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Empowering collaborative communities


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Compare the Candidates on Education Issues

July 15, 2016

Compare the Candidates: Where Do Clinton and Trump Stand on Education?

The presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, and Republican nominee Donald Trump have yet to release comprehensive K-12 policy plans. To give a sense of where they stand, Education Week reviewed their statements, proposals, and positions on a dozen education policy issues, from school choice to school safety. Some material is drawn from their 2016 presidential campaigns, some from before they began their current quests for the White House.

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SELECT A TOPIC
Academic Standards
Bullying
Candidate Background
College Access
Early-Childhood Education
Every Student Succeeds Act
School Choice
School Construction
School Safety & Climate
School Spending
Teacher Quality
Testing
U.S. Department of Education

Candidate Background

HILLARY CLINTON DONALD TRUMP
  • U.S. secretary of state, 2009 to 2013
  • U.S. senator, New York, 2001 to 2009
  • First lady of the U.S., 1993 to 2001
  • First lady of Arkansas, 1979 to 1981; 1983 to 1992
  • Chairman and president of the Trump Organization, which oversees investments in hotels, resorts, golf courses, merchandise, and other business ventures
  • Author and co-author of several books, including The Art of the Deal and The America We Deserve
  • Appeared on and produced “The Apprentice” reality-TV show

Reporting: Alyson Klein and Andrew Ujifusa | Design & Visualization: Sumi Bannerjee

An alternate version of this story appeared as “K-12 Issues: Where the Candidates Stand” in the July 20, 2016, edition of Education Week.

Vol. 35, Issue 36
Published in Print: July 20, 2016, as K-12 Issues: Where the Candidates Stand

 

This is a reblog from: http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/president-candidates-trump-clinton-education.html?cmp=eml-eb-popweek+07222016


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Gender and Literacy: Using a Feminist Lens to Promote Multiple Literacies and Advance Teacher Expertise

In the last three decades, a call of alarm has sounded claiming a boy crisis in literacy education. PISA & NAEP scores show a gender gap in literacy across grade-levels and across countries. We see girls outperforming boys in reading tests study after study. However, mean test scores only tell us part of the story. There is more disparity within each gender than there is between the genders. There are more boys at the bottom of the test score distribution but there are also more boys in the top (Cole, 1997).

If we really want to know if there is a crisis in literacy education, then we need to look at more than test scores. Contemporary research has looked at economic and social outcomes based on gender. Fleming (2000) reported that wage gaps between men and women persist, poverty continues to disproportionately affect women and children, domestic and sexual assault leaves women as victims more often, and gender bias and stereotypes are rampant in and out of classrooms.

Although research has examined gender-related inequities in and out of school (notably Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2009), less research explores the current school experiences of girls and the role that school plays in helping all gender identities disrupt inequitable systems. This NCTE symposium attempts to address that gap by exploring various aspects of literacy through a feminist theory lens. Feminist theory is dedicated to examining issues of equality and dismantling sexism as well as other forms of oppression.

Amy Vetter will begin our symposium with Exploring Girlhood: The Literacy Experiences of One Girl in a Young Writers’ Camp. Dr. Vetter’s study explores how Addison, a high school girl in a young writers’ camp outside of school constructed and enacted writer identities.

I will follow with Dialogism: Feminist Revision of Argumentative Writing Instruction, in which I explore how feminist pedagogy can inform the instruction of writing aligned to the ELA CCSS for 9th-12th.

The third presentation by Tara Anderson is Deconstructing Gender Binaries With YA Literature will describe the value of literature that goes beyond the “LG” in “LGBTQIA” and with specific strategies for guiding students through critical conversations about gender.

Our fourth presenter, Brooke Langston-Demott will discuss her study (Critical Literacy: Challenging Traditional Gender Positions) focused on instruction dedicated to examining gender issues through literature in a fifth grade class.

We will end by inviting you to enter the conversation and share what educators can do to change the current gender inequities that exist in and out of classrooms. Not able to come? Join our conversation on Twitter #FeministPedagogy

NCTE Convention    |          Nov. 21 @4:15     |               Room M100E


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Close reading complex informational text

Today I presented at the North Carolina Reading Association 2014 Conference.  The conference theme was Pathways to Literacy: Looking Back to Move Forward.  My presentation was on a lesson framework that also works as an independent reading strategy for close reading of informational texts.  The framework is called TOADS and stands for Title, Organization, Author’s purpose, Diction, and Summary of main idea.  It can be modified for early elementary all the way to AP 12.  You can see the Prezi here: http://prezi.com/qwhxanafeygd/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy


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High School Reading List is 75% white, 75% male

Students often consider the books they read in school as the authority on a subject.  Because of this, the books presented to our students can influence 1) how they think, 2) what they feel is normal, and 3) what roles and characteristics are appropriate for people like them.  The creators of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) say that multicultural education is valuable for all students, but not in action.  While the CCSS do not mandate reading lists for grade levels, a suggested reading list has been published as Appendix B. The CCSS suggested readings do not represent the diverse demographics and worldviews represented in American public schools. The following table describes the 9th-10th grade readings.

