Some say the Common Core has sparked a new focus on content in the classroom. Others say it’s intensified the focus on comprehension “skills.” The answer depends on where you look.

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The Common Core literacy standards were intended to shift instruction toward building knowledge and away from illusory reading comprehension “skills.” But many teachers have stuck with “skills” and added nonfiction—a losing combination.

For decades, schools—especially at the elementary level—have spent many hours trying to teach reading comprehension “skills” like “finding the main idea” or “making inferences.” But, as cognitive scientists have long known, the most important factor in reading comprehension isn’t skill; it’s knowledge of the topic. If schools want to boost comprehension, they need to build knowledge through history, science, literature,

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