English teachers nationwide are puzzling over a math problem: How to include the right percentages of “informational text” new standards demand in their classes. In 2010, 45 states adopted the same lists detailing what kids should know in English and math at each K-12 grade. Although advocates promised uniformity would bring clarity, it has delivered confusion.
The Common Core requires elementary students to read half fiction and half nonfiction. That ratio gradually shifts until twelfth grade, when students must read 70 percent nonfiction. Major U.S. and foreign outlets have reported English teachers chucking lessons on poetry and To Kill a Mockingbird for units on government regulations and Federal Reserve papers.
“With informational text, there isn’t that human connection that you get with literature. And the kids are … getting bored. I’m seeing more behavior problems in my classroom than I’ve ever seen,” Arkansas 2011 Middle School Teacher of the Year Jamie Highfill told the Washington Post.
The English standards’ main authors have repeatedly stated the percentages apply across subjects, so history and science should fulfill most of the nonfiction requirements. But nationwide Common Core tests arriving in 2014 will only measure math and English, making those teachers responsible for how students handle nonfiction.
Image by Sean Kelly.