I am in New Orleans, doing a speaking-duet with Michael Fullan on the implementation of the CCSS. Talking with Michael and thinking about all we know from decades of research on school reform, I find myself worrying that the CCSS is going to implode. If it does, the problem will not be with the ideals of the Common Core, but with the fact that people driving policy do not seem to understand about how people and organizations grow.
So many teachers and parents have been eager to embrace the challenge of the CCSS, and ready to work with heart and soul to lift expectations and achievement. But we were behind the CCSS because the standards themselves represent a robust and exciting and compelling image of what it means to be a reader and a writer. More and more, we find that the people driving the CCSS want to specify and limit what the Common Core means, turning it into a call for a very particular sort of reading and writing instruction--one that asks eight and nine year olds to see reading as rereading, as analytically deconstructing a text so as to discuss the author's purpose for sentence 9 versus sentence 11, and to see writing as merely as forum to display that sort of literacy-criticism.
If policy makers are going to interpret the CCSS as valuing only that sort of reading, if there will be no place in schools for kids to read to learn, to read for curiosity, for reading to imagine oneself walking in another's shoes....then the Common Core will fail. It will fail because people who know children--parents, teachers, administrators and teacher educators--will say no. Ultimately, the only way to improve teaching and learning is to rally teachers and parents and principals to take up the cause, to see the standards as not just a mandate but a mission. Fullan has said it well: "As any innovation unfolds, leaders must pay close attention to whether they are generating passion, purpose and energy--intrinsic motivation--failure to do so is a sure fire indicator that the innovation will fail." I have been a great advocate of the Common Core, and have tried to turn the standards from a mandate to a mission. But the ELA is making me wonder about this.
The test that kids have just taken utterly changes what the standards mean, and the narrow definition that the test has given to the CCSS (one that matches the Revised Publisher's Criterion but not the Common Core itself) is pretty limiting. Do we want reading and writing instruction in third and fourth grade to be all about rereading a passage multiple times to mine it for every literary device, for every structural decision? Is there no place for reading a passage to learn about a subject of interest?
My message to parents and teachers and principals is to go back to the text. go back to the Common Core. I think you will find that reading standards 7,8,9 are not well represented in this test, and that only writing standard 9 was well represented. You can assess a youngster's ability to write when all the writing is utterly based on reading a challenging text--that is an assessment of reading. I think we should ask for tests that reflect the full Common Core, and for recognition that the Common Core itself suggests that to achieve standards level at any one grade, that youngster needed to stand on the shoulders of years of prior learning.
If the CCSS (ELA/Literacy) implode, it will be because they are lousy standards, and the only reason they were accepted in the first place was that when the experts were given the choice of projecting their own ideals upon the standards or not having a "seat at the (Gates-funded) table," they chose to admire the billg's new clothes.
This was true from day one:
More and more, we find that the people driving the CCSS want to specify and limit what the Common Core means, turning it into a call for a very particular sort of reading and writing instruction--one that asks eight and nine year olds to see reading as rereading, as analytically deconstructing a text so as to discuss the author's purpose for sentence 9 versus sentence 11, and to see writing as merely as forum to display that sort of literacy-criticism.
The CCSS was driven by testing companies from the beginning, and anything indicating otherwise is public relations and bandwagon-jumping.
Is there no place for reading a passage to learn about a subject of interest?
Actually, there isn't, which is what I've been saying all along. That's what you'll find if you go back to the text of the CCSS.