Academic journal article School Psychology Review

The Common Core State Standards and Evidence-Based Educational Practices: The Case of Writing

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

The Common Core State Standards and Evidence-Based Educational Practices: The Case of Writing

Article excerpt

Abstract. Although writing plays an important role in the academic, psychosocial, and economic success of individuals, typical writing instruction and assessment in the United States generally does not reflect evidence-based practices. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) place a great deal of emphasis on written expression and may encourage an increased focus on writing in schools and help to positively shape the practices of educators. In this article, we summarize a theoretically grounded content analysis of the writing and language standards of the CCSS to identify apparent strengths and limitations in the standards. We also note the degree to which the CCSS may support the adoption of evidence-based practices for writing instruction and assessment by teachers based on the content. The CCSS for writing and language appear to be succinct and balanced with respect to the content addressed, but some aspects of writing are not covered well (e.g., spelling) or at all (e.g., motivation). Out of 36 evidence-based writing instruction and assessment practices, the CCSS signal less than half of these in any given grade, suggesting that practitioners will need to consult other resources to acquire knowledge about such practices and how to exploit them to facilitate students' attainment of the standards. Finally, we recommend ways in which school psychologists can function as a valuable resource for teachers and schools in their efforts to deploy evidence-based practices, especially for students who struggle with writing.

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The current educational zeitgeist of evidence-based practices and interventions tings loudly in the offices of school administrators, professional organizations and research centers, hallways and meeting rooms of schools, colleges of education and government entities, the host of media, and the education research literature. This is likely as it should be because education professionals, scholars, policymakers, and the public at large all should have an abiding interest in the academic, social, physical, and psychological well-being of children and adolescents. Although many efforts have been made to bolster the well-being of students (e.g., free and reduced-price meal programs, reductions in class size, data-based decision-making and accountability), teaching practices are perhaps what matters most in helping students become well adjusted individuals within the classroom.

Evidence-based practices (EBPs) are a prima facie mechanism for promoting positive educational outcomes because they are methods, programs, or procedures that integrate the best available research evidence with practice-based professional expertise in the context of student and family characteristics, values, and preferences (see American Psychological Association, 2005; Institute of Medicine, 2001; Sackett, Rosenberg, Gray, Haynes, & Richardson, 1996; Sackett, Straus, Richardson, Rosenberg, & Haynes, 2000). Moreover, the use of EBPs in schools is now codified in law and associated regulatory statutes (e.g., No Child Left Behind Act of 2001). Although students benefit from EBPs in all academic areas, the importance of writing in kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) and postsecondary education settings, the workplace, and communities highlights the importance of EBPs for writing instruction and assessment.

Teaching and Learning Writing in the United States

Academic writing is an essential part of the K-12 experience, as students are expected to compose texts to demonstrate, support, and deepen their knowledge and understanding of themselves, their relationships, and their world (Bangert-Drowns, Hurley, & Wilkinson, 2004; Graham, 2006; Graham & Perin, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c; Keys, 2000; Shanahan, 2009; Sperling & Freedman, 2001). In addition, writing appears to be crucial for students' success on high-stakes achievement tests that have become a linchpin in school reform efforts in the United States, which have been motivated in part by global competitiveness (e. …

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