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Urban Districts Promote Pact on Common-Core Materials

A group of more than 20 of the nation's urban school districts have agreed on a set of "publishers' criteria" that will guide the creation of language arts textbooks and other instructional materials that adhere to the Common Core State Standards, now adopted in all but four states, according to the Council of the Great City Schools.

The districts will make an official announcement June 28, at a meeting in New York jointly hosted by the council, the New York City education department, and Student Achievement Partners, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that played a leading role in crafting the common-core standards and wrote the criteria. The coalition has pledged to buy or create materials that reflect the criteria for grades K-2 and grades 3-12 that have been widely circulating among educators and publishers for months.

In addition to New York, the pact includes Albuquerque, N.M.; Baltimore; Chicago, the District of Columbia; Erie, Pa.; Los Angeles; St. Louis, Mo.; and Wichita, Kansas.

This agreement on language and literacy materials is important because it provides a road map for publishers who are now wrestling over how to craft useful texts for districts as they shift to the common standards. It also carries the potential to exert big leverage on the publishing industry as it creates those materials.

To fully reflect the standards, for example, the publishers' criteria for grades 3-12 note that "80 to 90 percent of the Reading Standards in each grade require text-dependent analysis; accordingly, aligned curriculum materials should have a similar percentage of text-dependent questions." You can read more about what the criteria specify in a story by my colleague Catherine Gewertz, who wrote about them last July, when they were first released.

Catherine also followed up with an article on how the criteria generated a stir when they were first released because critics felt that they wandered too far into teaching methods and instructional strategies, such as prereading, a popular method some teachers use to prepare students for what they are about to read. In response to those criticisms, the criteria were revised to move away from some instructional details.

The Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of the nation's urban districts, noted that its members serve 8 million students and spend $2 to $4 billion each year on instructional resources, including textbooks and online materials. The districts that support these publishers' criteria—an implicit agreement to reject materials that don't adhere to these standards—hope that it will make a huge impact in the educational publishing world. The districts have also agreed to adhere to publishers' criteria for math materials based on the common core; those criteria are expected to be released this summer.

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