I am sort of floored by the vitriol I am seeing being leveled against the Common Core Standards document I came out as being a fan of last week.
And as the rhetoric heats up I have been asking myself, “Can one support the CC ELA standards without being considered worthy of scorn?”
I keep coming back to the same conclusion: yes.
As a cross-disciplinary literacy framework, I believe the new CC standards are well designed. I also believe this framework GREATLY improves upon our current state-by-state approach to ELA content area standards. I am a huge fan of the anchor standards approach they’ve taken, weaving common standards across grade levels and disciplines, I like the emphasis on asking for more close reading and re-reading of text, and the drive to more authentic literature (and away from one-size-fits all anthologies) makes me smile big and wide.
Now, do these new standards have their flaws? Certainly, I believe they do. But are they overwhelmingly solid in lots of ways? In my opinion, yes. Very much so.
Yet the flaming arrows are flying. Really, I don’t mind them so much because I do like hearing so many different opinions on this stuff. Especially because it helps me better inform my own. (Some of what’s been lobbed at me, I admit, stings, though… if only for its truth.) But I feel as if most all the criticism is derived from talking right past one another.
The major argument seems to come from the “standards are evil” camp. They tether the CC standards to the CC assessments (which are still yet to come) and rail on about how the tests are going to be used for quite sinister aims.
And to say, “Wait a sec, I hear you what you are saying. I really do. But please, slow down. I am only talking about my fan-hood of the officially published CC standards document here” has caused an uproar of people saying, “NO! You can’t do that!” and then they go on to hammer me and the CC for the blackhearted schemes yet to come using the history of education in the U.S. to bolster their arguments that, “Beware, we can’t trust them.”
And no matter how many times I try to steer the conversation back to a discussion of “can we please just talk about the CC document which has been published“, people head right back to the their own schema about “the nefarious aspirations this is really all about” and once again, more missiles are fired.
Am I wrong? Can we not have a conversation about just the CC without also having a discussion about the assessments of the CC? Indeed, they are two different things, are they not? (I already hear the cries of, “Hell no!”)
More troubling, I think, is the question of, “Is anyone else put off by the stupendous lack of trust already on display?” In a way, it doesn’t matter who is right anymore… we are all wrong. The real cancer in American education today is a lack of trust. To like the ELA CC standards seems to have made me a turncoat after all the years of bashing the bubble tests I have done. And the fact that I do not see it this way at all doesn’t seem to bother those who do. The question has even been directly asked of me if I am a shill for da Man?
One can’t even disagree any more without that being proof of underhanded, deviant motives.
I guess I should clarify something: Arne Duncan and I have a three-nosed love child and no matter what anyone says, I will do what I have to do defend our secret offspring’s right to pick six buggers at one time without being teased by insensitivos! There you have it, my real reason for liking ELA’s CC.
Me in cahoots with da Man? Yes, I have been asked if I am in in league with the CC in any way. The answer is NO. I have absolutely nothing to do with any of the CC people whatsoever. In fact, I think that by the way I challenged the actions of David Coleman in my blog post the other day, that should prove I am not part of their paid team. Would they not have “Ssshhh’d me?” if I was on their cash disbursement list? Personally, I’d never sink so low as to secretly shill behind a thinly veiled mask of corrupt opinion rendering… unless the price was really good then of course, I’d… wait a minute, I’m straying here.
Point is, me no taking any pay-o-la from the CCSSO and I am entirely bloviating from the outside.
However, does this mean that those who are on the CC payroll, the authors of the standards, the people on the PARCC and SBAC teams, those who are working hard to elevate American education in this country today are corrupt or contemptible or of dubious, if not sinister, intent?
We haven’t even yet seen the assessments that PARCC and SBAC are going to create. Therefore to me, to already hate them means that philosophically, you do not agree with something else, some other component of this conversation. (Which, btw, could be entirely legit. I am not placing a value judgement here.) And considering all the bashing I have done of weak-ass bubble tests over the years, if they come out with yet another remix of weak-ass bubble tests as the model for assessment, I will be as loud and on point as ever.
But to hate the assessments does not automatically mean one needs to hate these standards. Does it? Cause they are coming. And I do like them. And I do not believe they exist simply to serve as the organ monkey for punishing schools and teachers through foul summative assessment. I think they exist for the reason they say they exist.
And I quote (last paragraph on page):
“[The Standards] lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century. Indeed, the skills and understandings students are expected to demonstrate have wide applicability outside the classroom or workplace. Students who meet the Standards readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complex works of literature. They habitually perform the critical reading necessary to pick carefully through the staggering amount of information available today in print and digitally. They actively seek the wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with high-quality literary and informational texts that builds knowledge, enlarges experience, and broadens worldviews. They reflexively demonstrate the cogent reasoning and use of evidence that is essential to both private deliberation and responsible citizenship in a democratic republic. In short, students who meet the Standards develop the skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening that are the foundation for any creative and purposeful expression in language.”
Yes, I am going have quibbles with some of the stuff above. (NOTE: Stephen King in his book On Writing spoke about getting rid of all your adverbs in order to get a real sense of any text. Re-read the above with that little nugget in mind. IMHO, he’s right… someone should have chopped the adverbs. It’s like they are trying to sell us something that they don’t need to stoop to doing. Why? Back to the trust issue, I guess.)