Thursday, September 09, 2010

When Common Sense Meets the Common Core

One thing I need to emphasize in my crabbing about the Common Core ELA standards (in high school) is simply that people are eventually going to realize that they are drawn in such a way that classic, straightforward, common sense activities in the English Language Arts classroom are now not aligned with our national standards.

Since I've not actually taught English for quite a while now, rather than try to generate examples out of thin air, I'm probably going to jump on examples I come across in my general reading. This is a general disclaimer that these analyses are not meant as critiques of the teacher. The point is, in fact, that the teacher is doing something completely normal and fine, but the standards are tweaked.

That out of the way, I just read this over at Relentless Pursuit of Acronyms:

Kate: Sure. Just a few weeks ago, my students were wrapping up a unit on protest poetry (I teach English 10). The standard I was gearing at was an understanding and ability to analyze an author’s style. I had then analyzing a variety of poems about protest for style, which they were doing well with. The culminating project for the unit was to create their own example of a protest writing and to create and defend their style in the writing. It was the first time I had really upped the level of Blooms skills I was requiring of my students, but they completely soared at the challenge.

Here's the breakdown:


  • Reading poems (as part of the range of reading).
  • Making an argument (to defend their own choices).
  • Presenting information.

Not Aligned

  • Analyzing an author's style.
  • Writing a poem.
  • Writing a "protest" other than an argument based on logos.

See how this works?


Robert Pondiscio said...

You've lost me, Tom. Are you suggesting that EVERY aspect of a lesson, activity or assignment has to be aligned with the CCSS or else none of it is? So if writing you name, the date and a title on your paper isn't covered in the standards, then any project that requires handing in a paper is not aligned?

Tom Hoffman said...


I think the "aligned" and "not aligned" lists make it pretty clear that this assignment is only partly aligned to the standards.

Now, if you can do that and get the scores you want and need, perhaps nobody will get in your way. If that's not happening, the first thing your principal, department head or curriculum developer should start picking at is the un-aligned aspects of the curriculum. That's the entire theory of change behind the strategy being implemented.

And the fact of the matter is, writing standards so narrowly that this assignment is half-unaligned is really weird. Look at, say, England's standards. This assignment would be no problem there.

Robert Pondiscio said...

I see your point, but a vindictive or controlling administrator could play that game with ANY classroom project or activity. That's a function of the administrator, not the standards.

Tom Hoffman said...

In the past, less so at the high school level than elementary. It is the high school teachers who are in for a shock, but in a sense they're just catching up to what the elementary teachers have been getting for a decade.