A Common Core Close Reading Activity

close_reading

The Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading include;

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical INFERENCES from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support CONCLUSIONS drawn from the text….

As 2014 comes to a close I will refrain from offering context or commentary regarding the following selection of quotes and in accordance with the close reading mandate of the Common Core allow the text to speak for itself so readers can make their own inferences and draw their own conclusions.

Implemented correctly, the common standards and assessments can vault education over the barrier of low-level test preparation and toward the goal of world-class learning outcomes for all students. Implemented poorly, however, the standards and assessments could result in accountability on steroids, stifling meaningful school improvement nationwide.

Building on the Common Core, David T. Conley March 2011

… these standards are worthy of nothing if the assessments built on them are not worthy of teaching to, period…

It was Lauren who propounded the great rule that I think is a statement of reality, though not a pretty one, which is teachers will teach towards the test. There is no force strong enough on this earth to prevent that. There is no amount of hand-waving, there‟s no amount of saying, “They teach to the standards, not the test; we don‟t do that here.” Whatever. The truth is – and if I misrepresent you, you are welcome to take the mic back. But the truth is teachers do.

Tests exert an enormous effect on instructional practice, direct and indirect, and its hence our obligation to make tests that are worthy of that kind of attention. It is in my judgment the single most important work we have to do over the next two years to ensure that that is so, period.

 2011 Keynote Speech; Institute for Learning, David Coleman

The current focus on testing has tended to make test results the goal of the system, rather than a measure. The change in goal means recognizing that a test is only measure. Using tests as the goal infringes Goodhart’s Law: when measure becomes the goal, it ceases to be an effective measure.

The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education, Steve Denning 9/1/11

Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality. (2)…

A decision to use VAMs for teacher evaluations might change the way the tests are viewed and lead to changes in the school environment. For example, more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. (6)…

The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences. (7)…

American Statistical Association has just released a very important document on Value Added Methodologies Robert D. Skeels 4/9/14

Our first realization was that test scores add relatively little to our ability to predict the success of our students…In addition, we know that some potential students are deterred from applying to colleges that require a test score because they are not comfortable taking standardized tests….

The Case Against the SAT, Thomas Rochon 9/6/13

New York City’s comptroller plans to release a report on Monday quantifying what student advocates have long suspected: that many public schools in the city do not offer any kind of arts education, and that the lack of arts instruction disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods…

Between 2006 and 2013, spending on arts supplies and equipment dropped by 84 percent, the report said. When money is tight, arts education is often one of the first subjects to be sidelined, the report noted. It said the trend had accelerated as schools focused more on meeting accountability standards, shifting their resources from subjects seen as nonessential, like arts, to preparation for English and math tests…

Arts Education Lacking in Low-Income Areas of New York City, Report Says Vivian Yee  4/7/14

Over the last three decades, while schoolchildren K-12 have become better test-takers, they’ve also become less imaginative, according to many experts in education, including Kyung Hee Kim, a professor of education at the College of William and Mary. 

In 2011, she analyzed scores from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking and found that: “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.”…

Why Playful Learning Is The Key To Prosperity, John Converse Townshend 4/1014

The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home…

This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans…

“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute Matt Richtel 10/22/11

The Future Ready District Pledge is designed to set out a roadmap to achieve that success and to commit districts to move as quickly as possible towards our shared vision of preparing students for success in college, careers and citizenship…

Future Ready districts align, curate, create, and consistently improve digital materials and apps used in the support of learning. Future Ready districts use carefully selected high quality digital content that is aligned to college and career ready standards as an essential part of daily teaching and learning.

Future Ready District Pledge, US Department of Education

According to government projections released last month, only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree or higher to fill the position — teachers, college professors and accountants. Most job openings are in professions such as retail sales, fast food and truck driving, jobs which aren’t easily replaced by computers…

…Any job gains are going mostly to workers at the top and bottom of the wage scale, at the expense of middle-income jobs commonly held by bachelor’s degree holders. By some studies, up to 95 percent of positions lost during the economic recovery occurred in middle-income occupations such as bank tellers, the type of job not expected to return in a more high-tech age.

