical texts and ideas, including an image of a slave auction, an excerpt from a slave narrative, images from Norman Rockwell, and a Langston Hughes poem. Similarly, whereas many of the Student Achievement Partners lessons draw on one brief passage for students to practice the skills of closely examining a short, complex text, these lessons are not linked together in a systematic way. Rhode Island, on the other hand, emphasizes a different message about what teachers should do:


The close reading lesson on ‘I am an American Day Address’ should be taught in the context of a set of related texts, multimedia and learning experiences, such as a unit of study, and not in isolation. This approach enables students to build their own interest, motivation, and background knowledge in an authentic way, through their own encounters with text, rather than through the teacher providing this for them. (Rhode Island Department of Education & Student Achievement Partners, 2015)


This quote demonstrates how Rhode Island favors close reading in the context of other valuable literacy practices, such as activating prior knowledge and attending to student motivations and interests as they translated a standalone lesson plan into a full-fledged unit.


Figure 3 also demonstrates divergent messages in the extent to which close reading is a practice that teachers should utilize because it will “level the playing field.” This message came from five of the six lesson plans from Student Achievement Partners, as well as the two videos hosted on EngageNY.org and the Publisher’s Criteria. For example, in his recorded video conversation with David Coleman and Kate Gerson on how teachers should prepare for close reading with students, then-New York State Education Commissioner John King brings up the parallels in the arguments used in the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” saying that “if students have access to all three of those texts—that’s life-changing” (New York State Education Department & Public Broadcasting Service, 2012b). In a different video providing a model for how a teacher might lead students through a close reading of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” David Coleman uses an equity-based argument at several points to justify close reading. He says, “What’s at stake here in this kind of patient teaching is letting kids at a very wide range of ability into the hard work of reading a text closely, carefully, and well” (New York State Education Department & Public Broadcasting Service, 2012a). He goes on to say that teachers should first let students read the close reading text independently, but then read it to students because “reading something out loud gives a much wider range of students access to the text” (New York State Education Department & Public Broadcasting Service, 2012a). Other resources did not disagree with this equity argument; they just did not use it as part of a rationale for why close reading is important.


Figure 3. Sociogram of resources to messages about elements of close reading

[39_23019.htm_g/00003.jpg]

Note: Red circles indicate individual resources with messages about close reading. Blue squares indicate specific instructional messages about close reading. Tie strength indicates resources that were duplicated in the sample (e.g., 12 of the 31 resources with messages about close reading were the Publisher’s Criteria). The node size of close reading messages (blue squares) indicates the number of resources expressing that message was present (larger nodes indicate that more resources expressed a particular message about how teachers should enact close reading).


DISCUSSION


These findings have implications for state and district leaders who are trying to provide helpful resources for teachers, as well as the SEAs and organizations that are creating resources. In summary, only a little more than a third of the resources from the 10 most central organizations in the state-level network addressed specific standards. We were surprised that so many resources did not address any specific standards, as it seems to indicate that the resource authors and their organizational sponsors do not see a tight connection between specific standards and instructional practice as helpful to teachers or as part of their mission in providing information about the standards. Fredricksen (2011) argues that when teachers plan for classroom instruction, they often use standards to “link their ideas to larger entities in order to justify their curricular choices” (p. 45). If organizations wish for teachers to use their resources, they should be more explicit about how these resources are connected to standards so that teachers can make informed choices about whether and how to use these resources.


Almost all the resources that named specific standards included reading standards, especially standards about reading closely and academic vocabulary—meaning both understanding the literal meaning of unfamiliar words in context, and interpreting words’ symbolic meanings and the effect of authors’ word choices. One interpretation of the heavy focus on reading standards is that it may be difficult for teachers who rely on the state for resources to see the CCSS integrating all components of the language arts, especially writing and listening and speaking. In addition, the emphasis on reading standards, particularly the two standards that point towards close reading, may indicate that the most central organizations believe that close reading can serve as a corrective to what is described as current practice in CCSS Appendix A, which outlines a research-based rationale for the ELA standards. According to Appendix A, students are currently asked to read too much narrative text at too low a level of complexity, and are rarely asked to draw on textual evidence when talking or writing about that text. However, other research suggests that claims about a decline in text complexity may be overstated (Gamson, Lu, & Eckert, 2013; Pearson, 2013).


