The educational sector has reached a pivotal crossroads. Educational legislation and federally funded initiatives enacted by the current and previous Presidential Administrations, such as the Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind, have placed significant focus, in not only attention and scrutiny, but also in resources, on the advancement of educational attainment levels across the nation. The push for common educational standards has reinvigorated the interest of the general public in education in a way that has been unparalleled in recent history. This is an era for unprecedented reorganization, reform and, optimistically, advancement for American public education.
At the center of the current educational debate is the adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), currently approved in forty-four states and the District of Columbia (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2014). The CCSS are standardized learning goals that are specific to each grade level, designed to set clear expectations for students, teachers, and parents that are robust and relevant to the skills needed in the real world (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2014). These standards have been designed intentionally to “articulate a vision of what it means to be ‘a literate person in the twenty first century (Gambrell, Malloy, & Mazzoni, 2011, p. 15).” The CCSS for English Language Arts & Literacy are intended to ensure all students college and career ready in literacy at the completion of high school, requiring all students to read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010). This is the future of classroom instruction for the State of Arkansas, and it is a consensus among educators that Common Core “…will have a dramatic impact on literacy instruction and assessment in American classrooms in the coming decade (Gambrell, Malloy, & Mazzoni, 2011, p. 15).”
A great focus in instruction has been placed upon increasing literacy and comprehension abilities, due to the impact that literacy has on success rates in all subject areas (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010). This aligns with the basic, foundational agreement in education that a student’s ability to succeed academically is directly related to his or her progression in reading and writing (NAEYC, 1998). The goal of English Language Arts instruction is to achieve a higher level understanding of reading and writing, known as a level of fluency or ease with both skills. One component of literacy is Oral Reading Fluency, which is defined as ‘‘a level of accuracy and rate where decoding is relatively effortless; where oral reading is smooth and accurate with correct prosody; and where attention can be allocated to comprehension” (Wolf & Katzir, Cohen, 2001, p.218).
Instruction in today’s classroom must focus on achieving a level of fluency that accomplishes the established learning...