1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed, AP 4/23/12

…In addition to the diverse pathways students take while working toward their educational goals, students who enroll in college full time immediately after high school no longer represent the majority among post secondary college students (Choy, 2002; Horn & Carroll, 1997; Reeves, Miller, & Rouse, 2011). Rather, many students delay college enrollment, enroll in college part time, and/or have a full-time job while enrolled.

To balance the responsibilities of family, work, and school, these students often take educational routes that require a longer time to a post secondary credential, such as enrolling part time, attending institutions with shorter terms, and occasionally stopping out…

Moreover, institutional accountability measures based on conventional graduation rates may underestimate the complexity and cost associated with improving outcomes and may disadvantage institutions, such as many community colleges, that enroll large numbers of students following nontraditional pathways (Belfield, Crosta, & Jenkins, 2013)…

Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2007 Cohort  National Student ClearingHouse Research Center 12/15/13

Americans have a host of postsecondary options other than a four-year degree—associate degrees, occupational certificates, industry certifications, apprenticeships. Many economists are bullish about the prospects of what they call “middle-skilled” workers. In coming years, according to some, at least a third and perhaps closer to half of all U.S. jobs will require more than high school but less than four years of college—and most will involve some sort of technical or practical training…

Today’s conventional wisdom about economic mobility in the U.S. is gloomy and growing gloomier. We’re told that good jobs are disappearing, that less educated workers have bad work habits, that the U.S. is falling behind other countries…

Who’s right? Surely, the answer is up to us—and not just the strivers alone. One place to start would be by showing some respect for practical training. As millions of Americans know, even in a knowledge economy, countless valuable career skills can be learned outside a college classroom.

This Way Up: Mobility in America,Tamar Jacoby 7/18/14

And if graduates had an internship or job in college where they were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom, were actively involved in extracurricular activities and organizations, and worked on projects that took a semester or more to complete, their odds of being engaged at work doubled as well…

The data in this study suggest that, as far as future worker engagement and well-being are concerned, the answers could lie as much in thinking about aspects that last longer than the selectivity of an institution or any of the traditional measures of college…

Life in College Matters for Life After College, Gallup-Purdue Study  5/6/14

One of the saddest clichés (or excuses) I often hear is that “the most important learning in college happens outside the classroom.” What a shocking capitulation — to lose the vitality of the classroom conversation as the main event of college life, as the place where careful daily preparation meets the intense engagement of fellow students and teachers.

No, Wheaton College’s Accreditation Should Not Be Revoked, David Coleman, 7/30/14

When students with disabilities are required to participate in an assessment at their chronological age significantly misaligned with content learned at their instructional level, the assessment may not provide as much instructionally actionable information on student performance or foster the most prudent instructional decisions. For these students, State assessments do not provide meaningful measures of growth for purposes of teacher and leader evaluations.

Update on Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver Renewal Process and Related Amendments – BR (A) 6 NYSED January, 2014

The Obama administration said Tuesday that the vast majority of the 6.5 million students with disabilities in U.S. schools today are not receiving a quality education, and that it will hold states accountable for demonstrating that those students are making progress…

Under the new guidelines, Duncan says he’ll require proof that these kids aren’t just being served but are actually making academic progress.

“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel,” Duncan said.

These are students with a range of disabilities, from ADHD and dyslexia to developmental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

A ‘Major Shift’ In Oversight Of Special Education, Claudio Sanchez 6/24/14

In an ideal world, students who struggle are able to overcome their challenges and grow to become adults who enjoy personal satisfaction, high self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and productive relationships within their families and in the general community. If only this was the case…

No matter how many times it’s been said, it needs to be repeated again and again: learning disabilities do not go away, and LD is a problem with lifelong implications. Addressing features of LD during the early years can indeed help to circumvent and minimize struggles later in life, but we know that problems with listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, math and sometimes social skills can persist, even after years of special education instruction and support.