When considering topics within the resources rather than specific standards, this set of resources focused most heavily on the topics of reading literature and informational text, argument writing, the practice of close reading, and the three “instructional shifts.” The instructional shifts (Student Achievement Partners, n.d.) are one organization’s interpretation of how instruction should change to be aligned to the CCSS and are not officially part of the standards. We worry about the influence of ideas from a singular organization, especially an organization without direct ties to research in literacy communities and are concerned about the potential for overemphasizing one group’s interpretation of the standards. Districts have long played a critical role in instructional leadership (Gamson & Hodge, 2016). For district leaders who are searching for helpful resources to provide for teachers, we recommend turning to literacy organizations like NCTE and the International Literacy Association as organizations that are concerned with the profession as a whole rather than with one particular standards policy and may therefore present a broader and more integrated view of ELA instruction.


While the social network and descriptive analyses of organizations and resource topics demonstrates some convergence in the topics listed above, they also reveal that resources from the most central organizations do not often focus on narrative writing, special student populations, or instructional supports. Demonstrating a relationship between particular implementation foci and student achievement is difficult—Kane et al. (2016) were unable to identify an association between any particular implementation approach and student achievement in ELA. Still, if the CCSS are more rigorous than previous state standards (Porter, McMaken, Hwang, & Yang, 2011), we argue that it would be helpful to have more resources focused on scaffolding and how to enable students at a broad range of readiness levels to read and write at a sophisticated level. Indeed, Pearson (2013) calls our knowledge of scaffolding techniques for making complex texts accessible to students as critical to CCSS implementation but also “the big unknown” (p. 7). Some of the close reading resources emphasize how access and equity can occur through close reading (Coleman & Pimentel, 2012; Student Achievement Partners, 2015), including the suggestion of a teacher reading a text to students as a scaffold. However, this is just one small example of a scaffold that may or may not be effective for some students. Appropriate scaffolding will depend on many factors, including the task students are completing, teachers’ instruction, and individual students (Benko, 2013); organizations cannot write curricular resources that would meet the needs of all teachers or students at all times. However, organizations can provide more resources that recognize students will come from a variety of backgrounds with a range of readiness levels, and write curricular resources that acknowledge several possibilities, thus providing a teacher with options to make the best choice for her particular context. Furthermore, SEAs may consider what kinds of resource needs are unique to their states’ demographics (e.g., a large number of English language learners) and provide resources that best suit those needs.


This work also suggests the importance of providing a variety of resources that try to equitably represent the different areas within the standards. With any shift in a policy landscape, it makes sense that some new ideas may be emphasized—for example, in the case of the CCSS, ideas around close reading have come to the fore. However, at the same time, when many resources are created around few topics, it means other parts of ELA may be overlooked. In the current selection of resources represented by these top organizations, it appears that writing, especially non-argument-based writing, may again have the potential to be neglected (National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges, 2003).


Fourteen states provided resources sponsored by at least one of the top 10 organizations with messages about close reading. The social network analysis of messages about close reading, both at the organization level and the resource level, illuminates some common understandings of the elements of close reading—asking text-dependent questions, using complex texts, and doing repeated readings (Coleman, 2011; Fang & Pace, 2013; Fisher & Frey, 2014). However, the resources’ positions on how teachers should enact close reading diverged around the extent to which historical or background knowledge should be allowed to inform students’ reading, and the types of supports offered to students. Some resources heavily emphasized close reading of complex text as a practice that would promote equity by allowing a broader range of students access to those texts. For the most part, the advocates for close reading as an equity-oriented strategy seemed to argue that the fairest thing for all students is to be asked questions that “stay within the four corners of the text.” However, the idea that students can somehow disassociate their prior knowledge from their experience of reading a text is not fully supported by research (Pearson, 2013; Snow & O’Connor, 2013). Further, an approach that focuses only on the text may actually be counterproductive and even harmful to helping students understand complex text that requires a great deal of background knowledge, especially for students who have not been previously exposed to that knowledge.


