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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.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 3, 2020, p. 1-42
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23019, Date Accessed: 9/23/2021 10:53:05 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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