Learning Disabilities In Adulthood, Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD

Students build knowledge about the world (domains/ content areas) through TEXT rather than the teacher or activities.

Pedagogical Shifts demanded by the Common Core State Standards

Students must get smart in Science and Social Studies through reading , Get smarter through text and  What is written is much more complex than what we say

Common Core State Standards: Shifts for Students and Parents

In particular, if students cannot read complex expository text to gain information, they will likely turn to text-free or text-light sources, such as video, podcasts, and tweets. These sources, while not without value, cannot capture the nuance, subtlety, depth, or breadth of ideas developed through complex text. As Adams (2009) puts it, “There may one day be modes and methods of information delivery that are as efficient and powerful as text, but for now there is no contest. 

CCSS Appendix A ( p4 ) Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards

…But what has become obvious—as evidenced by the sheer number of dyslexic World Economic Forum attendees in Davos and by plenty of research—is not only that dyslexics can be, and often are, brilliant, but that many develop far superior abilities in some areas than their so-called normal counterparts…

What those highly accomplished people wanted to discuss, albeit discreetly, was their reading ability, or, more accurately, the difficulty they have reading—one of the telltale symptoms of the disorder…

Coudl This Be teh Sercet to Sussecc? American Way, July, 2008

A 30-year longitudinal study of more than a thousand kids – the gold standard for uncovering relationships between behavioral variables – found that those children with the best cognitive control had the greatest financial success in their 30s. Cognitive control predicted success better than a child’s IQ, and better than the wealth of the family they grew up in…

The abilities that set stars apart from average at work cover the emotional intelligence spectrum: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social effectiveness…

It’s the distinguishing competencies that are the crucial factor in workplace success: the variables that you find only in the star performers – and those are largely due to emotional intelligence…

Those are the competencies companies use to identify their star performers about twice as often as do purely cognitive skills (IQ or technical abilities) for jobs of all kinds.

The higher you go up the ladder, the more emotional intelligence matters: for top leadership positions they are about 80 to 90 percent of distinguishing competences…

What Predicts Success? It’s Not Your IQ, Daniel Goleman 7/17/14

It must be noted that the academic knowledge, skills, and practices defined by the PARCC CCR Determinations in ELA/literacy and mathematics are an essential part of students’ readiness for college and careers, but do not encompass the full range of knowledge, skills, and practices students need for success in postsecondary
programs and careers…

A comprehensive determination of college and career readiness that would include additional factors such as these [ persistence, motivation, and time management ] is beyond the scope of the PARCC assessments in ELA/literacy and mathematics…..

Since these non-academic factors are so important, PARCC College- and Career-Ready Determinations can only provide an estimate of the likelihood that students who earn them have the academic preparation necessary to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing courses.

PARCC College and Career Ready Determination Policy 10/25/12, Revised 2/20/13

…Yet it seems increasingly clear that the chief impediments to learning are not cognitive in nature. It is not that students cannot learn, it is that they do not wish to…

Of the two main forms of motivation — extrinsic and intrinsic — I focus primarily on the second kind. Although both are needed to induce people to invest energy in learning, intrinsic motivation, which is operative when we learn something primarily because we find the task enjoyable and not because it is useful, is a more effective and more satisfying way to learn…

Thoughts About Education, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Math used to be a struggle for 14-year-old Kathryn, until she fell in love with cars and started a hands-on project to build her own. Now the math matters and makes sense, and a whole new world of learning has opened up for her.

Edutopia, How Building a Car Can Drive Deeper Learning 12/23/14

As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

David Coleman 4/28/11

 

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Common Core: Growing Pains or Growing Awareness?

April 20, 2011 John de Rosier editorial cartoon

Media reports have focused on a recent survey indicating a sharp decline in support for the Common Core among teachers. These reports have also included a variety of explanations and theories as to why this decline has occurred.

