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Basal-Reader Project Goes Online

Teachers and literacy specialists in districts across the country are rewriting the questions in some of the most commonly used basal readers. You might have heard about this new effort; we wrote about it this past spring, when one of the first gatherings took place in Baltimore.

They're reworking the questions because they're finding that the questions often don't reflect the aims of the common standards. Suggested teacher questions in basal readers often seek students' opinions or feelings about what they read, or lead them to speculate on things outside the text. The common standards, by contrast, put a heavy emphasis on "text dependent" questions, which force students to dive back into the text for answers, meaning, and evidence.

The question-rewriting work, dubbed the Basal Alignment Project, now has a home online, where the questions drafted by participating districts have been posted. More districts are joining the work as the weeks go by (there's another meeting in Cleveland next month), and discussions about text-dependent questions are unfolding on the site. It's at Edmodo, and the group code is etuyrm.

The Basal Alignment Project is led by the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents the biggest school districts in the country, with the assistance of Student Achievement Partners, the New York City group whose co-founders played leading roles developing the common standards. The council's language arts and literacy director, Robin Hall, gives an overview of the project in a video posted on Vimeo.

The council has also produced videos on common-core implementation in math and English/language arts, and helped organize districts recently to leverage common-core-aligned instructional materials from the publishing industry.

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