Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ignorance of CCSS

at 10:44 PM
Ignorance is bliss! Right? I'm pretty sure, right now, that other people's ignorance will cause me ulcers.

I believe in the Common Core Standards. And I believe that a lot of people who are against them are so due to ignorance. The internet is a vast and wonderful place where people can find an article that says anything they want to hear. But journalism requires fact-checking and citing of sources. So does a good English paper.

I recently came across this article, "Listen to the Fools," on Facebook.

I'd like to point out that this article does not cite its sources. No evidence is given for that "first truth." Nor is evidence provided for the "fourth," "fifth," or "seventh."

The "second truth" says that the new testing is "narrow" and has nothing to do with assessing thinking, collaboration, or questioning skills. I know for a fact that this is incorrect, as I watched my students take part of the new test today. There were questions that asked them to read and revise newspaper articles, student reports, and narratives. Questions that required students to read given information, assess what was there and what was lacking, and find a creative way to make it better.

The "third truth" is a blatant lie. Nowhere in the standards does it dictate which books, novels, or non-fiction text to read. Nowhere does it say to only read excepts. The ELA CCSS standards are based on SKILLS not specific texts. Emphasis on "informational text" means that students will be required to read more information text across all curriculum. That means that social studies and science teachers will need to start incorporating more nonfictional text, primary documents, and current even articles. It doesn't change English cannon at all.

The "sixth truth" says that CCSS "does not improve the teaching of English." They got that one right. The standards don't improve "teaching." Teaching is my job. My ability to teach isn't affected by standards. My ability to assess students based on skills I believe are important and valuable is improved by these standards. Current California standards say that all poetry should be taught at 8th grade. That's the only mention poetry gets in the current CA standards. CCSS says that students should be taught how to read and analyze multiple forms of media including informational text, short stories, novels, plays, poetry, infographics, and videos. This standard is across all grades, giving emphasis to the type of analysis for each grade level so that as students grow, so does their ability. Emphasizing locating the main idea in elementary school, to being able to synthesize multiple themes across different media by 12th grade.

The "seventh truth" again is a straight lie. There are no "gotcha" questions. There are just questions that lazy people will fail. No Child Left Behind created a society where young people believe doing the minimal amount of effort will allow them to succeed. When asked for the "best" solution, they choose the first that comes to mind. When asked to find all grammar mistakes, they find one thing wrong and move on. Is that what we want our future doctors, lawyers, teachers doing? We really want to teach our students that they'll receive accolades for barely-literate writing? Because that's what's been happening. An astonishing number of recent high school graduates had to take remedial courses in English upon entering college because they weren't being held accountable for poor quality of work in high school. (One example in New Haven)
This "seventh truth" says "a test which most test-takers fail often is not a rigorous one, just a dumb one." Yes, the current test is hard for current students to pass because we've allowed them, as a society, to slack off. Yes, it will take time to bring our current students up to that level. No, I don't believe the way CCSS was implemented and the new testing schedule is ideal, but it's what we're stuck with and we'll do the best we can. We know test scores will "go down" in the next few years. But think about the students who will have been taught how to think since kindergarten? I'm ecstatic to meet them in 8 years.

The "eighth truth" claims that "Education is more than making 'students competitive with their international peers.'" I agree. Education is teaching students how to think, problem solve, and communicate effectively so that they can go out and make a life for themselves that doesn't involve leeching off society. But if our students aren't educated well enough for companies to consider hiring them, and their peers in other countries are, who gets the jobs? Americans have a tendency to complain about an influx of foreigners, but when our education system tries to do something to alleviate the necessity of bringing in better educated persons from other countries, the masses balk. Also, this "truth" gives a lot of statistics with no citations (something that all English teachers, and most educated people understand is necessary to make your "claim" believable. Oh, and something that's actually part of the ELA CCSS, too).

His "tenth truth" hits some key emotional arguments, claiming we can change schools, but ...some other way. Effective counterarguments include probable solutions, none of which he provides.

I don't claim that "the Common Core" is our holy grail and will be the savoir of our society. Nor do I claim that it's perfect.
What I do claim is that it is extraordinarily better than the former CA State Standards and that I can see it's usefulness both in the classroom and the future lives of our students, as they use the skills teachers are moving towards teaching.

I'm tired of people claiming, out of ignorance, that it's a horrible thing that will ruin their children. Educate yourself. Read the actual standards. Honestly, you Google search them and links come up all over the place.

Here are a few:

 California Education Website has them right here!

The official Common Core website has them as well. Under the "Read the Standards" tab you can view both Math and English.

Oh, and in case you don't believe those above cites are unbiased, the National PTA website on Common Core. 


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