Unfortunately much of the speculation comes from Common Core cheer leaders who have limited teaching experience and do not have regular contact with students or teachers so they lack the wisdom derived from classroom experience along with any evidence to support their claims.

From my perspective, teachers no longer have confidence in the ability, or trust the motives, of the cognitively privileged but unqualified Common Core A-Team that was tasked with constructing National Learning Standards that should be RESPONSIVE, to the academic, social, vocational, and emotional needs of diverse learners.

Simply put, teachers have lost their patience and grown tired of the litany of disingenuous, contradictory, self-serving, and evidence-less claims.

Here is a partial list of problems and concerns regarding the efficacy of the Common Core State Standards…

 #1 Teaching To The Test

There is no better example of conflicting and contradictory statements than the issue of teaching to the test. Back in 2012, President Obama said

And one of the reasons that we have sought reforms to No Child Left Behind. I think it had great intentions. I give President Bush credit for saying, “Let’s raise standards and make sure that everybody’s trying to meet them.” But because so much of it was tied just to standardized testing, what you saw across the country was teaching to the test.

And I– I can’t tell you how many teachers I meet who say, “You know what? This makes school less interesting for kids. And as a consequence, I’m ending up really shrinking my curriculum, what I can do in– in terms of creativity inside of the classroom.” And that’s not how you or I, for example, when we think about our best teachers, we don’t think about studying a bunch of tests to see how we’re going to score on a standardized test

Recently U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commented on the U.S. Department of Education Blog…

But the larger issue is, testing should never be the main focus of our schools. Educators work all day to inspire, to intrigue, to know their students – not just in a few subjects, and not just in “academic” areas. There’s a whole world of skills that tests can never touch that are vital to students’ success. No test will ever measure what a student is, or can be. It’s simply one measure of one kind of progress. Yet in too many places, testing itself has become a distraction from the work it is meant to support.

I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools – oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards…

Contrast the comments above with this excerpt from a 2011 Keynote Speech given by David Coleman, the chief author and architect of the Common Core State Standards…

… these standards are worthy of nothing if the assessments built on them are not worthy of teaching to, period…our top priorities in our organization, and I’ll tell you a little bit more about our organization, is to do our darnedest to ensure that the assessment is worthy of your time, is worthy of imitation.

It was Lauren who propounded the great rule that I think is a statement of reality, though not a pretty one, which is teachers will teach towards the test. There is no force strong enough on this earth to prevent that. There is no amount of hand-waving, there‟s no amount of saying, “They teach to the standards, not the test; we don‟t do that here.” Whatever. The truth is – and if I misrepresent you, you are welcome to take the mic back. But the truth is teachers do.

Tests exert an enormous effect on instructional practice, direct and indirect, and its hence our obligation to make tests that are worthy of that kind of attention. It is in my judgment the single most important work we have to do over the next two years to ensure that that is so, period.

So who are we to believe regarding teaching to the test?

No better way to learn if teachers will need to devote extra class time to training and test prep for the Common Core assessments than to look at a sample question like the one published in Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” Blog,

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

Claims that the Common Core ELA literacy standards will prepare our children for college and careers are patently false and misleading.

The contrived and artificial Close Reading skills (see #2) required to answer the above test question are not realistic or properly aligned with the real life literacy demands of post-secondary learning and employment.

The convoluted format and design of Common Core test questions clearly call for test prep, as students will need time to practice and prepare for questions like this.

David Coleman’s comment and the sample test question above are evidence of the Data-driven philosophy and mindset of many Common Core enthusiasts who believe the “needs” of the test should drive instruction, rather than the literacy needs of the student.

Experienced educators appreciate and understand that the diverse needs of students must be the number one priority of any education program that claims to prepare students for adulthood and employment.

The misguided data-driven and test-centered approach means teachers are spending more and more class time training and preparing students for Common Core tests, rather than preparing them for life.

