In our on-going desire
to bring educational and thought provoking information to parents of school
aged children, as well as the community at large, the North Bay Educational
Foundation (NBEF) will share news, articles,
case studies and announcements on this blog. Our hope is to stimulate
conversation about improving education in the North Bay community and to
provide a forum to openly examine educational alternatives for our children.
Promethean Plan: A Teacher on Fulfilling the Intent of Common Core, Part 1 - How We Can All Too Easily Squander this Great Opportunity
Mark Anderson, NYC teaching fellow and Special Education teacher at the Jonas Bronck Academy in the Bronx, has recently published a series of articles addressing the implementation of Common Core standards. In these he discusses what he considers three missteps which could squander the opportunity that Common Core standards present:
“I believe that the adoption of the Common Core standards has provided us with a golden window of opportunity for engaging and challenging our students with rich content, empowering teachers as scholars and content experts, and establishing a modicum of academic coherency in classrooms across our nation. Here’s how we can all too easily squander this great opportunity:
- Allowing skills-based teaching to remain predominant.
- Placing the burden of teaching literacy entirely on English Language Arts.
- Infantilizing teachers.
If we perpetuate these three practices, then the Common Core will do little to transform much of anything. Right now the Common Core standards stand at a pivotal moment, as they move from grand vision into the classroom and from rhetoric into curriculum.”
Anderson makes the case that for Common Core standards to be successful they must be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum, and he notes that many schools and districts are not doing this. In this first of a three part series, Anderson focuses on:
Mistake #1 - Allowing skills-based teaching to remain predominant
“By political necessity, the Common Core generally avoid specifying what content should be taught in literacy, beyond providing a general directive to teach ‘classic myths and stories from around the world, foundational U.S. documents, seminal works of American literature, and the writings of Shakespeare.’ However, the great shift that the standards make is that they put a strong focus on what they term ‘text complexity.’
So, big surprise: skills—such as inferencing, using context clues, or finding the main idea—are secondary to a student’s ability to deeply comprehend the content of what is read. Unsurprisingly, too many students arrive at our middle schools, high schools, and colleges with little understanding of literature, their nation and its place in the world, or the historical context of scientific discovery.
The writers of Common Core acknowledged this limitation when they cautioned that the standards ‘do not—indeed, cannot—enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn.’ It is therefore up to teachers and curriculum designers to select texts that they believe will cumulatively build student understanding of literary history and domain-specific knowledge.
This is where effective implementation of the Common Core is in most danger. Most teachers, schools, and the consultants who support them are accustomed to skills-based teaching. Furthermore, the development or adoption of a coherent, thoughtfully sequenced curriculum is unfortunately not a priority in most American public schools.
According to the standards, ‘Building knowledge systematically in English language arts is like giving children various pieces of a puzzle in each grade that, over time, will form one big picture. At a curricular or instructional level, texts—within and across grade levels—need to be selected around topics or themes that systematically develop the knowledge base of students.’
Curriculum programs and consultants to schools have been given a free pass in this area for far too long. If we know that knowledge is intimately linked with reading comprehension ability, then it is unconscionable that we should allow the cultivation of knowledge to continue to be treated haphazardly, or as a consideration of secondary importance, by any school curriculum.”
Read Mark Anderson’s entire article (Link)