Results

Category

CCSS #

Female author 9 20%
Male author 37 80%
Female main character* 8 36%
Male main character* 14 63%
European author 15 33%
Asian author 1 2%
African author 2 4%
Middle Eastern author 0 0
Australian author 0 0
African American author 5 11%
Asian American author 1 2%
Hispanic American author 1.5 3%
White American author 18 40%
Native American author .5 1%
LBGTQ 0 0
Author or characters with disabilities 0 0

* Not all of the selections had characters.

In short, the authors on the list are 75% male (of all ethnicities) or 75% white (both male and female).

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Discussion

There is a tremendous overrepresentation of white male authors.  There are more male authors than female authors, as is the case in the K-1 band and in other textbooks I have analyzed. The number of male authors of color is also too low.  The male authors of color included one black African, four African-American (counting Martin Luther King, Jr. twice for two works), and one author who identifies as half Chicano and half Native American.  For women of color, Amy Tan is Chinese American, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou are African-American, and Julia Alvarez is Dominican American.  Where are Sojourner Truth, Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Phyllis Wheatley, or bell hooks, just to name a few?  The authors of the CCSS should include more perspectives and voices across race, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation, religion, and age to present diverse perspectives and issues. As Rudine Sims Bishop says, all of our students need window and mirror books. It is important for children to see a reflection of themselves in the books they read, so they can connect to reading and value literacy in a very personal way.

 


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The High-stakes Tests Debate is Not New

High-stakes testing was a part of education before No Child Left Behind and the Common Core State Standards.  The selection process for gifted and talented education, special education, secondary schooling, and post-secondary schooling has always included a high-stakes test.  Selection could be based on inheritance, chance, purchase, or achievement. All democracies have deemed achievement or merit as the just way (Heyneman, 2004). Talent has thus been chosen by secondary and post-secondary schools as the entrance criteria so that access is just.  Four ways exist to assess talent: past academic achievement, oral examinations, written examinations, and essay examinations.  Although academic achievement is the best predictor of university completion, ministries of education have little control over individual teachers’ evaluative standards, and the larger the country, the larger the discrepancies can be between schools in regards to grade inflation or rigor of course work.  Therefore, most countries have chosen the standardized examination route (Heyneman, 1987).

Selection for university entrance is necessary (a) to reward the right skills and (b) to decrease biases and corruption.  According to Harris and Herrington (2006), achievement “should be based on merit” and the school system should be “the great equalizer” (p. 209).   It is important that nations look at these two areas when choosing which type of entrance examination to give.

The best tests to show both talent and to rule out bias due to cultural background or English language learning have proven to be teacher-created essay examinations (Heyneman, 1987).  The con is that essay tests are costly in time, human resources, and money to administer.  On the other hand, they match high level classroom discussion more closely than multiple-choice tests.  Small and wealthy nations can afford to administer the accountability mechanisms needed to keep out corruption in a subjective format test.  Teachers find school-based examinations popular because they are better able to measure what external standardized tests cannot, such as motivation and diligence, which determine graduation rates in higher education more effectively than aptitude (Heyneman, 1987).  Because of the size and diversity in the U.S., the most common high-stakes tests are standardized multiple choice tests.

Unintended consequences of standardized high-stakes tests have caused controversy in the U.S. surrounding their use.  Au (2007/2013) conducted a qualitative metasynthesis of 49 studies about high-stakes testing.  The study found that high-stakes tests led to a narrowing of the curriculum, fragmented knowledge, and teacher-centered pedagogy.  Au states, “As teachers negotiate high-stakes testing educational environments, the tests have the predominant effect of narrowing curricular content to those subjects included in the tests, resulting in the increased fragmentation of knowledge forms into bits and pieces learned for the sake of the tests themselves, and compelling teachers to use more lecture-based, teacher-centered pedagogies” (2007/2013, p. 246).  Sleeter and Stillman (2005/2013) studied mandated curriculum standards. They also found a narrowing of the curriculum based on the standards and teaching independent skills in a fragmented manner. The findings concerned Sleeter and Stillman because multicultural education practices call for real-life teaching experiences that connect skill learning to real life situations (rather than fragmented skill and drill) and students and teachers making the decisions about what students should learn (rather than someone outside of the classroom such as test-makers or standards-creators).