A 2012 Report: “Learning Lesson” details the results of a national teacher survey regarding Common Core implementation…

  • About half (51%) of elementary school teachers say that struggling students get extra help in math or language arts by getting pulled out of other classes; the most likely subjects are social studies (48%) and science (40%)
  • 59% of elementary school teachers report that social studies has been getting less instructional time and resources (28% middle school; 20% high school); 46% say the same about science (20% middle school; 14% high school)
#2 Close Reading

Close reading is a central focus of the the Common Core ELA Standards.
Students are expected to read and reread text, as they meticulously dissect and deconstruct passages while striving to determine “what the author is up to?”
Close reading is more than understanding and comprehending a reading, but “understanding how the text works”.

Timothy Shanahan explains

…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?…


This process is very challenging and time consuming for advanced and grade level readers and is confusing, dispiriting, and not even independently obtainable for many weaker and learning disabled students.

More troubling is the fact that so many elementary students are losing time in other subject areas to spend extra class time on Close Reading activities when it is not an essential literacy skill for learning or work. Reducing time in other subject areas to focus on close reading is clearly about preparing students for close reading Common Core tests and not about preparing them for college and careers. The day-to-day reading demands of most jobs are NOT “rich and worthy” of close reading.

The National Institute for Literacy has identified and defined 16 content and national learning standards that will help students be “Equipped for The Future”. These standards do not require close reading skills. Instead they require literacy skills that are broad-based and transferable to real life learning situations where students and employees must “Read With Understanding”…

”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.”


Teachers take their job very seriously and they have great admiration, respect, and high expectations for their students. More and more teachers do not support the Common Core Standards because they do not prepare students for the real life literacy demands of college and careers.
#3 Work-Based Learning
 
Many students’ academic and content area skills will improve if they were given the opportunity to enroll in a hands-on trade or vocational programs…
“Math used to be a struggle for 14-year-old Kathryn, until she fell in love with cars and started a hands-on project to build her own. Now the math matters and makes sense, and a whole new world of learning has opened up for her.”

Rather than just preparing students for college and careers, every student should have the opportunity to actually practice career skills by participating in internships and work-based learning experiences.

It is difficult for teachers to support the Common Core and take the college and career readiness claims seriously when there are no trade, vocational, or work experience standards, especially at a time when there is a growing demand for such workers

“The heavy proportion of older skilled-trade workers puts into focus more than just the pending retirement for baby boomers and oft-cited but rarely quantified gap between the skills that employers need and available workers possess. It also touches on the fact that American high schools have largely shifted their focus to preparing students for four-year colleges rather than vocational school.But just as training to become a welder or computer controlled machine operator isn’t for everyone, pursuing a college degree doesn’t fit every student’s skill set…”



#4 Teachers and employers do care about thoughts and feelings.

David Coleman’s infamous and insulting statement about thoughts and feelings reveals a lack of awareness and understanding regarding the needs and expectations of students and employees.Even more troubling is the fact that a person who would make such an insensitive and ignorant statement was given so much power and influence to design our National Learning Standards.
K-12 education programs should focus much more instructional time on helping students acquire and practice soft skills, if they expect them to master and apply hard skills in appropriate and effective ways. The authors of the Common Core continue to claim that the Standards, will properly prepare our students for college and careers, despite countless surveys and interviews regarding the critical importance of soft skills.
Clearly, thoughts and feelings do matter. Students who care and who feel cared for, are more engaged learners and employees are most engaged in their work when they feel a sense of passion and purpose.
Even PARCC recognizes the critical importance of soft skills and they have issued a disclaimer acknowledging that their own Common Core assessments will not provide a comprehensive and reliable measure of career and college readiness…
“A comprehensive determination of college and career readiness that would include additional factors (such as persistence, motivation, and time management…) is beyond the scope of the PARCC assessments in ELA/literacy and mathematics…Since these non-academic factors are so important, PARCC College- and Career-Ready Determinations can only provide an estimate of the likelihood that students who earn them have the academic preparation necessary to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing courses.”
 
