Common Core is not higher standards

Oct 9, 2014 by

“I’m for higher standards.”  I hear that from all of our elected officials.  Big problem with that statement, the standards that they are advocating for, Common Core, are not higher standards. In an interview with WHIO, Governor Kasich was asked a question about Common Core. The Common Core section of the interview begins at 17:53 in the video below.

In this interview, Governor Kasich was asked if he supports keeping or repealing the Common Core standards. His response was, “Look, there’s a lot of discussion around it. People need to understand, we need higher standards for our children in this state and in this country.”

I am in agreement that the we, as Ohioans, need higher standards for our students.  The Ohio Academic Standards that we were using we not as good as we could be using.  But I strongly disagree that Common Core will give us the higher standards that politicians are promising.

I get it.  The folks in Columbus can’t be experts on everything.  They have to deal with taxes, pensions, unions, courts, oil and gas, tons of issues that they face every day.  They count on outside experts to tell them what is good and what is not the best course.  I am here to say as a parent and an educator with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction that the Common Core State Standards are not higher standards.  They are moving sideways at best.

I have taught English Language Arts using the Common Core Standards and I have studied the standards as an academic. Many experts have begun to come out to show flaws in the standards.  One of the leading experts in English Language Arts curriculum in our nation, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, makes the best case for why these are not higher standards. Dr. Stotsky not only opposes the standards, she was on the validation committee for Common Core and refused to sign-off on them because of their lack of quality.

The more I look at her points on the issue the more I am convinced that we can do better.   We were honored to have Dr. Stotsky testify on behalf of House Bill 597, the repeal and replace bill for Common Core.  The points that she laid out in her testimony are very specific as to why this curriculum isn’t the best one for our children.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky

Flaws in Common Core State Standards English Language Arts Standards-
Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s testimony in the Ohio House

1. Most of Common Core’s reading standards are content-free skills. Most of the statements that are presented as vocabulary, reading, and literature standards point to no particular level of reading difficulty, little cultural knowledge, and few intellectual objectives. These statements are best described as skills or strategies when they can be understood at all and therefore cannot be described as rigorous standards. Common Core’s ELA standards (and its literacy standards for other subjects) do not specify the literary/historical knowledge that students need for authentic college-level work. The document provides no list of recommended authors or works, just examples of “quality and complexity.” The standards require no British literature aside from Shakespeare. They require no authors from the ancient world or selected pieces from the Bible as literature so that students can learn about their influence on English and American literature. They do not require study of the history of the English language. Without requirements in these areas, students are not prepared for active citizenship in an English-speaking country. In addition, they are robbed of their own civic and cultural inheritance as Americans.

2. Common Core’s ELA standards stress writing more than reading at every grade level—to the detriment of every subject in the curriculum. There are more writing than reading standards at almost every grade level in Common Core, a serious imbalance. This is the opposite of what an academically sound reading/English curriculum should contain. The foundation for good writing is good reading. Students should spend far more time in and outside of school on worthwhile reading than on writing in every subject of the curriculum.

3. Common Core’s writing standards are developmentally inappropriate at early grade levels. While most adults know what “claims,” “relevant evidence,” and academic “arguments” are, most children don’t. They have a limited understanding of these concepts and find it difficult to compose an argument with claims and evidence. It would be difficult for children to do so even if Common Core’s writing standards were linked to appropriate reading standards, but they are not.

4. Common Core expects English teachers to spend at least half of their reading instructional time on informational texts—something they cannot teach. Common Core lists 10 reading standards for informational texts and 9 standards for literary texts at every grade level, reducing literary study in the English class to less than 50%. However, English teachers are trained—by college English departments and teacher preparation programs—to teach the four major genres of literature (poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction) and the elements of rhetoric, not fragmented information on a variety of contemporary, practical, or historical topics.

5. Common Core fails to develop critical thinking. Critical thinking is based on knowledge gained from courses in the content areas and on the development of analytical thinking in the English class–when students learn how to read between the lines of complex literary works. It cannot take place in an intellectual vacuum. Reducing literary study in the English class not only cheats students of instructional time for learning how to do read analytically but also, in effect, retards college readiness.

6. Common Core’s standards are not “fewer, clearer, and deeper.” They may appear to be fewer in number than those in many states because very different objectives or activities are often bundled incoherently into one “standard.” As a result, they are not clearer or necessarily deeper.

In summary, the five main points to support why the Common Core are not higher standards.
(1) Common Core’s ELA standards are NOT rigorous or internationally benchmarked and will not make our students competitive.
(3) There is NO research to support Common Core’s stress on writing instead of reading.
(4) There is NO research to support Common Core’s stress on informational reading instead of literary study in the English class.
(5) There is NO research to support the value of “cold” reading of historical documents, a bizarre pedagogy promoted by the chief architect of Common Core’s ELA standards.

This may seem technical to some, but our government is giving our teachers the manual on how to do their job.  This needs to delve into the academic to make sure that we are doing it right.  If we gave our surgeons manuals on how to remove an appendix, we would want it to be precise and well researched.  We should have the same expectation of how we educate our kids.

Governor Kasich, know what you are buying before you sell it to the people of Ohio.  The Common Core standards are not what you think they are.

Common Core is not higher standards.

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