Monday, April 22, 2013

You've Got Content in My Skill!

Chris Cerrone:

7th grade (test for NY state CC) ELA had “irony” as a theme, but that topic is listed as an 8th grade CCSS standard.

First off, this is probably just for vertical alignment -- if this 7th grader has experienced more than a year a growth, you won't know if you don't ask some 8th grade questions. And since I can't see the test, I don't really know what is going on, but I did puzzle over it for a while.

Let's consider if the Common Core ELA standards were really content focused, and, say, seventh grade was 19th century lit and 8th grade was 20th century lit. Throwing 20th century lit questions into the seventh grade test to see if the 7th grade teacher was especially high performing would be absurd to all but the most kool-aid addled reformers.

If you puzzle through the reading standards, you see how carefully they're constructed to avoid this problem, particularly by omitting the disciplinary content of English Language Arts.

The exact standard relating to "irony" in 8th grade reads:

Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

The writing here is particularly tortured, but why? It isn't like there aren't plenty of examples in Achieve's archives of clear standards asking for kids to understand and identify "irony" and other tropes. It is worded this way because you aren't supposed to read it primarily as an ELA disciplinary content standard. It is supposed to just be a higher level of the underlying skill of:

Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Ideally, you wouldn't need to know the word "irony" at all to be able to answer the question. You should be able to get by with your general assessing point of view skills, so a seventh grader might be able to do it without a lesson on "dramatic irony." Overall, these standards work very hard to omit the language of ELA. It isn't easy to do!

That's my honest interpretation of how these standards are supposed to work. I think it is horseshit, but I think it is the underlying theory.

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