How the Common Core Learning Standards are Influencing State Testing

It is obvious that the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) have influenced teachers’ instructional approach and classroom objectives.  At the same time, there is also a shift happening among state assessments.  Recently, I received an email from the New York State Education Department regarding the changes that are expected from a teacher’s instruction and the state wide assessments.

The email states, “In English Language Arts, these shifts will be characterized by an intense focus on complex, grade-appropriate nonfiction and fiction texts that require rigorous textual analysis, the application of academic language, and other key college- and career-readiness skills.”

There are six key shifts which teachers should expect to focus their instruction in English Language Arts & Literacy.

Shift 1 – Balancing Informational & Literacy Text: Students read a true balance of information and literary texts.

Shift 2  – Knowledge in the Disciplines: Students build knowledge about the world (domains/content areas) primarily through text rather than through the teacher or other activities.

Shift 3 – Staircase of Complexity: Students read the central, grade-appropriate text around which instruction is centered.  Teachers are patient, and create more time, space, and support in the curriculum for close reading.

Shift 4 – Text-based Answers: Students engage in rich and rigorous evidence-based conversations about text.

Shift 5 – Writing from Sources: Writing emphasizes use of evidence from sources to inform or make an argument.

Shift 6 – Academic Vocabulary: Students continuously build the transferable vocabulary they need to access grade-level complex texts. This can be done effectively by spiraling like content in increasingly complex texts.

A more detailed description of these shifts can be found at


What does all this mean for teachers and learning?

1. Lots of Reading and incorporating more non-fiction texts into the curriculum.

2. Persuasive Writing where students assert and defend claims.

3. Strategic Technology for creating, collaborating and refining writing.

4. Build Extensive Vocabularies for reading, writing, and understanding.

5. Opportunities for Speaking and the ability to listen attentively.

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