Siskin (2003/2013) shows an interesting example of how a curriculum is changed once part of the high-stakes testing environment.  Music class, once a model for what education should look like, became a paper and pencil worksheet class.  Because what is tested is what is valued in schools, music teachers rallied to be tested.  The music teachers were afraid of their programs being cut and wanted the tests to show how valuable their programs were.  Before the tests, music classes typically had high expectations for all students, real-life assessments in the form of concerts, and accountability to the parents and the community through these performances.  However, after the tests were implemented, teachers found themselves teaching the content of the test the way the test was administered.  They started giving paper and pencil worksheets and they felt accountable for the number scores rather than for the community performances.

Further controversy surrounds the rewards and the sanctions for teachers and schools as a result of standardized high-stakes test scores.  Eisner (2001/2013) points to the extrinsic motivation such an emphasis on high-stakes testing promotes.  Students become “reward junkies” according to Eisner.  The culture is one of learning for the test and not learning for learning sake.  As educators, we know that intrinsic motivation not extrinsic motivation is the hope for our students so that they will be life-long learners.  In addition to rewards, sanctions affect students and teachers also.  Sanctions can induce stress for teachers (Ravitch, 2010) and students.  As Ravitch stated on The Daily Show, poverty is a predictor of academic achievement. Those who need the resources are punished by not getting resources while those who do not need resources are rewarded with more resources.  This creates a Matthew Effect, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Value added measures have been one attempt to control for student and school characteristics when analyzing standardized test scores, but the value added measures are not a predictable statistical model.   Ravitch states, “With all their caveats and flaws—would drown out every other measure so I concluded that value-added assessment should not be used at all” (2010).  Using value added measures to assess teacher effectiveness, teachers who are highly effective one year may be rated ineffective the next (Ravitch, 2010).  SAS is responsible for the value added measurement of teachers in NC.  It is hard to evaluate their algorithm because they keep their formula a secret.

Ravitch (2010) believes, “Our most important public institution is under siege by people who want to privatize it, turn it into profit centers, and treat children as data points on a chart.” That was not the original intention of the accountability movement. The intention of standardized testing was to get an objective look at a students’ achievement.  The intention of mandated standards was to set high expectations for all of our students.  The intentions were good, but they aren’t working. Eisner (2001/2013) points out the biggest problem.  We don’t have a better alternative yet, but researchers are working on that.

References

Au, W. (2007/2013). High-stakes testing and curriculum control: A qualitative metasynthesis. In D. J.Flinders & S, J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp.235-251).

Baker, E., Barton, P., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., Ladd, H., Linn, R., Shavelson, R., & Shepard, L. Economic Policy Institute, (2010). Epi briefing paper: Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers (278). Retrieved from Economic Policy Institute website: https://moodle1314-courses.wolfware.ncsu.edu/pluginfile.php/391680/mod_resource/content/1/Probs_w_ use_of_student_test_scores_to_evaluate_teachers.pdf

Eisner, E. W. (2001/2013). What does it mean to say a school is doing well? In D. J. Flinders &S. J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp.279-287).

Harris, D. N., & Herrington, C. D. (2006).  Accountability, standards, and the growing achievement gap: Lessons from the past half-century.  American Journal of Education, 112(2),  209-238. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.1086/498995?uid=3739776&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21103046056843

Heyneman, S. P. (2004).  Education and Corruption.  International Journal of Educational Development, 24(6), 637-648. Retrieved from http://www.vanderbilt.edu/peabody/heyneman/PUBLICATIONS/Education%20%26%20Corruption.pdf.

Ravitch, D. (2010). Retrieved from http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/diane-ravitch/ravitch-why-teachers-should-ne.html.  

Siskin, L. (2003/2013). Outside the core: Accountability in tested and untested subjects. In D. J. Flinders & S, J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp. 269-278).

Sleeter, C. & Stillman, J. (2005/2013). Standardizing knowledge in a multicultural society. In D. J. Flinders & S. J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp. 252-268).