Here’s hoping the 2014-15 school year sees the retreat of the Common Core from the classroom and the return of common sense and increased teacher support for student-centered education reforms and learning standards that will prepare every student for the diverse challenges and opportunities of adulthood and employment.
As Robert Green Ingersoll said…
It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.
dilbert2003049230827

Knowledge vs. Wisdom: A Common Core Conundrum

Slide11

Many people have expressed concern regarding David Coleman’s lack of experience in the classroom. Coleman himself has acknowledged his lack of qualifications for serving as the lead author and architect of the Common Core State Standards.

There is a big difference between being knowledgeable in a subject matter and having wisdom. Knowledge can be obtained through education, while wisdom is most often acquired through experience.

More troubling than David Coleman’s lack of classroom experience is his lack of work experience which greatly diminishes his wisdom regarding transferable and applicable job-ready literacy skills and his qualifications for writing career readiness standards.

The Common Core demands that teachers make 12 instructional “shifts” to properly align with the Standards including…

“Students build knowledge about the world (domains/ content areas) through TEXT rather than the teacher or activities.”

Pedagogical Shifts demanded by the Common Core State Standards

David Coleman had a powerful role as the lead author or architect of the Common Core and it is not surprising that the Standards would reflect and emphasize a text-dependent way of learning that is both familiar to Coleman, and most likely preferred by him.

Unfortunately, the Common Core’s emphasis on learning through reading rather than doing will cultivate workers who are more likely to be knowledgeable close readers rather than wise critical thinkers.

Wisdom aside, David Coleman clearly loves to dive deeply into text..

“David Coleman stood at a podium reciting poetry. After reading Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” a classic example of the villanelle form, Coleman wanted to know why green is the only color mentioned in the poem, why Thomas uses the grammatically incorrect go gentle instead of go gently, and how the poet’s expression of grief is different from Elizabeth Bishop’s in her own villanelle, “One Art.”

“Kids don’t wonder about these things,” Coleman told his audience, a collection of 300 public-school English teachers and administrators. “It is you as teachers who have this obligation” to ask students “to read like a detective and write like an investigative reporter.”

Dana Goldstein, “The Schoolmaster” The Atlantic, 10/19/12

There is a huge disconnect between the Common Core’s “promise” of improving students’ college and career literacy skills and its emphasis on cultivating specialized close reading skills.

While close reading may be easily measured by a standardized test these skills are not likely to be utilized in fast-paced work environments where solutions to novel problems are not found in the text.

Employers expect new hires to have proficient reading comprehension skills so they can work effectively with complex informational text, and not contrived close reading skills so they can spend days determining how the text “works”.

Close reading trains students to answer text-dependent questions using information and evidence derived exclusively from the text.

Multiple choice standardized tests that consider a likely or plausible response wrong because the student invoked prior knowledge rather than select the response that is text-based DO NOT measure higher order thinking skills.

future

In contrast, employers rely on critical thinking and creative problem-solving workers who can operate in a rapidly changing environment where they must deal with open-ended questions while finding solutions to nonroutine problems using vague, conflicting, and incomplete data.

Close reading demands a deep and detailed analysis of text. Students are expected to independently analyze the use of evidence and how information and ideas “interact” in the text.

Students must explain how word choices shape meaning or tone. They analyze the craft and structure of the text and must determine how separate components (sentence, paragraph etc.) relate to each other and the whole.

Students are discouraged from thinking or feeling beyond the text. Their thoughts must remain closely connected to the text as they fastidiously deconstruct and dissect the reading in order to determine the explicit meaning of the text.

The Common Core ELA Standards presume that the information employees need to analyze and deconstruct is primarily text-based, so while the Common Core does include multimedia Standards, Appendix A explicitly discounts and devalues the importance of media literacy skills.

In reality, many workers are required to analyze data and information that is presented in multimedia and virtual formats including, charts, tables, graphs, audio, visual, webinar, video conference, Skype etc.

