Rather than pursue my discussion of the history of the Common Core, I thought I'd jump to a question that I'm very interested in:
What are the pros and the cons of the Common Core Standards? They seem to have become so politicized that I haven't seen any real evaluations of the pros and cons. So I'll start it off, feel free to join in. I'll start today with the language arts side.
The language arts standards shifts from the heavy traditional focus on literature to a more balanced approach with 50 of the reading being of non-fiction, 50% of fiction. While many English teachers are up in arms about this, most of us agree that we should have a workforce with more modern skills in media and are willing to give up a bit in terms of their ability to analyze a book's theme or a poem's rhyme pattern. In terms of critical thinking and analysis of non-fiction, students are being taught to focus on what the purpose of a document is, who wrote it, and is it clear or convincing and why?
In terms of writing, this spells the end of the five paragraph academic essay. Instead, students are given more real world assignments like writing a persuasive blog article, a memo about what strategy the company should take, or a piece with instructions on how to accomplish a given task.
In terms of reading comprehension, the shift is away from "what did the article say" to "what was the article intended to do?"
This is interesting. I can't think of a single problem with the standards for language arts. I decided to do some web reading and googles "NGSS Pros & Cons." I read the top entries for cons and none of them complained about the standards themselves. They talk about:
- tremendously difficult adjustment for students and teachers
- Common Core Standards will costs schools money to update the technology
- The Common Core Standards are vague and broad
- "the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation." - Diane Ravitch. She also addresses the fiction vs information text as: "The flap over fiction vs. informational text further undermined my confidence in the standards. There is no reason for national standards to tell teachers what percentage of their time should be devoted to literature or information. Both can develop the ability to think critically."
In fact, all of the common complaints about the language arts side of the common core focus on issues unrelated to the standards but based on the process and how the testing and data related to them will work.
It's interesting since all of the standardized tests are going to be computer-based adaptive in the near future. All of the data will be used for data-driven differentiated learning. And the states that have tradtiionally created their own standards which are frankly substandard have all committed to switching to standards and tests that are more in tune with national and international norms. Yet these complaints which are basically about the 21st Century are all being used to attack the NGSS. Guess what, beat down the NGSS and it will come right back under a new name. It's basically a collection of best practices melded with modern reality and the need to be competitive. For Florida, even if we stayed with the Sunshine Standards and FCAT, it would soon by revised to be less substandard and the delivery of the test would be updated to be computer-based.