Thursday, June 3, 2010

Common core raises the bar on evidence in student arguments

The multi-state Common Core standards (soon to be known also as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards) come with a new built-in expectation about student thinking.

First, the literacy document lists eight overall capacities of "students who are college and career ready in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language."  The sixth item on the list is that:
They value evidence.  Students cite specific evidence when offering an oral or written interpretation of a text. They use relevant evidence when supporting their own points in writing and speaking, making their reasoning clear to the reader or listener, and they constructively evaluate others’ use of evidence.
Then, in the thirty-two anchor standards elaborating what makes a student college-and-career-ready, I count six references to evidence used in argument:
  • 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. (Reading 1)
  • Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence. (Reading 8)
  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. (Writing 1)
  • Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (Writing 9)
  • Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric. (Speaking & Listening 3)
  • Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Speaking & Listening 4)
Even that list is probably too short, because additional anchor standards look for related things like analysis of supporting details and development of main ideas.

Finally, there are grade-by-grade standards showing the steps by which students should climb toward meeting the college-and-career-ready anchors.  Evidence to support arguments again gets steady emphasis. The kindergarten versions are very simple things, but even at that level, students should "With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text." and "With prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text."

Is ability to use evidence and build arguments and explanations important for college success?  Certainly.

Will that capacity be useful in most jobs--and nearly all jobs that can support a family?  Definitely.

Will our communities and our state be stronger if our future citizens are well-prepared for this sort of engagement?  No doubt about it.

Do we have our work cut out for us?  Yes, we surely do.

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