Social network analysis has historically been used to study relationships between people and organizations (Daly, 2010) and, in literacy, has been used to identify organizations that advance particular ideas within reading instruction (Miskel & Song, 2004; Song & Miskel, 2005, 2007). Our prior work highlights the relationship between organizations and SEAs, demonstrating that organizations, especially particular organizations such as the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, and Student Achievement Partners, have had an influential role in implementation of literacy policy through providing a variety of CCSS resources (Hodge et al., 2016). While the relatively small number of unique resources focused on close reading from bounded set of organizations can be seen as a limitation in terms of sample size, the number of duplicate resources and the high number of states linking to influential materials like the Publisher’s Criteria suggest that a small set of organizations and individuals have had a strong influence on shaping instruction they see as in line with standards. We suggest that social network analysis can also be a useful tool for understanding relationships between ideas and organizations, especially how messages diverge within organizations. Creating visual representations of the recommendations within these resources not only by organization, but also by specific resource, allows readers to better understand divergence within organizations. For example, two lesson plans from Student Achievement Partners suggest that teachers incorporate historical content knowledge, but this organization, overall, seems to shy away from that recommendation. In other words, all resources from an organization, as in this case, are not necessarily internally coherent. By representing this data visually in different ways, organizations’ positions on issues can be demonstrated in a more nuanced way, which can help researchers obtain a clearer understanding of organizations’ priorities. We see social network analysis as a tool that has potential to illuminate the relationships between ideas and organizations, in addition to those between people and/or organizations, in order to better understand how recommendations about how teachers ought to enact a literacy policy may flow within a system at the national, state, and local levels.


LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH


This study provides insight into the standards and topics of curricular and professional resources involved in standards implementation, as well as specific messages about close reading. Currently, this study focuses on a relatively narrow set of organizational sponsors, analyzing resources sponsored by at least one of the 10 most central organizations in the state-level network (Hodge et al., 2016). Future research might expand this analysis to resources sponsored by a broader set of organizations, do a deeper dive into how the resources from different organizations compare to each other in their instructional messages, or investigate how assessment consortia membership may be linked to resource content. Another way to expand this analysis of instructional messages would be to conduct a content analysis of other topics within the resources. Analyzing messages about how teachers should not only enact close reading, but how these messages compare to how teachers should teach reading in general, would provide a broader range of messages about reading instruction. A closer examination of the resources’ normative messages about how teachers should support and scaffold students would also provide nuance to the instructional messages presented here. Even the sample of resources focused on close reading had divergent messages about the nature of student supports; thus, we would expect a diversity of messages in a larger sample around what types of student supports the resources describe as appropriate.


This work is also limited in that it focuses only on the availability of resources that are provided by SEAs. As such, this study cannot be used to understand the larger landscape of CCSS resources available to teachers, nor can it interrogate the relationship between educational resources and student outcomes. Further, most SEA-provided resources did not have publication dates, so we cannot assess with certainty if resources were posted before or after the adoption of new standards. However, understanding the nature of resources from the most influential organizations at the state level aids in understanding the way that information about standards is communicated to teachers; future work could investigate how teachers use these resources in their classrooms or how these resources may be connected to student learning outcomes. This examination of resources identified only the standards that the resources explicitly labeled as being an area of focus. While this limited the degree of interpretation and thus increased reliability of coding, there are likely other standards addressed within these resources that may not have been clearly labeled.


In addition, while this social network analysis examines commonly cited topics in this set of resources, it does not examine the network of organizations and/or foundations that have funded the creation of these resources. Some scholars have used social network analysis to examine how foundations or wealthy individuals have influenced education policy (Au & Ferrare, 2014; Ferrare & Reynolds, 2016; Reckhow & Snyder, 2014); others have examined issues of funding without using social network analysis (Kornhaber, Barkauskas, & Griffith, 2016). Future work could gather data about the sources of financial support for these influential organizations. In addition, understanding the key individuals within these organizations and their social networks would provide a clearer idea about where ideas about literacy instruction present in these materials may originate. Future research might use a combination of interviews and social network analysis to understand the source of these individuals’ ideas about literacy.


