Friday, September 03, 2010

Common Core ELA By the Numbers

This, from Arne, sounds good and is pretty much the line repeated elsewhere:

By contrast, the new assessments will help drive the development of a rich curriculum, instruction that is tailored to student needs, and multiple opportunities throughout the school year to assess student learning.

The PARCC consortium will test students’ ability to read complex text, complete research projects, excel at classroom speaking and listening assignments, and work with digital media. The SMARTER consortium will test students by using computer adaptive technology that will ask students questions pitched to their skill level based on their previous answers. And a series of interim tests during the school year will inform students, parents, and teachers about whether students are on track.

The problem is, here's my back of the envelope (more or less literally, so I might be off one or two in the totals) categorization of the 9th and 10th grade ELA standards:

  • Specific academic formal/textual analysis tasks: 34
  • Writing process and proficiency: 6
  • Complexity and quality of texts: 5
  • Types of writing tasks: 5
  • Research & "information literacy": 5
  • Writing with technology: 4
  • Language conventions: 3
  • Open ended, broad background analysis (could not be completed without references outside the text): 2
  • Recursive (referring to other standards): 2
  • Vocab: 2
  • Discussion: 1
  • Presentation technique: 1
  • Total: 70

I don't recommend this as a subtle technique, but I think the emphasis here is pretty obvious, and it is not what Arne or anyone else is highlighting.

The real question is how much various actors will be able to emphasize relatively small subsets of the standards and gloss the rest. A traditional liberal arts curriculum aligned to these standards, or, for that matter, a project-based curriculum, is only held up in Common Core by a few heavily strained pegs. That battery of textual analysis will be difficult to navigate in full in many schools, even when given full focus, and it will be the part most easily, cheaply and "objectively" assessed by impressive new technology. I know where I think this is headed.

1 comment:

doyle said...

...and has been headed since a few governors and business folks hijacked education reform back in 1996.

I don't which churns my gut more, or Arne. A child from the class of 2022 will be fit for a corporate cubicle but won't have a clue how to fix a flat, grow a cucumber, or function in a true community.

Where's Thomas Jefferson when we need him?