Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts & Literacy is a culmination of an extended broad-based movement to create a level of standard in schools across the United States. This new standard, now adopted by 46 states across the country is an effort to help ensure that all students are career and college ready in literacy no later than the end of high school.
As with anything that the government tries to do, there has been an outcry from the fringe. I’m not here to take sides, I am here to deliver the facts-you can decide whether this will be good for our new breed of writers and readers.
The mission statement directly from the CCSS website is as follows:
“The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”
This has become such a big deal that Publisher’s Weekly just held a Discussion Series this week in front of a sold out audience. Why would Publisher’s Weekly be so interested in the outcome of Common Core? There’s a potential to see a big shift in how textbooks are written, distributed and how students are taught to read and write.
Here’s a sampling of some of the Standards of proficiency for Grade 9-10 from the corestandards.org website.
- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
- Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
- Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
If you have school-aged children in the United States, I think it is important for you to be aware of the processes that shape your children’s curriculum in writing and reading. These are the future readers and for many of us, current readers, of what we do every day.
The outcry from the conservative movement is to keep the Federal Government out of individual lives. It is true that this is a Federal program; however, it is up to the States to decide if they will incorporate the Standards. There is no requirement to have these Standards.
The outcry from the liberal or progressive movement is more specific to the Standards. The Standards promote the necessary skills to succeed in college or career. In other words, they are training our students to pass tests. According to the CCSS, the initiative “… requires well-researched informational text and readings that engage critical analysis.” Overall, the CCSS materials focus on non-fiction. Reading just the Standards highlighted above, you would tend to agree with the focus on non-fiction.
That’s not the case, though. If you drill down into the Standards, you will see some very encouraging goals that will help produce great writers and knowledgeable readers:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
- Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.
- Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
- Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole.
- Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.
- Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed, or resolved over the course of the narrative.
Is the CCSS designed to help bring along the lowest common denominator? Is the CCSS a tool to label “success” in a high school? In the end, you can make your personal judgment as to the importance of the CCSS. For now, we have to wait and see the overall effect of the Standards. The one thing both sides should agree on-anything that can improve the literacy of our children is a good thing.