Overall, the CCSS say they are meant to provide guidance about what is taught, not how to teach. The introduction to the CCSS explains: “the Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach” (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010, p. 6). The standards’ authors made clear that the standards are meant to guide teaching, but teachers can decide how to enact these goals in their own classrooms. However, there may be some danger in introducing the term “read closely” in the standards, as it seems to provide the opportunity for CCSS supporters to make pedagogical recommendations about how to read rather than set goals and expectations for reading. As a result, the potential grows for multiple interpretations of this term, especially given the vast array of curricular resources that have been developed for the CCSS (Hodge et al., 2016).


This study applies social network analysis in a novel way—as a visualization tool for understanding the relationship between state-provided standards resources, the organizations providing those resources, and the content of those resources. Researchers might consider using social network analysis to visualize other types of relationships between organizations and ideas, such as the policy positions different organizations express in the media on a particular topic. This study provides an important first step in applying the tools of social network analysis to visualizing the relationships between organizations and instructional messages, thus allowing for a better understanding of the coherence of messages around standards’ meaning for instructional practice.


Notes


1. We ranked organizations according to the number of states linking to a resource from a particular organization (in other words, each organization’s in-degree centrality, [Borgatti, Everett, & Johnson, 2013]), explained in more detail in the Methods section. A list of the 10 most central organizations can be found in Table 1.


2. A visualization of the national network of state connections to resource sponsors is provided in Figure 1 of Hodge et al. (2016).


3. See Hodge and Benko (2014) for a lengthier discussion of the standards and the shifts.


4. A table with all close reading resources is provided in Appendix A, including the resource abbreviation used in Figure 3; the state(s) linking to that resource; the resource’s sponsoring organization(s); and a full citation for each resource.


Acknowledgement


We gratefully acknowledge the comments of the anonymous reviewers that helped to strengthen this manuscript, as well as the assistance of our graduate students in compiling the national dataset of state-provided resources for English/language arts.  


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APPENDIX A


CLOSE READING RESOURCE INFORMATION

Abbreviation

Linking States

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Resource Citation

AtC_LP1

Rhode Island

Student Achievement Partners


Student Achievement Partners. (2013). The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. Retrieved from https://achievethecore.org/page/35/the-gettysburg-address-by-abraham-lincoln

AtC_LP2

Rhode Island

Student Achievement Partners


Student Achievement Partners. (2013). Words we live by: Your annotated guide to the Constitution by Linda R Monk. Retrieved from http://achievethecore.org/page/33/sample-lesson-words-we-live-by

AtC_LP3

Rhode Island

Student Achievement Partners

Cannaday, J. L., & Student Achievement Partners. (2013). Grade 8 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Retrieved from

http://achievethecore.org/page/32/sample-lesson-narrative-of-the-life-of-frederick-douglass

AtC_LP4

Rhode Island

Student Achievement Partners


Riesenfeld, D., & Student Achievement Partners. (2013). Grade 8 “Unbroken” and “Farewell to Manzanar”. Retrieved from http://achievethecore.org/page/26/sample-lesson-unbroken-farewell-to-manzanar

AtC_LP5

Rhode Island

Student Achievement Partners

Student Achievement Partners. (2013). "The glorious whitewasher" lesson with mini assessment. Retrieved from http://achievethecore.org/page/22/sample-lesson-the-glorious-whitewasher

AtC_LP6

Rhode Island

Student Achievement Partners

Student Achievement Partners. (2013). The making of a scientist by Richard Feynman. Retrieved from

http://achievethecore.org/page/239/sample-lesson-the-making-of-a-scientist

EngageNYVid1

Delaware

Public Broadcasting Service

EngageNY.org

New York State Education Department


New York State Education Department, & Public Broadcasting Service. (2012, Oct. 30). Common Core video series: Preparing for close reading with students. EngageNY Video Library. Retrieved from http://www.engageny.org/resource/preparing-for-close-reading-with-students/

