Thursday, October 02, 2014

Common Core Dad

I've been resisting the "Look at this Common Core assignment my daughter brought home" posts for a variety of reasons, including I'm sure I wouldn't have loved the pre-Common Core homework either. But... look at this Common Core assignment my daughter brought home.

Actually, it is the 2nd grade weekly quiz, which is kind of a big deal. My daughter got a 90, so everyone is happy, but still, I have to see what she missed.

Of the 20 questions, she missed one more or less appropriately difficult verb tense question -- although I don't understand why the verb tense section is labeled "phonics." Big data doesn't work folks if you can't even broadly categorize questions correctly.

The reading question she missed is:

Paragraph 6 tells mainly about:

  • park benches in Spain
  • towers in Australia.
  • street corners in New York.

Let's be clear here: this is a counting task, not a reading task, because if you have the right paragraph -- and these are short paragraphs -- you could easily just match the country names to get the answer. There are eight un-numbered paragraphs in a one page text, double spaced, with large font. The only hard part is counting a bunch of short paragraphs -- catching the indentation.

As it turns out, there's no standard specifically for identifying the print features for paragraphs. The "distinguishing features of a sentence" is covered under print concepts in first grade, but paragraphs do not merit the same treatment for some reason (and the category of "Print Concepts" ends in 1st grade), so it is unlikely this question is supposed to measure understanding of paragraph formatting.

She did get this one right, which probably slightly more worrisome than if she'd gotten it wrong:

One of the questions that art can make you ask is,

  • "Do I like art?"
  • "Was that there yesterday?"
  • "How do I make art?"

Of course, the right answer is "Was that there yesterday?" which you'd know if you read the text. Really the problem is just that the question does not refer specifically to the text. I guess what is creepy about this one is that I understand that part of schooling is giving banal answers to banal questions. But conditioning kids -- and I mean "conditioning" -- to bubble in "citations" as banal answers to serious, open-ended philosophical questions like "What kind of questions can art make you ask?" is... disturbing.

This is a Pearson quiz. If you're going to argue that Pearson doesn't understand the Common Core, then you're arguing that the whole premise of standards based reform doesn't work. If large, wealthy vendors that have been involved in every step in the process can't turn the standards into good curricula and tasks, then why would we expect anyone else to?

If at some point in the past, I was looking at a 20 question quiz written by a young teacher, and I didn't like some of them, I wouldn't be surprised. But I don't think they would be bad in the particular ways these questions are bad. They're rather specifically Common Core and Pearson bad; e.g., it is important to give 7 year olds practice in finding specific paragraphs, because that's what they're going to be doing more or less daily for the next decade. It is obvious.

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