Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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Me, at Common Core Watch:

Is there a more recent version of "Stars By Which to Navigate" or just the preliminary 2009 version looking at the CCRS? If so, I can't find it.

Regardless, that report rejects the fundamental premise of "international benchmarking" in ELA because it does not accept the premise that PISA Reading is even any good. It is just an opinionated comparative evaluation arguing that CC ELA is better.

To quote Achieve: "International benchmarking is important from a national perspective to ensure our long-term economic competitiveness. The successes of other nations can provide potential guidance for decision-making in the United States, and many, appropriately, believe American students should be held to the same academic expectations as students in other countries. "

It is clear to me that both Fordham and CCSSI fundamentally reject that premise in regard to ELA, because they DO NOT LIKE the standards of high performing countries. The few superficial specific international comparisons I've seen for CC ELA simply explain away differences with other countries by stating that they believe the CC approach is superior. Fine, but that's not the way they said "international benchmarking" was supposed to work. If we have already discovered the best way, why do we need to benchmark?

Or a more charitable explanation is that high performing countries in ELA don't have "standards" as defined in the US at all. They have curricula with course outcomes, and we can't have a national curriculum, so the whole venture becomes dislocated.

Regarding the "[a]nalyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama" example. Stotsky is slightly off point in her criticism, it is not simply that it is too abstract, but that it is conceptually muddled. The main object here is "the impact," but the impact ON WHOM? The student? The imaginary modern prototypical reader? The author's contemporary audience? It is a fundamental issue in criticism.  If it is asking about the impact on "the student" we're getting pretty close to reader response.

What is the implication of the phrase "of the author's choices" here? Would it change the standard if it said "Analyze the impact of how elements of a story are developed or related in the text?" Is that phrase anything more than a philosophical head fake or dog whistle toward divining the author's intent without actually requiring it?

I would also argue that "analyze the impact of" pushes teachers toward a bunch of useless or at best obtuse questions. Analyze the impact of Melville's decision to set Moby Dick in New Bedford and on a whaling ship. Analyze the impact of Melville's decision to order the action sequentially, etc.

Of course, yes, an experienced teacher wouldn't ask those questions, a little professional judgement will save the day, but there are plenty of examples of much better worded standards, like from MA, "8.32: Identify and analyze the point(s) of view in a literary work. 8.33: Analyze patterns of imagery or symbolism and connect them to themes and/or tone and mood." Much clearer, and pretty much just work for any piece of literature you can shake a stick at.

The problem with the individual CC ELA standards is not that they are abstract but that they are just poorly executed.

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