Sunday, October 14, 2012

Is Anyone Less Interested in the Common Core Standards than David Coleman and Susan Pimentel?

Fellow Brown MAT ('99) Eric Westendorf:

We just launched our new Common Core Navigator tool!

The Common Core Navigator gives you a birds-eye view of what a student needs to learn in each grade level. It's a simple way to see how the new Common Core State Standards work!

My helpful comment:

Hi Eric,

Your ELA navigator is inaccurate because the standards state "Students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade-specific standards and retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades."

So the number of standards per year should increase considerably, although it will take some work to figure out exactly which standards this is supposed to apply to (since the standards have such poor organization and editing) and which should be considered equivalent and overlapping and which are different.

Before I wrote this I figured I should double-check the Revised Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy, Grades 3–12 by David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, where you would expect such issues to be clarified. Of course, this does not come up. Nor, for that matter, is there clarification of the requirements for any single reading standard other than standard 10, one of the two Coleman and Pimental seem actually interested in (the other is 9).

While I'm at it here are a couple more gems from the publisher's criteria:

Specifically, in alignment with NAEP, the standards require that in grades 6–12, student reading across the curriculum must include a balance of texts that is one-third literary, one-third history/social studies, and one-third science.

As far as I can tell, that "balance" is completely made up. At least, it doesn't appear in the NAEP Reading Framework, nor is it consistent with the NAEP Distribution of Literary and Informational Passages by Grade cited in the introduction to the Common Core standards, nor does it seem like usable practical advice for anyone, unless they are in the unusual situation of writing the science, history and English textbooks at the same time.

Come to think of it, that may apply to more people than I realize. Kind of reminds you of who Coleman and Pimentel regard as their audience and peers.

They deserve some kind of chutzpah award for this paragraph:

Curriculum materials must have a clear and documented research base. The most important evidence is that the curriculum accelerates student progress toward career and college readiness. It can be surprising which questions, tasks, and instructions provoke the most productive engagement with text, accelerate student growth, and deepen instructor facility with the materials. A great deal of the material designed for the standards will by necessity be new, but as much as possible the work should be based on research and developed and refined through actual testing in classrooms. Publishers should provide a clear research plan for how the efficacy of their materials will be assessed and improved over time. Revisions should be based on evidence of actual use and results with a wide range of students, including English language learners.

Also, they don't address one tricky issue: if you want students to analyze arguments, particularly limiting them to a single text, you would have to intentionally give them some bad ones, or else you leave yourself open to having to always accept a stereotypical polyanna-ish analysis ("The quality of the (NAME OF PROMPT) is high — I found it to be worth reading closely, and it exhibits exceptional craft and thought and/or provides useful information for these three reasons..."). The Publisher's Criteria does not recognize this issue.

No comments: