Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Bill of Goods the UFT/AFT is Trying to Sell: Common Core Standards

Remember, the first action of Occupy DOE was to shut down the Walcott/David Coleman "information" session on Common Core in October.
(Video at: http://youtu.be/YbmjMickJMA).

When our union and WalBloom and Gates are all on the same page, it's time to run the other way. Susan Ohanian has been outing the common core crap (CCC) for years. When the UFT starts pushing this like dope, time for you to stand up and fight.


Ohanian comment: This incredibly Incredibly pompous, ignorant document is part of Coming Together to Raise Achievement prepared Center for K--12 Assessment & Performance Management at ETS.

Don't you love this?
The CCSS outline what students will know and be able to do. By grade 6, students will trace and evaluate an argument and determine the specific claims supported by evidence and those that are not. By grades 9 and 10, students will have read U.S. documents of historical and literary significance and will learn to delineate and
evaluate the reasoning in these texts.
How many 6th graders do you think this claimant has taught? She has been Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Rochester, MA school district and Director of English, MassInsight Education, a corporate-based organization, infamous for pushing the MCAS.
Student writers will think expansively. [emphasis added]
In the 1970s, the era of behavioral objectives,I refused to write required "The student WILL. . ." in lesson plans. My god, I taught 7th grade. On a good day, student "might"... And there were plenty of days that weren't-so-good.

Apostles and assorted groupies writing about the Common Core admit to no such students, no such days.

Writers of documents like this never admit to the reality of students or the variety they bring to the classroom. I once wrote a little document for the New York State Teachers Union "What is a 7th Grader?" In it I pointed out that I never knew which Sherrie would walk in the door--the one sucking her thumb and wanting to read fairy tales or the one parading the role of nymphet. Some days she would indeed think expansively. Other days, she was much more intent on the drama of being a 7th grader confused and challenged by her own sexuality, family problems, insecurities. Whichever Jenny appeared on a given day, I had to be ready to adapt to her needs of the moment. Certainly, I did not pull out any "The student WILL" document. Or call on Aristotle to show me how to teach. I do remember how much Sherrie--and her peers--enjoyed our read-aloud of Ron Jones' Acorn People. My team teaching partner and I felt it was critical for our students, known as the worst readers in the school--and not so good in other subjects either--learn to empathize with people with worse problems than their own. I am happy to see this book is still in print. It's values will far outlast any picayune dictates coming out of the corporate-educational complex.

Okay, I admit it: Jenny and her classmates also liked Flat Stanley--almost as much as I did. I've recounted all this in a book about our middle school years, Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids and a Killing Curriculum.

I would just add that years ago my article in The Atlantic featuring what the basal committees had done to make Flat Stanley "acceptable" provoked more mail than I've received on anything--including a correspondence with Jeff Brown and Sid Fleischman.

Oh, sorry. I wasn't teaching "Twenty-first Century students. I'm still mired in that old Twentieth Century paradigm.

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
[T]he CCSS compel collaboration; students will know how to be smart, sound smart, and affirm the intelligent contributions of the people with whom they work or learn.
Damn. Damn. Damn. I just keep forgetting. I don't work in the century of such claims. In our time, we did our best, but we just lacked the standards to guarantee that students would be smart, etc. etc.

But hey, you teachers in the Twenty-First Century, if you made a list of "What has to be taught", what would be on it? Think hard. Picture your students. . . individual students. Think hard. What must be taught. Here's what this ETS writer, delineating the Common Core dictates: key Aristotelian claims of ethos, logos, and pathos will have to be taught.

This writer offers David Coleman lite. Not that I subscribe in any way to true blue David Coleman, but. . . I'm somewhat bemused that ETS would offer such a weak argument.

And Gentle Reader, if you don't recognize the name David Coleman, I advise you to put the name into a 'search' on this site. Do it immediately. Your very survival as a teacher who responds to the needs of the children in your care depends on it.

You must prepare yourself to fight. YOU...with colleagues. NCTE won't help you. The unions won't help you. You have to gather with other teachers and parents and FIGHT THIS.
 See below the fold for the original article:

By Elise M. Frangos

Oliver Wendell Holmes explained, "A mind that is stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."

As a longtime English language arts teacher and Curriculum Director who has taught across grades 5--12, I think the new CCSS will shift literacy instruction toward empowering students with more of the skills they need to succeed in college and at work.

Before this happens, the CCSS will foster many spirited conversations among colleagues, between schools, and within districts. It will profoundly influence professional development and the inception of new pedagogical techniques. But ultimately, students across all economic backgrounds will be stretched in powerful and multidimensional ways.

Student literacy experiences will directly engage students in ways that are critical to their future success. The CCSS document distills support for what we already know works --that students need to interact with great texts, drill into them, comprehend and evaluate them, and use them as models for their own creative work.

Its emphasis directs students toward becoming rhetors, people who can speak and write effectively to communicate with others while appreciating context, understanding their audience, and knowing their purpose. In essence, the CCSS will help students find their voices and more effectively partake in both face-to-face and virtual communities.

