Whatever the meaning of the terms to define these standards, it’s hard to prove by testing that students are meeting them. Texas isn’t the only state guilty of gobbledygook. South Carolina third graders are expected to “read independently for extended periods of time for pleasure.” How do they teach this? How do you test it?
The Grade 8 New York English Language Arts Core Curriculum standards for listening comprehension skills insist that students must “respect the age, gender, social position, and cultural traditions of the speaker,” “withhold judgment,” and “appreciate the speaker’s uniqueness.” I’ve spent whole afternoons slamming my head on my desk writing practice tests, trying to come up with questions to address these requirements. I see wording like this in my nightmares. While these standards signal valuable, if not lofty, intentions for teenagers, they are almost impossible to assess in a standardized testing environment. Being asked to develop preparatory tests that align with these well-meaning, untestable standards is the hardest part of my job. Actually testing students on these dubious standards does them no great service, either.
To be clear: no other country regards standards as a specification for a standardized test, where easy "objective" measurement is a pre-requisite for a learning goal. Just because some kid who as been working in educational publishing for "two and a half years" doesn't know how to teach independent reading for pleasure, doesn't mean it can't and shouldn't be done.
More interesting than this not-very insightful piece itself is the meta-data: this link was forwarded to Alexander Russo by Mike Smith. No I don't think he means the inventor of the Smith Grind, but
the one who is Senior Counselor to the Secretary, Director of International Affairs at the federal Department of Education Apparently it is a third Mike Smith. So this piece gives you a good sense of who the Common Core standards are really intended to benefit: the beleaguered test and textbook author.
Photo credit: J. GRANT BRITTAIN.