“When you assume, you make a CCSS of you and me”

The Common Core is laden with serious problems, and it makes me want to vomit, but not until after I school some folks, out of the loop.  I won’t even bring up the fact -as TeacherX likes to point out- that it’s “a $14 billion Trojan horse for more testing.”

A week before school started and I had to sit through a horrible professional development that was put together by our “network literacy specialist” who, when I asked her where she got the document she responded that ” it was something I got from a friend.”  As if that’s good enough.  Thank you for your honesty in describing how you waste my time with such little forethought.

I was so livid about the content and methods, I posted pics to these to social media with the comment below.  Please note the description for the “close reading” strategy:

The text below (Dees) was given to teachers as professional development on literacy strategies for CCSS. The disposition we take is that this should be text-dependent reading, un-contextualized (second pic). This document expounding the virtues of vulture capitalism and philanthropic colonialism is meant to be read w/o understanding all the grief those two practices have caused in the world and more intimately in our Chicago communities. This is why educators must fight the common core animal head on. No text is without CONtext.
In the margin, I wrote, “If background knowledge is secondary, then why pay for certified educators?  Why not do everything via virtual school?  (Adressing the “close reading strategy) Very problematic: [this reading is] disengaging, individualistic, [encourages to students to] develop[ing] false conclusions.  This is the centerpiece of the CCSS problem.”
Today the Examiner published a poorly-researched op-ed extolling the virtues of Common Core, missed the boat completely and declared that professors -the one he interviewed- think that the CCSS will improve “teachers expectations of learning for young black and brown men in Chicago and nationally,” even while admitting they probably won’t be implemented well in Chicago.  Which is true.
Below is my challenge to the ideas he put forth:
I call into question a serious assumption that he makes: It is extremely problematic to call reading the “most basic of skills…” To be sure, there is NOTHING basic about reading. As literate adults, we take for granted and forget that, but the reading process is extremely complex to both learn, and to teach, and only more so under threat of high stakes (testing, school closures, merit pay), and the conditions of our schools (rising class sizes, no AC, students experiencing trauma).

I am a social studies teacher in CPS, but because there are no Social Studies Standards, I “officially” teach “Literacy.” This is because in the 1980s’ standards implementation set off the “Culture Wars,” and so a strategic decision was made by the (non-teacher) “experts” from the Governor’s Association and Achieve, Inc. to replace social studies with literacy in order to pass a “common” set of standards across the US, and in doing so bypass the inherent bias in social studies education: “the question of “which/whose history is the subject of study, and therefore the “official history?”

The CCSS are written in a way to declare that if any given young person is meeting standards, they should be able to “analyze context given a piece of text” via critical thinking. But without context a reader cannot place importance or relevance into a given document, and therefore critical thinking DOES NOT take place at all, and the standards ultimately feign neutrality in the face of “bipartisanship.” Real neutrality means analyzing text and contexts. As I say to my students, “we must read the word AND read the world.” CCSS does not ask this of young people.

It does not matter what kind of standards are developed or aligned to what kind of tests. The only way to make learning valuable for young people is to make sure they have context for learning. No set of standards can provide context. Only when we recognize to invest in the people who engage in both teaching and learning will we start to value the process as a whole.

Here’s what needs to happen to improve the rate of success for young people:

1) Invest in humane and developmentally appropriate facilities and conditions for teaching and learning.

2) The job of Principal should not be “building manager,” but “teacher-leader” as they were 50 yr ago focusing on staff development.

3) Individualized Professional Development Plans: Support for educators to work on what they want to work on that directly translates to improved curriculum and instruction for students.

4) A rich and varied curriculum of not only STEM, but the arts, humanities, health, civics, and vocational experiences.

All of this is not cheap. But I am convinced that if the United States can afford 4 wars in 10 years, or money to bail out major banks we can afford a dignified education system for all children.

The need for standards is a myth, but a lucrative one at that, and pervasive in the education reform world.  As educators we roll our eyes, but we need to speak up and expose what it actually does to curriculum and instruction – and ultimately students- is harm.


2 responses to ““When you assume, you make a CCSS of you and me”

  1. Pingback: “When you assume, you make a CCSS of you and me” | The Classroom Sooth | THE CLOSED CAMPUS

  2. Pingback: Sunday reads. | Fred Klonsky

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