Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Standards for Curricula

The Common Core standards are, of course, standards for what students should know and be able to do. The marketing of the Common Core ELA standards has been almost entirely focused on using the Common Core as standards for curricula, particularly the content of published curricula.

Coleman, Pimentel, etc., do not see teachers as the lever to implement the reforms they are interested in. They don't think like teachers at all. What they are clearly interested in is changing textbooks, instructional materials and tests. This is, I might add, a much more direct approach to changing America's classrooms.

For example, if you create an elementary reading program, or a high school ELA textbook, or a reading assessment, you pretty much understand what you're supposed to be doing when you manipulate the ratio of literature to informational texts. It's like changing the recipe a bit. Add 35% more "creative non-fiction?" I'll grab some more content from the cabinet, no problem.

But for teachers and schools, particularly high schools, a lot of this rhetoric just doesn't make sense. It does not apply, at least without a heck of a lot more explanation than has been offered thus far. What, exactly constitutes a unit of reading? A "passage?" How many passages in a book? Pages? How many Gettysburg Addresses equal one novel? Are all texts in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects also informational texts for this purpose despite the fact that they are defined separately in the standards? Do you have to analyze the text for it to count or just read it? How does Euclid count? If it counts, why not your math text? If these are annoying questions for which there are no answers, whose idea was it to start talking about percentages in the first place?

Do you really expect the whole school to change its practices to suit a comment in the introduction to one set of standards used by the school? To whom should anyone be held accountable for this?

Anyhow, that's one source of this confusion: they spent their big rollout on messages aimed at publishers, not schools. Now it is biting them in the ass.

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