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Common Core Writing Standards and Prof. Steve Graham

I have been stewing about the seeming lack of a strong evidence base supporting the Common Core writing standards (see this post). 

In my search for answers, I came across the work of Prof. Steve Graham at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. He’s an expert in evidence-based practice in writing instruction, and he does a lot of meta-analyses. I love people who do meta-analyses — they know their stuff and pay careful attention to the quality of the evidence before them. Like the Cochrane Review people.

In 2015, Graham did a big meta-analysis and meta-synthesis of research on how to teach writing in order to meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). He wrote:

It must also be noted that the theory or theories of development underlying the creation of CCSS in writing are not readily apparent.

Graham, S., Harris, K. R., Santangelo, T. (2015). Research-based writing practices and the Common Core: Meta-analysis and meta-synthesis. Elementary School Journal, 115, 498–522.

That’s academic speak for “They just pulled these standards out of thin air.” 🤯

Bewildered, I spoke to a friend who trained at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, who told me that “curriculum studies” — meaning, the study of what should be taught, to whom, and for what ends — is one of the less developed subfields in education research. In other words, the experts are just making sausage. I’m afraid that my faith in the American education system will be another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Categories: Curriculum English Language Arts

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