Monday, October 28, 2013

No High Performing Country Publishes K-12 ELA Standards as a Single Document

Of the eight provincial, special administrative unit, and national documents that CCSSI has cited in their international benchmarking, seven only cover ELA in the last stage of high school, and one goes back to 8th grade. The Finns have a single document covering the core curriculum across 21 subjects and cross-curricular objectives for upper secondary levels.

Only the US has one document covering K-12, and in particular, only the US makes the fundamental structure of the standards a small set of skills traced back through the 13 years.

I would argue that the single K-12 structure of the Common Core is a major source of confusion and miscommunication. Even when on a basic level the problems at the primary and secondary levels seem to be the same, the causes and solutions are different. At the elementary level, it may actually make sense to just add more non-fiction to kids' reading selection, after all, they like dinosaurs and stuff! OTOH, if kids aren't ready to read their science textbooks in college, what's going on? They don't read their science textbooks in high school? There's some discrepancy between how high school texts and college texts are written? We have to teach high school science teachers to teach their students to read their science textbooks? Thinking of this as a single problem with a unified strategy is less helpful than dividing it up.


eric said...

"At the elementary level, it may actually make sense to just add more non-fiction to kids' reading selection, after all, they like dinosaurs and stuff"

I agree with the main thrust of your smart post (and most of the aragument you've been making on this blog for a while now), but I have to say that pushing nonfiction in elementary school is pretty dubious. Yes, it MAY make sense, but it probably doesn't. The best plan is to encourage (by providing them with time and books) to read as much as possible of whatever interests them. As I love to point out, the bulk of Malcolm Gladwell's reading, both now and when he was a child, was probably trashy genre fiction (

But if you really had to push children toward either fiction or non-fiction, there is some evidence suggesting that fiction might be better, even if the "expert" scholars on the topic, like Nell Duke and Tim Shanahan, are inexplicably pushing us toward non fiction on the basis of highly dubious armchair reasoning.

Tom Hoffman said...

Hi Eric,

Yes, I'm mostly using that as an example of something where even IF you accept the premise, it doesn't necessarily follow that thinking of it as one K-12 issue is helpful.

From my perspective, I don't really know if the claims about the near omission of non-fiction text in early reading programs are valid. As someone who generally favors progressive approaches to reading instruction, I'd certainly want a lot of non-fiction *available* to kids. That's why we used to have school libraries!