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In response to The Indignant Teacher on Common Core Standards

September 6, 2013

On Sept. 6, The Indignant Teacher gave the public a lesson on why the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are bad Indignant Lesson #13: Why High-Stakes Tests are Bad.  The lesson was adapted from Christel Swasey, a Utah mother/former teacher/blogger. The blog listed why parents should fight against the Common Core State Standards and high-stakes tests.  I would like to add my interpretation of the facts to continue the discussion with parents and the public about education policy and to continue the discussion on the pros and cons of high-stakes tests and the Common Core State Standards.

First, I will list the Indignant Teacher’s lesson, and then comment immediately afterwards.

1. The Common Core State tests, which test math and English, are nontransparent and secretive.

The Common Core State tests are being developed.  It takes time to create valid and reliable tests.  The time taken to create the tests is intended to increase fairness, not diminish it.  The practice test for NC is available here, over a year before the high-stakes test  http://www.smarterbalanced.org/pilot-test/ 

2. I don’t believe in the Common Core standards upon which these tests are based. They are experimental. They snub classic literature. They dilute classical math. They were developed and copyrighted by two D.C. private clubs who have no accountability to me as a teacher or as a voter– (the NGA and CCSSO). They give power to a centralized system that is contrary to the constitutional concept of separating powers and empowering local control.

The standards are a document compiled by research of best practices.  The document is a good document in my estimation.  It is not what is in the document that is problematic, it is what is left out of the document, such as multicultural perspectives and creativity. How would we evaluate multiple perspectives and creativity? This  question begs for experimentation.  The standards are new, if that is what the Indignant Teacher means by “experimental.”  Polls indicate that teachers are in support of the CCSS.  According to an EdWeek.org survey:

  • An overwhelming majority of teachers feel that the CCSS quality is at least on par with their states’ prior standards. 
  • On the whole, teachers also agree that implementing the common standards will help them to improve their own teaching

The NGA stands for National Governor’s Association and CCSSO stands for Council of Chief State School Officers, so voters do have control. I do agree that the power is given to a centralized system.  The federal government is offering incentives for states to adopt the CCSS. See http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2013/oct/24/sondy-pope/how-much-federal-government-involved-common-core-s/ for more on this discussion point.

3. The tests feed the national data collection beast via the 50 nationally interoperable State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS), feed the P-20 child tracking/surveillance program, and will gather nonacademic, private information on students, including “behavioral indicators”.

This opinion is a political position not a policy issue specific to the Common Core State Standards.  

4. It’s nobody’s business, how my individual child does in math and English –except the teacher’s business, and mine. My child’s not to be counted as the government’s “human capital” and the government’s not an invited “stakeholder” in my child’s education, career, or life. Remember this: business leaders, governments and legislatures don’t have authority to use tests and data collection to snoop on any child (or adult) for “collective economic prosperity” or for any other reason.

As a citizen of this country, you and everyone else in the country does count as human capital. (you move to another country, you count as human capital in that country. Hence, the generous packages for Western teachers that you discovered.) Countries invest in education because this investment has shown to increase GDP.  Poverty is a predictor of student achievement and a root cause of the achievement gap.  If we can increase GDP, we can reduce poverty.  In addition, public education is public.  It is not just the responsibility of the parent and teacher of a students.  As Diane Ravitch has stated, it is the responsibility of every citizen to educate our children. If it is every person’s responsibility, the schools are accountable to more than just the child, parent, and teacher. Whether you believe in localized or centralized control of schools is a political position.

5. Overemphasis on high-stakes testing hurts kids and wastes instructional time.

6. Overemphasis on high-stakes testing hurts teachers. They will be controlled by how students do on the tests; this limits teachers’ autonomy in the classroom and is an insult to teachers’ professional judgment.

This was true before the Common Core State Standards and is tied to the testing-culture not the document adopted by the states.  I agree that overemphasis of standardized high-stakes tests have caused unintended consequences to students and teachers.  Au (2007/2013) conducted a qualitative metasynthesis of 49 studies about high-stakes testing.  The study found that high-stakes tests led to a narrowed the curriculum, fragmented knowledge, and teacher-centered pedagogy.  Au states, “As teachers negotiate high-stakes testing educational environments, the tests have the predominant effect of narrowing curricular content to those subjects included in the tests, resulting in the increased fragmentation of knowledge forms into bits and pieces learned for the sake of the tests themselves, and compelling teachers to use more lecture-based, teacher-centered pedagogies” (2007/2013, p. 246).  Sleeter and Stillman (2005/2013) also found a narrowed curriculum from outside the classroom power and fragmented knowledge.  The findings concerned Sleeter and Stillman because multicultural pedagogical practices call for integrated curriculum and student and teacher shared power over curriculum content. Siskin (2003/2013) shows an interesting example of how a curriculum changes once tested.  Music, once an example of high standards, authentic performance-based assessments, and accountability to the community, became a paper and pencil test of disjointed factoids. 