Close readers must repeatedly go back to a reading in order to correctly answer text-dependent questions, while many employees must go beyond and outside the reading to find answers to job-related questions.

In most work situations, employees are valued for their ability to think outside the text and determine the meaning and significance of the information as it relates to the department they work in or business they work for.

Many 21st century employees must also be able to anticipate and predict the economic, political, environmental, social, and emotional significance and consequence of the information that is revealed in the text.

Close reading students may be able to think deeply and critically within the text, but successful employees must think broadly and creatively to help formulate policies and strategies that will enable their employer to operate appropriately, effectively, legally, and profitably outside the text.

David Coleman is convinced that knowledgeable students should be trained to read “like a detective” and the meaning of the words and ideas must be derived exclusively from the text, while employers rely on wise workers who read with perspective, and recognize that the meaning and significance of words and ideas is very often dependent on situations and circumstances that exist outside the text.

How ironic would it be if the fateful decision to make close reading a centerpiece of the data-driven and evidence-based Common Core ELA Standards was little more than a gratuitous and self-indulgent whim satisfying David Coleman’s passion for close reading?

So much for thoughts and feelings don’t matter in life…unless you are the chief architect of the Common Core.

 

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

~ T. S. Eliot.

 

 

Passion and Purpose

job-satisfaction

David Coleman has made it perfectly clear there is no “room” in the Common Core for such trivial matters as students’ thoughts, feelings, and personal reflections.

Coleman may claim his emotionless Common Core will improve the career readiness of students but there is ample evidence that what employees think and feel has a direct impact on worker engagement and job satisfaction.

“Best places to work” companies don’t just have ping pong tables and free lunch, they have a “ soul” which makes work exciting and energizing.

They invest in great management and leadership. They train and develop people so they can grow. And they define their business in a way that brings meaning and purpose to the organization…

Now is the time to think holistically about your company’s work environment and consider what you can do to create passion, engagement, and commitment. It may be “the issue” we face in business over the next few years.”

Josh Bersin, “Why Companies Fail To Engage Today’s Workforce: The Overwhelmed Employee” Forbes, 3/15/14

Hard to understand how a passionless set of standards will improve the career readiness of students at a time when record numbers of employees are reporting feeling disengaged and dispassionate about their jobs…

Gallup’s data shows 30% of employees Engaged, 52% Disengaged, 18% Actively Disengaged.  “These latest findings indicate that 70% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive,” states the report.

“Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.  They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away…

Though higher education generally leads to higher earnings, it by no means guarantees higher engagement.  Consider the data: College graduates in the survey were 28% Engaged, 55% Not Engaged, 17% Actively Disengaged.  High school graduates were 32% Engaged, 49% Not Engaged, 19% Actively Disengaged.”

Victor Lipman, “Surprising, Disturbing Facts From The Mother Of All Employee Engagement Surveys” Forbes 9/23/13

K-12 education programs that claim to prepare students for college and careers should be focused more on cultivating a wide array of social and emotional competencies that are transferable workforce skills rather than continually testing a narrow set of measurable Math and ELA skills.

Learning should be a self-directed journey of discovery. Students should be “free to learn” as they explore their interests and pursue their passions rather than simply following a curriculum map and standardized pathway to each Common Core learning standard.

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“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don’t ask why
It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time

It’s something unpredictable but in the end is right
I hope you had the time of your life”

Learning should be passion-driven rather than data-driven and focus on the needs of students rather than the needs of the tests. Classroom activities should provide numerous opportunities for students to connect with their dreams, feelings, interests, and other people rather than demand students read closely and stay connected to text.

Data-driven programs focus primarily on testing and measuring student knowledge while passion-driven programs provide numerous learning experiences that interest students and cultivate student wisdom.

The following excerpt from a 2010 valedictory speech reveals the consequences of standardized and test-centric education programs, unfortunately David Coleman is not interested in students thoughts and feelings…

“…While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. 

