Common Core: The David Coleman Dilemma
So if you are following along with the twists and turns of Common Core, there are a ton of moving parts. One name that has bubbled up of late is David Coleman.
David Coleman is one of the writers of Common Core. He is currently traveling around the country speaking about Common Core.
And a lot of people are troubled by what he is saying.
The piece below from a recent article (which was picked up by Ed Week and ASCD Smartbrief, I believe, and circulated all over) has had me flooded with questions from people wanting to know how I respond to his ideas, particularly to the portion where David sort of throws the value of building background knowledge under the bus.
Here is the section causing the most consternation from the article:
Eliminate pre-reading activities.
Coleman is refreshingly unapologetic in his assertion that pre-reading activities are a waste of instructional time. He believes, for instance, that giving students background information about the text does little more than encourage students to parrot back the teacher’s words when answering questions, rather than actually absorbing and critically analyzing what the author said. And he thinks spending time predicting what the text is going to be about or comparing it to other works is a needless distraction. Instead, he encourages teachers to allow students to dive immediately in to the text itself.
The whole article can be found right here.
Now, there are a few directions I could take to weigh in on this. For me, what seems like the biggest concern is the grand trouble NOT being addressed when people raise issues with what Mr. Coleman is saying about reading instruction.
The Common Core documents clearly state the following on page 6 of the introduction. (It’s point #1 of the What is NOT Covered by the Standards):
The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach.
And yet, as an author of Common Core, David Coleman is now completely violating this promise. In fact, part of the only reason so many people are willing to buy into CC is expressly because the documents swear to define the “what” and not tell teachers the “how”.
And now David is telling us how? And it’s still only 2012, two years before the Standards officially hit.
Plus, complicating the matter more so is that David is a guy who, according to everything I have read, has never taught in an actual classroom. He has zero K-12 teaching experience.
Should we really be learning how to cook from a person who’s never been in the kitchen?
This is the real train wreck of it all. Even if David Coleman is correct in his thoughts on “the how” (debatable, for sure… yet there’s merit to some of his insights, too – it’s not black-n-white) this question is secondary to the fact that we were all promised that the CCSSO would not be telling us how… and now their writers are?
Perhaps someone will try to make the case that David is his own man and he is not speaking for the CCSS when he travels the country telling us his thoughts on how we ought to teach. Who in the world is going to buy that? I mean this is the guy who wrote the standards and if he tells us “the how” then he has gotta know it because he crafted “the what”. (Which creates a problem because even if he’s wrong about reading instruction, he’s right… BECAUSE HE’S THE AUTHOR OF THE STANDARDS!)
Head scratching, indeed.
Now Mr. Coleman also seems to be making a point of telling his large and hungry-to-learn-about-CC-crowds that he is merely providing a model for the how.
But if the CCSSO had given any thought to making sure they do not undermine their own credibility, they would have realized that the last person who should be providing models for the how are the people who actually wrote the freakin’ document!
I could model the how. My wife, a credentialed teacher, could model the how. We have hundreds of thousands of people who could model the how without there being any sort of conflict of interest.
It’s already going to be hard enough to get people on board with Common Core without this extra baggage being attached.
What in the world is going on? I mean I have very publicly come out as a fan of Common Core – and I am still quite a fan – but there is a tough road ahead to make the transition and this feels like an extra anchor that CC doesn’t need to carry.
Here’s a video. Watch it and ask yourself, “Would it not be more wise to have someone else model the how?”