Friday, February 04, 2011

At Least People are Starting to Talk About Common Core Finally

My comment over at The Answer Sheet:

One problem with the Common Core English Language Arts standards in middle and high school is that they are essentially disciplinary literacy standards. That is, they define the textual skills students need for their college English, history and social studies, and science classes. They should not be conflated with a set of history and social studies standards, as Mr. Farrell does, science standards, or even a complete set of English Language Arts standards. For example, there is no concept of literary genre analysis in the Common Core standards, at all. There is no rhetorical analysis beyond logos. The range of writing is strictly academic.

High achieving countries like Finland and Canada do not conceptualize the goals of discipline of Language Arts as simply "college-level literacy" as the Common Core does. Their standards and outcomes reflect the full range of the discipline, which is why the Common Core ELA standards have not been internationally benchmarked, and why they cannot be.

And of course, California's current ELA standards certainly do contain standards similar to the ones Mr. Farrell cites, involving direct textual analysis, e.g. (from 8th grade):

1.1 Analyze idioms, analogies, metaphors, and similes to infer the literal and figurative meanings of phrases.

2.4 Compare the original text to a summary to determine whether the summary accurately captures the main ideas, includes critical details, and conveys the underlying meaning.

I can understand the argument that students need to do more reading of complex texts, but we have been giving every middle school student in the country a high stakes reading comprehension tests for at least a decade. This is not a new idea. Perhaps it will be new that social studies and science teachers are also evaluated by reading tests, but nobody knows how that is really supposed to work.

And I do agree with Mr. Farrell that the Common Core reduces the role of the teacher in the ELA classroom, but I'm not convinced it will do so in a positive way. The whole scope of the ELA curriculum is collapsed into reading texts and performing some or all of eight narrow textual analysis tasks which are repeated across grade level and subject. It will be now easy to write computer programs to administer such a narrow curriculum.

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