Battle of words: New education standards require students to read more 'informational texts'

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis (WEAU)--Think back to your high school days…
Remember those classics you read in English class; books like “To Kill a Mockingbird”, George Orwell’s “1984,” or “Huckleberry Finn?” Now, what if those classics were taken away?

That may be the case for Wisconsin schools along with 46 other states. New national core education standards are changing what your kids are reading at school. National research shows there has been a decline in kids’ ability to understand complex texts, like journals and peer reviews, when they finish high school. While that kind of text is increasingly being used in college and the workplace.

“The idea is that all students need to be reading at a higher level,” said Jenny Stark Chippewa Falls Curriculum Coordinator.

This school year, schools across the state are slowly rolling out new guidelines for reading.

“There will be an adjustment in our language arts and reading classes. The other piece is really trying to focus other content areas, like social studies and science, and helping those teacher help students with reading,” said Stark.

The new core standards say schools should replace traditional literature like poetry with more non-fiction and by senior year 70% of required reading should be 'informational text.'

“We had previously focused a lot on novels and even non-fiction text would be more magazine articles or more in book form,” said Stark.

Stark says instead schools will be expected to introduce students to more journal articles and research papers.

“You don't read it like a novel page by page you read for information you need,” said Stark.

She says the idea is that those texts help students learn to problem-solve and teach different comprehension skills.

“When you get something complex; how do you keep at and figure it out and try to get that information? Versus trying to find any easier way to get that information through Google or something else,” said stark.

But the change leaves less room for those classic novels that have become a staple in high school classrooms.

“We are trying to find a middle ground so kids get both experiences. We will still have those classic novels but which ones?

The Chippewa falls school district says they haven't made any major decisions on which books stay or go.
The new core standards have to be in place by 2014.

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