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Common Core: At a Bookstore Near You

The Common Core State Standards have rolled slowly from the writing tables to state departments of education and on down to districts and schools. Even more slowly, they're making their way into parents' homes. If there could be a sure sign of that, it might well be this table at Barnes & Noble:


My colleague Michele McNeil caught sight of this with her trusty iPhone on a recent stroll through the Barnes & Noble around the corner from EdWeek's office in Bethesda, Md.

I wondered whether the bookstore chose its display titles for grades 4 and 5 straight from the common core's list of recommended readings (contained in Appendix B of the English/language arts standards), so I flipped open the list for that grade band. Only one—Bud, Not Buddy—was taken from that list of exemplars for grades 4 and 5 (although it's true, I can't see the other side of the display in this photograph). Another, Sarah, Plain and Tall, came from the list of exemplars for grades 2 and 3.

One interesting thing to note in this display is how the common core has ramped up reading expectations. The widely used Lexile measure is one way to get a glimpse of this.

Using the company's Quick Book Search tool (in the upper-right corner of its homepage), you can see that one of the books on the common-core display at Barnes & Noble, The Giver, is assigned a Lexile of 760.

Flipping to the Lexile-to-grade-correspondence chart, you can see that in 2009, The Giver was considered a 5th grade book. But Lexile recalibrated its levels to correspond to the common standards' college-ready expectations of increased rigor. So Lexile now places that novel at the 4th grade level.

With a Lexile of 950, Bud, Not Buddy was considered a book for 7th and 8th graders a few years ago, but now it's considered appropriate for 5th and 6th graders. Island of the Blue Dolphins used to be placed in the 8-10 grade band, but now Lexile includes it in grades 7 and 8.

Some books haven't changed levels. Sarah, Plain and Tall, for instance, is still a 2nd grade book, with a Lexile of 560.

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