EngageNYVid2

Delaware

Public Broadcasting Service

EngageNY.org

New York State Education Department

New York State Education Department, & Public Broadcasting Service. (2012, Dec. 5). Common Core video series: Close reading of a text: MLK "Letter from Birmingham Jail". EngageNY Video Library. Retrieved from http://www.engageny.org/resource/middle-school-ela-curriculum-video-close-reading-of-a-text-mlk-letter-from-birmingham-jail

EQuIP_Rubric

Arizona

Achieve


Educators Evaluating Quality Instructional Products, & Achieve. (2013, June 24). EQuIP rubric for lessons & units: ELA/literacy (grades 3-5) and ELA (grades 6-12). Retrieved from http://www.azed.gov/azccrs/files/2013/11/3-12elaliteracyequiprubric_112013.pdf

GATextDependent?s

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Department of Education

Student Achievement Partners


Rhode Island Department of Education, & Student Achievement Partners. (2012, June). From Common Core unit: A close reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (www.achievethecore.org): A sampling of questions from the unit. Retrieved from http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/

Documents/Common-Core/Lincolns-Gettysburg-Address-Questions.pdf

Pub_Criteria


Alaska

Arizona

California

Delaware

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

New Hampshire

Ohio

Vermont

Wisconsin

West Virginia

Student Achievement Partners

Council of Chief State School Officers

National Governors Association

Achieve

National Association of State Board of Education


Coleman, D., & Pimentel, S. (2012). Revised publishers’ criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and literacy, grades 3-12. Council of Chief State School Officers, Achieve, Council of the Great City Schools, National Association of State Boards of Education.

RIDOE_LP1

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Department of Education

Student Achievement Partners

Rhode Island Department of Education, & Student Achievement Partners. (2015). A close reading model lesson with student supports: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Retrieved from http://ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Instruction-and-Assessment-World-Class-Standards/Literacy/CCSS-for-ELA-Literacy/Grade%208%20Frederick%20Douglass%20Final%20version%207.1.15.pdf


RIDOE_LP2

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Department of Education

Student Achievement Partners

Rhode Island Department of Education, & Student Achievement Partners. (2015). A close reading model lesson with student supports: Learned Hand's "I am an American day address" (1944). Retrieved from http://ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Instruction-and-Assessment-World-Class-Standards/Literacy/CCSS-for-ELA-Literacy/Grade%2011%20I%20am%20an%20American%20final%20version%207.1.15.pdf

SchoolLeader

Idaho

Achieve

College Summit

National Association of Secondary School Principals

National Association of Elementary School Principals


Achieve, College Summit, National Association of Secondary School Principals, & National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2013, Feb.) Implementing the Common Core State Standards: The role of the school leader. A joint action brief. Washington, D.C.: Authors. Retrieved from https://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/common/docs/RevisedSecondaryActionBrief_Final_Feb.pdf

SilentTeaParty

Oregon

Vermont

Teaching Channel


Teaching Channel. (2012). Silent tea party: Pre-reading for challenging texts. Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/pre-reading-strategies?fd=1

    

TriStatePD

Rhode Island

Achieve

Massachusetts Department of Education

New York State Department of Education

Rhode Island Department of Education


Achieve American Diploma Project Network. (2012, June). Tri-state quality review rubric & process: Mathematics and ELA/literacy lessons/units. Retrieved from http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Common-Core/TriStateQRRP-Mathematics-and-ELA-Literacy-2012-06-11.ppt


APPENDIX B

CLOSE READING CODES

Category

Description

Code

Rationale for code

Purpose/elements of close reading

Describes why close reading should be used as an instructional strategy, its benefits, or provides general requirements necessary for close reading to be enacted.

Improves equity

This purpose mentioned by Coleman and Pimentel (2012) and Student Achievement Partners (2015, p. 10).

