Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Sandra Stotsky critiques the Common Core in NYC on Monday night
Professor Sandra Stotsky, an eminent critic of the Common Core standards being implemented in 46 states including New York, will be speaking in NYC on Monday night, November 26, from 5-7 PM at Azure, 333 E. 91 St., along with Shael Suransky of DOE, who is a strong defender of the standards. It should be an interesting evening. For more information see GothamSchools .
Stotsky is the main author of the Massachusetts ELA standards, widely considered to be among the best in the nation. Though the Common Core’s ELA standards demand that students provide evidence in their writing for their views, ironically there is no evidence for many of the Common Core's own components, including the mandate that 50 percent of the assigned reading in grades K-5 be “informational” text; and 70 percent in grades 6-12.
The only backing for this split that has been provided by David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, the authors of the ELA standards, is their similarity to the distribution of reading passages on the NAEP exams, a rather weak rationale. And yet a cursory examination of the NAEP framework reveals that in the 8th grade NAEP ELA, the proportion devoted to informational text is only 55 percent, rather than 70 percent, so even this flimsy evidence turns out to be untrue. By their own standards, then, the authors of the Common Core should receive a failing grade.
Some of the issues Stotsky will be addressing are below; around the country she has also called for high school English teachers to engage in Thoreau-like "civil disobedience” to ignore the Common Core's irrational and damaging prescriptions. For a longer analysis, see the report she co-authored with English professor Mark Bauerlein for the Pioneer Institute.
How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk
College readiness will likely decrease when the secondary English curriculum prioritizes literary nonfiction or informational reading and reduces the study of complex literary texts and literary traditions. Common Core itself provides no evidence to support its promise that more literary nonfiction or informational reading in the English class will make all students ready for college-level coursework. Common Core’s architects have inaccurately and without warrant applied NAEP percentages for passage types on its reading tests to the English and reading curriculum, misleading teachers, administrators, and test developers alike.
The deficiencies in Common Core’s literature standards and its misplaced stress on literary nonfiction or informational reading in the English class reflect the limited expertise of Common Core’s architects and sponsoring organizations. Its secondary English language arts standards were not developed or approved by English teachers and humanities scholars, nor were they research-based or internationally benchmarked. The authors of Common Core’s ELA Standards argue that more informational readings in high school will improve college readiness, apparently on the sole basis that students in college read mostly informational texts, not literary ones. We know of no research, however, to support this piece of illogical reasoning. Rather, the history of college readiness in the 20th century suggests that problems in college readiness stem from an increasingly incoherent and less-challenging literature curriculum from the 1960s onward. Until that time, a literature-heavy English curriculum was understood as precisely the kind of pre-college training students needed.
State law typically specifies only that state tests must be based on state standards. Since most states have adopted Common Core’s ELA standards as their state standards, and Common Core’s College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading are mainly generic reading skills, states can generate state-specific guidelines for a secondary literature curriculum to eliminate this unwarranted division of reading standards without conflicting with any of Common Core’s ELA standards.
Otherwise, state and local policy makers will see the very problems in reading that Common Core aimed to remedy worsen. The achievement gap will persist or widen. While high-achieving students in academically-oriented private and suburban schools may receive rich literary-historical instruction, students in low-performing schools will receive watery training in mere reading comprehension.