Since Common Core first shambled onto the education stage, teachers (particularly language teachers) have sounded the alarm about the infamous 70/30 split between fiction and non-fiction. "We'll have to drop studying Shakespeare to make room for reading instructions for IKEA shelving assembly," goes the complaint.
As a high school English teacher, I'm not very concerned about this requirement of the Core. If it's something that troubles you, I have a suggestion for how to deal with it.
Seriously. First, the 70/30 split is supposed to represent the student's entire program, so you can legitimately count on every other class in the student's schedule to provide the non-fiction content. Second, this split is part of what I call the unenforced content of the Core.
The 70/30 split is like collaboration-- sure, it's in the CCSS, but if you don't do it, then.... what? Someone from the US/Pearson Dept of Ed will stop by the room to look at you sternly? [Edit-- yeah, I know. In some places, teachers have already lost control of their own teaching and are required to stick to the script. That does raise this issue to a whole new level, and I'm sorry if you are stuck in such a place, because that sucks hugely. I was writing this post for the people who are still arguing about the issue, and I jumped to the assumption that where there is an argument, there are still options.]
I mean, if the 70/30 split were coming from a group of educational experts who had done extensive research and determined that there will be real education benefits for students from a 70/30 split, then I would look at it long and hard and think about ways to incorporate it into my practice. But the 70/30 split, like the rest of the ELA standards came from a bunch of civilians-- most particularly one guy who has fewer educational credentials than my last student teacher and no research to back up his personal choices. The 70/30 split recommendation carries no more weight than the guy who stops me in the grocery store to suggest that I need to have my students read more books about hunting, cause he likes hunting. I'm going to go ahead and use my best professional judgment to select readings (both fiction and non) based on what will best serve the educational needs of my students, thanks.
If your administration is really sold on the 70/30 split, just keep asking why. Other than David Coleman put it in the CCSS because he thinks it's a good idea, what sound educational basis can your admins point to as support for the split?
Of course, you'll likely find yourself back at the Ultimate Justification for all educational choices these days-- we need to get ready for The Test.
And that brings us to the real problem with CCSS reading.
I am not nearly as worried about the emphasis on non-fiction as I am in terrible, short, context-free, boring-as-hell excerpt reading, which is what is actually on the test and consequently what is being fobbed off a "close reading" when in fact it is some sort of twisted hybrid-- Close Reading 2.0.
The continued emphasis on short short selections or excerpts, with a special focus on items that students are unlikely to have previous knowledge of (or interest in), presented by teachers who deliberately don't give any sort of background material, as well as an insistence on staying within the four corners of the text-- all of these add up to soul-crushing experiences designed to kill any love of reading.
And that's not even getting the mandate, most damaging at the elementary level, to force students to read grade-level materials, even if those are also frustration-level materials. It doesn't matter to Pat whether it's fiction or non-fiction if it's all Greek.
Again, none of this is designed on a bedrock of research and expertise. Well, reading or teaching expertise. The expertise on display here is test-design expertise, because what we've done with CCSS is define good reading skills as "those reading related skills that can be measured on a standardized test."
This is like declaring that good runners can run a 50 yard dash in six seconds; distance runners are by definition bad runners. Or by decreeing that the only good pets are scaly ones that fit in a showbox.
So don't expect me to get excited about the whole fiction vs. non-fiction thing. I am far more concerned about the need to, say, do away with reading entire books because we need more time to do our daily one-page-plus-multiple-choice-questions drill for reading test prep, or to just generally teach reading in a manner guaranteed to make students hate it.