Uses complex texts

This element included in Coleman (2011) and Fisher and Frey (2014).

Has lessons lasting more than two class periods

This element emerged from data.

Strategies for close reading

Describes specific classroom practices that teachers could use when enacting close reading.

Incorporate historical context/background knowledge

This strategy recommended by Appleman (2014) and Smith et al. (2014).

Read texts multiple times

This strategy recommended by Fang and Pace (2013) and Fisher and Frey (2014).

Use text-dependent questions

This strategy recommended by Fang and Pace (2013) and Fisher and Frey (2014).

Use of pre-reading strategies

This strategy discouraged by Brown and Kappes (2012), Coleman (2011), and Shanahan and Duffett (2013).

Provide vocabulary definitions before reading

This element emerged from data.


APPENDIX C

CODING SAMPLES

Resource and Sponsoring Organization

Data Description

Code

Rationale

The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln lesson plan; Student Achievement Partners (AtC_LP1)

Standard: None mentioned

Topics: Other (close reading, evidence from text)

The lesson plan says that students have to make an inference to answer the question, “What happened four score and seven years ago?” and teachers need to focus on what students can infer about 1776 from what Lincoln says without giving them any historical information or asking students to draw on their outside knowledge. The lesson plan says it is ok for teachers to mention the Declaration, but they should not focus on it, and if students bring it up, teachers should redirect students back to what they can infer from the text alone.

Use text-dependent questions

This lesson plan focuses on “text alone.” The lesson plan provides teachers with specific directives to redirect students back to the text and ask questions that require students to answer based on what they can infer from the text by itself.

Grade 8 “Unbroken” and “Farewell to Manzanar” lesson plan; Student Achievement Partners (AtC_LP4)

Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1, R.2, R.3, R.5, R.6, .R.7, W.1, W.2, W.9, SL.1, L.4

Other standards: RH.8.1, RH.8.2, RH.8.4, RH.8.5, RH.8.6, RH.8.7, RH.8.9

Topics: Reading Literature; Speaking/Listening; Other (pre-reading[other], close reading)

The lesson plan says teachers can use it in two ways—(1) for students to do close readings of these passages but in the context of reading the full texts from which they are excerpted, or (2) “to develop, discuss, and write about important historical themes” based on what students can glean from these passages to add to their existing historical understandings.

Incorporate historical context/

background knowledge

In either use, this lesson plan assumes that students will have some familiarity with the historical context of World War II, Pearl Harbor, and Japanese internment camps, and suggests that students should call on that background knowledge in combination with the texts for a richer understanding of soldier and civilian experiences of wartime.

Note: Resource and Sponsoring Organization column includes the resource title with the resource type in bold text; the sponsoring organization; the resource abbreviation used in the sociogram in parentheses; and the coded standard(s) and topics(s).




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 3, 2020, p. 1-42
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23019, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 7:21:12 PM

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About the Author
  • Emily Hodge
    Montclair State University
    E-mail Author
    EMILY M. HODGE is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Montclair State University. Her research focuses on understanding the intended and unintended consequences of equity-oriented educational policy from the national level to the classroom level. Recent publications include The Shifting Landscape of the American School District, a volume co-edited with Dr. David Gamson (Peter Lang, 2018), and an article on the use of inducements in desegregation policy in Educational Policy.
  • Susanna Benko
    Ball State University
    E-mail Author
    SUSANNA L. BENKO is an associate professor of English at Ball State University. Her research interests center on secondary teacher education, curriculum design, and educational policies that influence English/language arts instruction—especially the teaching of writing. Her work has been published in journals such as English Education, AERA Open, and English Teaching: Practice and Critique.
  • Serena Salloum
    Ball State University
    E-mail Author
    SERENA J. SALLOUM is an associate professor of educational leadership at Ball State University. Her research examines how school context promotes educational outcomes; in particular, she focuses on how organizational culture and structure promote equity in high-poverty schools. Recent work has been featured in AERA Open and Teachers College Record.
 
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