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Maryland Educators’ Perceptions of Informational Reading and Nonfiction Writing Instruction during the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards Open Access

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The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS-ELA) call for a greater focus on informational reading and nonfiction writing during high school instruction. The ELA standards assume that teaching reading and writing will become a shared responsibility within a school and include standards for teachers of science and social studies as well as English. However, not all teachers may be prepared to incorporate informational reading and nonfiction writing into their curriculum and instruction. Using a basic qualitative research methodology, this study examined how educators in one Maryland school district—including English, science, and social studies teachers and school administrators—made sense of the CCSS-ELA and how these educators worked, or did not work, to incorporate more informational reading and nonfiction writing into their classrooms. Educators’ understanding of the CCSS-ELA was shaped, in part, by their district’s curriculum frameworks and a district-required literacy project. This study found (a) that while most of the educators interviewed supported the Common Core, teachers were generally overwhelmed with multiple competing or conflicting polices that made it difficult to focus on implementing the standards; (b) educators had mixed responses to the district-offered supports intended to help them implement the CCSS-ELA; (c) the departmentalization inherent in most high school structures limited collaboration around the standards among teachers of different subjects (d) improving student writing proved to be particularly difficult. The study suggests a need for increased policy alignment at the district and state levels to facilitate implementation of key aspects of the Common Core. Another implication is the continued need for differentiated professional development and other implementation supports based on the subject taught and level of teacher experience.

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