Concerns About the Common Core State Standards

I haven’t been a fan of the Common Core State Standards because it will actually weaken Massachusetts’ state standards:

What I find frustrating in so many policy areas, including education, is the need to develop new things. Massachusetts has one of the best educational systems in the world, never mind the U.S. Instead of dragging Massachusetts down, why not raise other states up to its level?

This is an instance when plagiarism would be an excellent idea.

A recent Washington Post article describes how the shift from fiction to nonfiction texts advocated in the CCS Standards is making a lot of educators very unhappy. Basically, fiction is getting squeezed out of English classes to make room for nonfiction. Kids hate it. Teachers hate it. The CCS Standards defenders argue that their intent was to increase reading in classes other than English (e.g., history, science, etc.). But the reality is that English is where long form reading happens–it’s incredibly unusual for the entire school to make reading its top priority.

But as upsetting as this development is, there are two more disturbing things in the Washington Post article. The first is this display of statistically illiteracy by the lead developer of the CCS Standards, David Coleman (boldface mine):

In an interview, Coleman said U.S. students must learn to read complicated text of all sorts.

One of the striking things in American education is that reading scores at the fourth-grade level have been frozen for 40 years,” he said. “We’ve hit a wall in reader literacy that these standards respond to.”

Sweet Baby Intelligent Designer, no:

Figure 1

NOT frozen. Coleman has thus established himself as a refractory-to-evidence ideologue on par with the willful ignorance of creationists. Onto the second disturbing thing–can you guess what it is?:

Jamie Highfill is mourning the six weeks’ worth of poetry she removed from her eighth-grade English class at Woodland Junior High School in Fayetteville, Ark. She also dropped some short stories and a favorite unit on the legends of King Arthur to make room for essays by Malcolm Gladwell and a chapter from “The Tipping Point,” Gladwell’s book about social behavior.

When I was in junior highschool (eigth grade), we did read non-fiction: Albert Camus’ Resistance, Rebellion, and Death. Let’s compare and contrast:

Albert Camus: World War II resistance fighter, Nobel Laureate, and someone who publicly engaged Jesuits in philosophical debates for fun.

Malcolm Gladwell: an ethically-challenged horrible person who is the TED set’s Tony Robbins. Also not a resistance fighter, though Gladwell earns himself some awesome speaking fees.

Resistance, Rebellion, and Death: A collection of essays about complex topics like tyranny, freedom, the death penality, economic injustice, and national liberation, written in a style that demonstrates how words can be used not just to inform but to inspire just and right action.

The Tipping Point: An insipid book about marketing, about which the author himself says, “When I read Tipping Point now, it does seem more like a product of a lighter time…I was really interested in marketing at the time, and that’s not that weighty an issue.” Also, the fundamental premise of the book is unsubstantiated and could very well be wrong.

One of these sets is not like the other. We can set higher standards.

Drink up kids, you’re gonna need it:

Parenting Fail
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2 Responses to Concerns About the Common Core State Standards

  1. joemac53 says:

    Reform doesn’t gain any traction unless what you want to reform is “failing”. Make up some unrealistic expectations and presto! Instant failure! “See? We told you! Now let us at the money”
    Or words to that effect.

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