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Common Core Literacy

Literacy Design Collaborative

New Visions for Public Schools is a collaborating partner of the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC), a loosely affiliated group of educators nationwide working to ensure that secondary teachers have strong supports for teaching literacy in all content areas. LDC offers a framework for building the college-and-career-ready literacy skills specified by the Common Core State Standards. Students develop their reading and writing skill as they take on tasks that set demanding assignments in science, history, English, or another subject.  Teachers build out the approach by filling in LDC template tasks with content appropriate to their own classrooms.

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, New Visions staff are coaching teachers at 17 schools in using LDC as a tool to integrate common-core skills in social studies, science and English classes.

LDC Writing Modules

Each LDC writing module addresses "big ideas" or enduring understandings central to science, history or English language arts. The modules engage students in complex, higher-order thinking skills specific to the subject area and provide opportunities to hone specific common-core skills. Importantly, the task cannot be completed without reading and using evidence from appropriately challenging texts. 

For example, a 10th grade teacher assigned her students an argumentative essay around the question “Were the achievements of  the British Industrial Revolution worth the cost to society?” and provided her student with a packet of primary and secondary source documents to guide their inquiry. (Watch a video summary of this lesson.)

Through LDC, reading, writing,  speaking and listening about challenging ideas and texts are skills that are taught and coached, not just assigned.  This is accomplished through a "ladder of instruction"—a series of "mini-tasks" that serve as:

  • Stepping stones to complete the reading, note taking, organizing, discussing, drafting, revising, editing necessary to arrive at final product;
  • Scaffolding to work on specific, common-core aligned skills;
  • Formative assessment tools for teacher to check for understanding day by day and adjust  the ladder of instruction as needed to maximize student success.

Mini-tasks are also used routinely at LDC schools even when there is not an ambitious culminating written product. Whether a mini-task takes 10 minutes or a whole period, they are used to help students learn content through reading, discussion and writing, simultaneously strengthening targeted literacy skills.

New Visions is collaborating with scholars from Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley on a mini-task library that will help teachers across the country find the right strategy for helping students attain a variety of literacy skills across grades and content areas whether as part of an LDC module or as a stand-alone task.

National Paideia Center

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, New Visions is collaborating with the North Carolina-based National Paideia Center to help teachers at four middle and high schools create fully common-core aligned humanities courses integrating social studies and English language arts.

Each course  includes not only  LDC modules but also Paideia Seminars, collaborative, intellectual dialogue facilitated by open-ended questions about a text. The goal of a Paideia Seminar is for students to expand their understanding of ideas, concepts, and values about the curriculum. The seminars also offer students a chance to closely read and derive deep meaning from texts that might otherwise be well beyond their current reading level.   Students delve into important primary sources and keystone texts such as  Pericles’ Funeral Oration, Plato’s Republic, and Hammurabi’s Code.