Revitalizing Rhetoric,Promoting Fresh Writing

Whether one teaches composition in grade 2, grade 7, grade 10, or college, a common teacher lament is that student essays are often in search of a thesis. Meandering essays "talk about stuff," but students have difficulty forming an argument. The student may have written a lot, but the teacher wonders, where
was she going? What was the writer's purpose?
Students need to not only think and feel, they also need to question, gather evidence, shape, re-shape, and revise their understandings. They need the opportunity to formulate arguments and argue a lot. They need to know how to create claims and launch them after gathering sound, informed evidence. Students need the tools and models of civil discourse and to study examples of successful written arguments and those that failed. Through the CCSS, they will get experience in this.

The CCSS outline what students will know and be able to do. By grade 6, students will trace and evaluate an argument and determine the specific claims supported by evidence and those that are not. By grades 9 and 10, students will have read U.S. documents of historical and literary significance and will learn to delineate and
evaluate the reasoning in these texts.

The study of argument won't be limited to expository writing; student writers will think expansively. Whether a student argues that Conrad's depictions of the River Thames and the Congo in Heart of Darkness stand in contrast, creating images of the known vs. the unknown, or if she claims that the calm, lovely natural world of Golding's island imagery in Lord of the Flies intensifies the horror of Piggy's death, she is still forming an argument. Effective composition, whether
focused on imaginative literature-prose, poetry, or drama, is based on knowing one's purpose, content, and audience and relaying an argument in such a way that the piece hits the target.

With the advent of the CCSS, students will be taught to support claims with varied evidence, guide readers to their conclusion, and also anticipate the perspectives of those who differ with their arguments. Once students are taught the tools of rhetoric, they will see that an argument is the backbone of all expository and literary work.

The CCSS provide the backwards planning to help students get there. In the elementary years, students will focus on the comprehension of main ideas in their reading. As students progress through the curriculum, in grade 6 they will "trace and evaluate an argument and the specific claims in a text distinguishing claims that are not supported by evidence." To accomplish this, key Aristotelian claims of ethos, logos, and pathos will have to be taught. By grade 9, students will be "able to read and comprehend seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance." Students also will be expected to know how to make a counterclaim or concession.

Discarding the Five-Paragraph Straitjacket

When student writers display the backbone of a solid argument, it is often supported in the form of a five paragraph essay. This formulaic template offers the younger student a predictable skeleton for writing, but it can wrench the purpose of the composition, confine proofs to the prescribed three, and fail to engage the reader. Writers learn best from reading. The shift toward reading great nonfiction, in addition to imaginative texts, will assist student writing.

The Study of Sentence Scrambling

The CCSS extend grammar study into the realm of syntax. We may see fewer middle school, high school, and college level writers clinging to the standard sentence form of subject/predicate. By grade 5, students will "expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style." By high school, students will "... Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax." The focus on sentence acrobatics in the CCSS propels teachers to work with students on sentence structure and word arrangement. Sentences will be written to suit the desired musicality in writing or the purposes of the argument.

Ethical Information Gathering

Twenty-first century students need to know how to gather information and communicate information with people in front of them and beyond the classroom in fresh, clear ways. With the explosion of research sites, students need to know what research is evidence based and salient to their research questions. The CCSS value ethical, multigenre research. Research will start in the early grades, focused on short projects to build knowledge. As students advance through the grades, they will gain experience gathering information from digital and print sources, learning how to synthesize multiple research sources and properly credit the sites they use.

Common Core Collegiality and Cooperation

Our increasingly diverse world is full of people with different ideas, histories, and cultures. Sadly the news and, sometimes, our schools are rife with stories of incivility, intolerance, and conflict. With the CCSS, practice in discourse is on the horizon. Small children will have the opportunity to learn concession and counterclaim. They'll build proficiency as collegial members of learning communities.

For me, the most heartening facets of the CCSS are the speaking and listening standards. As early as kindergarten, students will learn how to have collaborative conversations and learn to ask for help on grade-level appropriate topics. The CCSS will stretch students to continue to read across genres, but learn how to use great stories encountered in canonical, contemporary, and multicultural literary texts to support their arguments. Students will learn how to formulate forceful and fortified arguments in writing or in speaking. Students will learn to research skillfully and write about what they find, weaving information together with artful sentences in organized compositions. Most importantly, the CCSS compel collaboration; students will know how to be smart, sound smart, and affirm the intelligent contributions of the people with whom they work or learn. Our 21st-century students, heading to rigorous college work or the workplace, will benefit from the CCSS's shifts in literacy instruction, the classroom experiences that teachers will craft to transmit them, and the assessments that will inevitably measure these new directions.

A Ph.D. candidate in language arts and literacy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Elise M. Frangos is the Director of English for the Massachusetts Math & Science Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing student success in Advanced Placement® courses.
— Elise M. Frangos
Center for K–12 Assessment & Performance Management at ETS




  1. Tell me . . . most of the teachers have traditionally voted Democrat. If you can't pull the lever for a Repub...simply don't vote as a protest against Obama-for HE is the main mover behind this testing witch hunt.

  2. I will not vote for Obama but will vote for anyone who is a 3rd party candidate on the left.

    1. Maybe it is time to Occupy the Presidential Election. I will also vote 3rd party this year. I have never done this but I have to take a stand against the faux-democrats who are prostituting their political "positions" in so many ways.


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