The problem with the Common Core’s mission to improve college and career readiness is not that these expectations are too high, but these standards are too narrow and specialized, so they do not prepare our students for the diverse real world reading and thinking challenges of life, school, and employment.
In April, 2014 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported…
“In October 2013, 65.9 percent of 2013 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities
About 6 in 10 recent high school graduates enrolled in college attended 4-year institutions. Of these students, 27.8 percent participated in the labor force, compared with 45.2 percent of recent graduates enrolled in 2-year colleges.
Recent high school graduates not enrolled in college in October 2013 were over twice as likely as enrolled graduates to be working or looking for work–74.2 percent compared with 34.1 percent.”
Since one third of high school students seek employment after graduation and many college students also participate in the labor force, the Common Core Standards should be revised and expanded to address the “work readiness” needs of all our students.
Equipped for the Future is a 1994 adult education initiative by the National Institute for Literacy that identified and defined 16 content and national learning standards that,
” define the knowledge and skills adults need in order to successfully carry out their roles as parents and family members, citizens and community members, and workers. Keeping a focus clearly on what adults need literacy for, EFF identified 16 core skills that supported effective performance in the home, community, and workplace.”
The National Work Readiness Council awards a National Work Readiness Credential that is aligned with Equipped for the Future applied learning standards. According to the National Work Readiness Credential Candidate Handbook…
“The Work Readiness Credential (WRC) is a group of tests designed to determine if candidates have the skills they need to enter the workforce. A wide variety of workers, supervisors, managers, businesses, and government agencies have worked together to determine what a person needs to know to be a successful employee. The WRC shows that the person who earns it by passing all four tests has demonstrated knowledge and skills important to successful employment in entry-level positions. A student, job seeker, or worker who earns the WRC will have a national, transferable certification of skills and knowledge in entry-level employment.”
The Common Core State Standards focus primarily on very narrow and specialized literacy skills that require deep analysis and deconstruction of text for academic purposes called Close Reading…
“…A first reading is about figuring out what a text says. It is purely an issue of reading comprehension. Thus, if someone is reading a story, he/should be able to retell the plot; if someone is reading a science chapter, he/she should be able to answer questions about the key ideas and details of the text…
However, close reading requires that one go further than this. A second reading would, thus, focus on figuring out how this text worked. How did the author organize it? What literary devices were used and how effective were they?…”
In contrast, the Work Readiness Credential indicates that a student has acquired a much broader, useful, and transferable set of literacy skills for a variety of purposes called; Read With Understanding.
The Guide: Getting Ready for the National Work Readiness Credential provides examples of proficient performance including…
Reading a magazine about typical behavior for toddlers, to figure out how to deal with a two-year-old’s tantrums.
Reading a brochure from a health clinic to learn about signs of depression and helpful tips for dealing with it.
Reading OSHA information about noise exposure, to solve a problem at work.
Reading information about voter eligibility in order to decide if one is eligible to vote in an upcoming election.
Reading information about financial aid for higher education to decide whether or not to apply for loans, and if applying for aid, to understand options available.
Reading Material Safety Data Sheets in order to get guidance about safely handling toxic materials in the workplace.
Proponents of the Common Core claim that it will prepare students for the challenges of mastering informational text such as a college text book or an employee manual or even many of the activities listed above.
If you compare the Read With Understanding examples listed above to this sample close reading question that was published in Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” Blog, it is clear that this contrived and convoluted question is assessing a very narrow and specialized literacy skill.
This academic skill may serve students well when taking future Common Core ELA tests, but it certainly is not a broadly applicable reading comprehension skill that would be useful or transferable to many real life vocational reading tasks.
Consider this fourth-grade question on the test based on a passage from Pecos Bill Captures the Pacing White Mustang by Leigh Peck.
Why is Pecos Bill’s conversation with the cowboys important to the story?
A) It predicts the action in paragraph 4
B) It predicts the action in paragraph 5
C) It predicts the choice in paragraph 10
D) It predicts the choice in paragraph 11
In 2011, Equipped for the Future issued a Report on Correspondences between the EFF Curriculum Frameworks and the Common Core State Standards and the report found that…
“The two documents differ in that the Common Core focuses on academic (and to some extent, vocational) purposes for all, while EFF contextualizes skills within a fuller range of adult family-related, work-related, and civic purposes at all levels…
Another key area of difference is in what the “standard” attempts to describe. Each EFF content standard describes a transferable skill process that can be applied to a wide variety of adult purposes and tasks…
In contrast, the Common Core documents target discrete skills and sub-skills which, like other sets of K-12 standards, may lead teachers to focus only on each sub-skill and not also provide learning activities which help students apply and transfer their skills outside of the immediate learning situation…
There is also a difference in the way that Metacognition is addressed, with metacognitive strategies being discussed in the Common Core introductory materials but not in the standards document, and these strategies (surfacing/building on prior knowledge, monitoring learning and adjusting strategies to enhance it, etc.) comprising a prominent feature of the EFF Curriculum Frameworks.”
The choice seems pretty clear, we continue full speed ahead down the narrow and selective Common Core college prep and career readiness pathway or take time for a purposeful pause so the Standards can be revised and expanded to focus on a broader and much more inclusive education and workforce pathway.
Continuing down the Common Core “road” with ELA standards that focus primarily on selective and specialized literacy skills instead of broad-based, applicable, and transferable literacy skills, make as much sense as the US Education Department announcing a new initiative to improve U.S. bike riding skills by mandating that all children learn to ride a bike without the use of training wheels, and declaring the new National Standard for being a proficient and globally competitive bike rider is…NO HANDS.
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