Further controversy surrounds the rewards and the sanctions for teachers and schools as a result of standardized high-stakes test scores.  Eisner (2001/2013) points to the extrinsic motivation such an emphasis on high-stakes testing promotes.  Even in the best case scenario, students become “reward junkies.”  The culture is one of learning for the test and not learning for learning sake.  As an educator, my hope for students is for them to have an intrinsic motivation not extrinsic motivation for learning, so that they will be life-long learners.  In addition to rewards, sanctions affect students and teachers also.  Sanctions can induce stress for teachers (Ravitch, 2010) and students.  As stated earlier, poverty is a predictor of academic achievement. Those who need the resources are punished by not getting resources while those who do not need resources are rewarded with more resources.  This creates a Matthew Effect, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  

The CCSS have more pros and cons than discussed here.  To read more about this issue, please read a great blog on Ed Week http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/11/common_core_standards_ten_colo.html?intc=mvs and the response from educators http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/11/two_responses_to_ten_colossal_.html.  I invite you to comment so that we can continue the conversation.

 

References

Au, W. (2007/2013). High-stakes testing and curriculum control: A qualitative metasynthesis. In D. J. Flinders & S, J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp.235-251).

 

Eisner, E. W. (2001/2013). What does it mean to say a school is doing well? In D. J. Flinders & S, J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp.279-287).

 

Harris, D. N., & Herrington, C. D. (2006).  Accountability, standards, and the growing achievement gap: Lessons from the past half-century.  American Journal of Education, 112(2),  209-238. 

 

Heyneman, S. P. (1987).  Uses of examinations in developing countries: Selection,research and education sector management.  International Journal of Education Development, 7(4), 251-263. Retrieved from http://www.vanderbilt.edu/peabody/heyneman/PUBLICATIONS/198702.pdf

 

Heyneman, S. P. (2004).  Education and Corruption.  International Journal of Educational Development, 24(6), 637-648. Retrieved from http://www.vanderbilt.edu/peabody/heyneman/PUBLICATIONS/Education%20%26%20Corruption.pdf.

 

Lexington.  (2005).  In praise of aptitude test.  The Economist.  Retrieved from www.economist.com/node/3739498‎.

 

Ravitch, D. (2010, Oct. 6). Retrieved from http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/diane-ravitch/ravitch-why-teachers-should-ne.html.  

 

Rohlen, Thomas P.  (1997).  Differences that make a difference.  In Cummings, W.K. & Altbach P. G. (Eds.), The challenge of eastern Asian education (pp. 223-248). Albany, NY: SUNY. 

 

Siskin, L. (2003/2013). Outside the core: Accountability in tested and untested subjects. In D. J. Flinders & S, J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp. 269-278).

 

Sleeter, C. & Stillman, J. (2005/2013). Standardizing knowledge in a multicultural society. In D. J. Flinders & S, J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader, (pp. 252-268).


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High-stakes testing: Necessary evil or just evil?

High-stakes testing– like all controversial issues– has proponents and haters, pros and cons.  Check-out this Padlet Wall of opinions I gathered on the issue and decide where you stand.  (If you cannot see the wall below, follow this link http://padlet.com/wall/oqdkf224km.)  Comment your opinions and experiences with high-stakes testing!


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English Language Learners

Supporting English Language Learners in the classroom is important in all schools where the language of instruction is English, but students first language is a different language.  The Sheltered Instruction method provides common sense ways to scaffold instruction for ELLs.

  • Preteach to activate prior knowledge and provide adequate background knowledge that will be needed for the lesson. Connect to the students’ experiences.  Acknowledge the rich cultural knowledge each students brings to the class.
  • Cooperative groups allow students to practice speaking and listening, to use each person’s strength to help the group, and the social interaction is motivating.
  • Speaking slowly and clearly is important.  Before I traveled to Mexico I practiced saying, “No comprendí. Por favor, hablá más despacio.”  I knew that I would need native speakers to speak more slowly for me.
  • Avoiding idioms or figures of speech that don’t literally translate helps avoid confusion.  Common idioms are “give yourself a pat on the back,” “shoot for the stars,” and “all your ducks in a row.”
  • Use visuals like hand motions and pictures to support understanding.
  • Adapted texts can help also.  Instructors can cut and paste to make an abridged version or highlight what the ELLs should concentrate on comprehending.  Using multiple texts and considerate texts is advisable.

