Students in the United States consistently rank below those of other developed countries; the need for rethinking how students are taught is significant. The PBL classroom attempts to address that need, in order to create students who can be competitive in the 21st century global workforce. However, this emphasis on inquiry-based practices is not enough- Smarter Balanced assessments show that a large number of students are reading below grade level. There are gains to be made in thinking critically and learning to collaborate, but grade-level reading comprehension must also be addressed for college and career readiness.
The California Department of Education reveals that nearly half of the 8th graders in the middle school where this study took place did not meet reading standards in their 2015 Smarter Balanced assessments; statewide, 52% of California 8th graders did not meet ELA literacy standards (2016). Students need to develop 21st century skills while at the same time mastering Common Core standards for literacy. Knowledge gained from this inquiry stands to inform instruction in a way that can utilize PBL practices and teach students through the rigorous reading and thought inherent in CCSS.
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