Reader Response Theory was recognized on the Ohio Department of Education Common Core Curriculum as of last February. (See below graphic from ELA Standards Revision Highlights)
The theory is applied, as the graphic says, to all grade levels. Here is the language that applies to high school:
As an undergraduate Secondary Education major at The University of Akron from 1997-2001, I studied pedagogy, literature, and creative writing. In a YA literature pedagogy class, Dr. Harold Foster advocated for the use of Louise Rosenblatt's approach to literature by having his students read young adult literature and sharing their experiences in written reflections and in class discussion. Dr. Foster's approach was so effective that I taught the fundamentals of Reader Response theory straight out of college in my own first classroom. Here's a slide from a PowerPoint I made during my first year teaching.
Of course better teachers than me have been using Reader Response theory ever since Louise Rosenblatt challenged the accepted notions of New Criticism and the theory that literature was autotelic. But up until recently RR Theory was seen as a middle grades technique advocated for by wonderful pedagogists like Nancy Attwell whose book In the Middle is now its third edition, and by the looks of it, just as relevant today as it was in 1998 when the first edition came out. Despite the fact that I teach 11th and 12th graders I felt reader response had something to offer my students, so (encouraged by videos like this one from Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project) I made it a large piece of my curriculum. For reasons that will be obvious to anyone familiar with the theory, I felt that literature needed to be more useful than simply the world of the academic essay with its rigor and thesis statements; now that I lead a CCP course on College Composition I & II at my high school, where I am charged to teach students how to write with rigor and thesis statements, I feel it is as important now as when I first started teaching to allow students a voice in the conversation about the meaning of literature, which when it's at its best, is also about the meaning of life.
Over the course of my 16 year career as an English Teacher I have encountered the opinion that RR Theory is perhaps a bit too "floofy" for advanced study. The theory goes something like this: because there is no hard, academic research involved, the students will be writing thesis statements that include the word "I" and the writing will be filled with personal pronouns that strike far too conversational a tone to be effective. Honestly, I partly agree, which is why I think the teacher concerned with rigor would do well to hold students to a higher standard (perhaps by integrating work from academic, peer-reviewed journals) BUT WHILE NOT FORGETTING that Reader Response theory can be just about the most useful and powerful form of connecting to literature available.
I recently explored August Wilson's Fences with my CCP students. My main concerns were academic rigor while assessing their ability to use source material, and proper MLA formatting in their writing. Despite these objectives I couldn't ignore the students quietly likening Troy to their own father; I decided to add a reader response component to their essay (see below for the full rubric), which in my world looks something like this:
Would I have continued to use RR Theory even if it had not been officially recognized by the ODE? Sure, because it has produced some of the most poignant essays I have ever read and goes a long way towards making literature useful to everyone from struggling readers to advanced readers. I would have continued feeling a bit Gonzo in my approach to literature, which was often a label that I took pride in applying to my technique, but I am glad it is an officially recognized standard; at its worst, teachers will feel bullied into using it, and they'll do it badly... handling student writing that can be both emotionally daunting and dazzlingly beautiful with all the tender care of an industrial meat tenderizer... and at its best it will embolden other Gonzo teachers and perhaps persuade a few to Rosenblatt's cause with the dedication and nuance to do it well in the classroom.
So while I applaud the ODE for making Reader Response Theory an officially recognized theory, I also challenge those in higher education to make it a part of how you encourage students to respond to literature. Maybe we all need to have a frank discussion on what rigor really means.