McLaughlin, M. (2010). Content area reading: Teaching and learning in an age of multiple literacies. Boston: Pearson.


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Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, Common Core State Standards

Is understanding poetry a valuable skill?  Is reading Les Miserables important?  The new Common Core State Standards, adopted by 47 states and DC, say yes . . . but not really.  Everyone agrees that learning to read is essential. The authors of the Common Core Standards argue that learning to extract facts and make inferences with nonfiction is a skill needed in college and career.  Presently, the children in the U.S. are not prepared for the reading required to be successful postsecondary students, employees, or citizens.  There are numerous sources of quantitative data that support this assertion and I do believe a problem exists (1).  The CCSS’s solution is that by the time students are in 12th grade, the literacy curriculum should be 70 percent nonfiction and 30 percent fiction.  Focusing on nonfiction will prepare children for the reality of college or career.  This means that nonfiction will play a major role not only in social studies and science, but also in English.

As a public high school English teacher for 6 years, I know what is expected of these teachers.  We are expected to teach in the same amount of time as all of the other subjects and with a high stakes test at the end of the course:

1. reading skills (rereading, summarizing, critiquing)

2. literature (metaphor, stanzas, characterization, irony)

3. cultural literacy (incorporation in the shared experience of their culture through reading the classics and talking about cultural periods like Romanticism and Modernism)

4. digital literacy (evaluating sources, navigating websites,  using search engines)

5. language (grammar, connotation, root words)

6. creative/reflective writing (personal narratives, journaling, poetry)

7. informational/persuasive writing (aka pulling teeth)

8. research skills (because it is reading and writing after all)

9. study skills (because English is the only class students take every year)

10. administrative tasks (see #9)

The CCSS is not saying that English teachers should stop teaching literature; they are saying to shift the focus to nonfiction reading skills.  With reform, there is always a loser.  Reforming the English curriculum means something has to give and it seems to be literature.  Now before you all shout “Hooray! No more iambic pentameter quizzes!” think of this.  Teachers since the 1700’s have observed that children are more engaged in reading when they connect personally with the text.  Because literature reflects the human experience, it is often more accessible for young readers.  Engaged readers actually score higher on reading comprehension, more so than grouping by socioeconomic class, race, or gender (2).  More importantly, English class is one of the few mandatory classes where students are challenged to not look for the right way, but to look in a different way, to be creative, and to use their imagination.

The unfortunate consequence lies in losing this creativity.  When we focus on standardization and fact extraction, we miss what makes America great:  innovation, ingenuity, imagination, thinking outside the box.  We develop a generation who can read a manual, but nobody can invent something worth reading a manual about.

There is no easy solution in preparing our children for their future, but let us not overlook the consequences of our actions.  Would it not be possible to add a mandatory class to the high school curriculum called Research, where students can practice reading nonfiction, digital literacy, and informational writing?  This could help reach the goal of 70 percent nonfiction during the school day, while still giving students an opportunity to read The Scarlet Letter cover to cover.  Many students have more than enough credits to graduate before the end of their senior year.  Adding one compulsory class would not be a problem.  During my high school experience, we had to pass Public Speaking in order to graduate.  In looking at the other side of the coin, students who have failures or would possible fail the research course would not graduate and therefore lower graduation rates.  This could be resolved by putting the Research course on the college-prep course of study and not a requirement for a career prep high school diploma.  Meaning, universities expect students to take this class but it is not necessary to get a diploma.

I applaud the CCSS for not being afraid to tackle a problem.  I applaud the CCSS for their commitment to utilize quantitative data, teacher focus groups, and international comparative research.  All I am asking is for support to teach what cannot be measured.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

(1) National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers (2010). Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social STudies, Science, and Technical Subjects: Appendix A.  National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers.  Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf

(2) Ed. Tracey, D. H. and Morrow, L. M. (2012). Lenses on reading.  Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=jclKqpry_54C&pg=PA75&lpg=PA75&dq=guthrie+2004+engagement+theory&source=bl&ots=sWIjMPVmmx&sig=4z5Uu7hZRcfykeZ3XJlhdaItvhc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=TywEUZzdJZSE8QSU4oCwBA&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=guthrie%202004%20engagement%20theory&f=false