Fact: Huge Gaps in Common Core
…persuasive writing compositions (i.e., making a “claim” and then supporting it with evidence), it was evident to Dr. Stotsky that students could not do it effectively.
by Donna Garner
Dr. Sandra Stotsky is an authority on curriculum standards, having helped many states (including Massachusetts and Texas) to write their own and also having been a well-known evaluator of states’ standards for many years. For 16 years, Dr. Stotsky was a researcher for the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is presently the 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality at the University of Arkansas.
Dr. Stotsky has been an outspoken critic of the Common Core Standards for English / Language Arts / Reading because they deliberately push teachers away from the teaching of the great classic pieces of literature and into teaching snippets of informational text.
In Dr. Stotsky’s most recent article (link posted below), she points out that she has discovered yet another problem with the ELAR/CCS: The writing expectations are not realistically tied to the reading expectations. Children are not taught the basic parts of well-written prose before being expected to write those parts themselves.
One of the well-known tenets for English teachers to follow when they are trying to teach their students to write well is first to expose them to well-written literary models composed by successful authors. This is called “modeling” which helps students to identify and then analyze the various structures in well-written prose.
When Dr. Stotsky went to a conference where teachers (who had been piloting the ELAR/CCS in their classrooms) displayed their students’ 6th, 7th, and 8th grade persuasive writing compositions (i.e., making a “claim” and then supporting it with evidence), it was evident to Dr. Stotsky that students could not do it effectively.
When Dr. Stotsky looked at the reading standards for Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, she found no reading standards that “model” correct persuasive writing concepts. The CCS/ELAR standards for reading and writing are not symbiotic and do not support each other at the appropriate grade levels; they are not sequenced in such a way as to prepare students for future success.
This is a very serious problem for the 45 states (plus D. C. ) that have committed to teach the Common Core Standards because if they are not scoped and sequenced correctly with each skill growing in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next, the students will experience huge gaps and will not be able to navigate them successfully. Inexperienced teachers will be stymied as to how to fill the numerous gaps while experienced teachers will be totally frustrated with a set of inferior standards.
Because English / Language Arts / Reading is the basis for all future success in every other course in school, the ineffectiveness of the ELAR/CCS is another major reason why states need to “de-commit” to participate in the Common Core Standards Initiative. As Dr. Stotsky suggested to Indiana:
1) The Indiana state board of education should re-adopt its own, first-class English Language Arts standards (with perhaps minor changes), as well as its own first-class math standards (which the latest Trends in Mathematics and Science Study results suggest are working well in Indiana); and 2) label them Indiana “college-readiness” standards just as other states have labeled their own standards.
As someone who volunteered my time and expertise to help the Texas State Board of Education to write its new-and-superior English / Language Arts / Reading curriculum standards (TEKS – adopted in May 2008), I would refer other states to our product. Dr. Stotsky also ably guided the development of our Texas standards.
Our ELAR/TEKS among other skills specifically address phonemic awareness, phonics, grammar, usage, punctuation, capitalization, correct spelling, cursive writing, persuasive/expository/research writing, reading comprehension, vocabulary development, literary terms, and the various genres of literary characteristics.
The Texas Education Agency has volunteered to help other states to adopt a process for writing their own standards. Then, too, the ELAR/TEKS are not copyrighted since they were made possible through public dollars. States could easily take our Texas ELAR standards, change them to suit their own specific needs, and put them into their schools even next school year at a very small cost.
Our ELAR/TEKS are not perfect, but they are quite closely scoped and sequenced, are specific for each grade level, are knowledge-based and academic in content. Most of them can be objectively tested which makes the resulting student scores on the new STAAR/End-of-Course tests more reliable.
This is the link to the Texas ELAR curriculum standards – TEKS: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter110/index.html
Below is the link to Dr. Stotsky’s article entitled “Common Core Standards: Which Way for Indiana?” – 12.26.12 — http://inpolicy.org/2012/12/common-core-standards-which-way-for-indiana/