While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost?

I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

And quite frankly, now I’m scared…”

Erica Goldson, “Here I Stand” 6/25/10 Valedictory Speech

Many education reformers do not understand  that being “ready” for college and careers is not just about the subjects learned in school, but did you learn how to live?

In 2014 Jim Carrey gave the commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management that challenged students to overcome their fears and follow their hearts…

“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please!…

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love

You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world and after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”

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What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge,

and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.

~ George Bernard Shaw

David Coleman’s College Ready Corps

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,

but in the expert’s there are few 

~ Shunryu Suzuki

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Hard to imagine an applicant for a teaching job explaining to the panel of educators interviewing him/her that he really doesn’t give a shit what his students or their parents think or feel…or joking about the fact that she really isn’t qualified to teach the position she is applying for.

Yet the chief architect of the Common Core which was initially adopted and implemented by 45 states explained at a teacher conference in 2011,

forgive me for saying this so bluntly, is, as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

Coleman admitted during another speech in 2011, 

Student Achievement Partners, all you need to know about us are a couple things. One is we’re composed of that collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the common standards…

And now let’s get to what do we mean tonight about what you should be doing over the next two years regarding the standards. Let’s start with math and then do literacy. I’ll probably spend a little more time on literacy because as weak as my qualifications are there, in math they’re even more desperate in their lacking.

Even more troubling than Coleman’s lack of classroom experience and lack of respect for diverse learners and thinkers, is the fact that the Common Core demands students learn primarily from informational text, yet its supporters ignore countless informational texts (like the excerpt below) which reveal that the Common Core college prep program will not “ensure” career readiness for ALL students.

Dakota Blazier had made a big decision. Friendly and fresh-faced, from a small town north of Indianapolis, he’d made up his mind: He wasn’t going to college.

“I discovered a long time ago,” he explained, “I’m not book smart. I don’t like sitting still, and I learn better when the problem is practical.” But he didn’t feel this limited his options—to the contrary. And he was executing a plan as purposeful as that of any of his high-school peers…

College-educated Americans tend to know mostly other college-educated Americans and to think that is the norm, if not universal. In fact, just three in 10 Americans age 25 or older have bachelor’s degrees. Another 8% are high-school dropouts, leaving the overwhelming majority—more than 60%—in circumstances something like Mr. Blazier’s…

Americans have a host of postsecondary options other than a four-year degree—associate degrees, occupational certificates, industry certifications, apprenticeships. Many economists are bullish about the prospects of what they call “middle-skilled” workers. In coming years, according to some, at least a third and perhaps closer to half of all U.S. jobs will require more than high school but less than four years of college—and most will involve some sort of technical or practical training…

As Mr. Blazier knows, there are plenty of opportunities for people like him to get ahead. Despite our digital-age prejudices against practical skills, Americans are quietly reinventing upward mobility.

This is especially true in a trade like welding, where demand can sometimes seem insatiable. The average age in the field is 54, and the American Welding Institute predicts openings for more than 400,000 workers by 2024—welders and others who need welding skills, such as pipe fitters, plumbers and boilermakers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the average wage at $36,300 a year, but anecdotal evidence suggests that is the low end of what’s possible. JV Industrial says that it pays more like $75,000, with some employees earning more than $100,000. In the burgeoning shale industry, in Texas and Appalachia, welders can earn as much as $7,000 a week.

Like construction, nursing is a time-tested path to the middle class, and it has many of the same hallmarks: easy on-ramps, goal-oriented job training and a series of ascending steps, with industry-certified credentials to guide the way.

The profession is already growing robustly. From 2000 to 2010, the number of registered nurses increased by 24%. But the aging of the baby-boom generation will sharpen demand even as it reduces supply: Roughly a third of today’s nurses are more than 50 years old….

Today’s conventional wisdom about economic mobility in the U.S. is gloomy and growing gloomier. We’re told that good jobs are disappearing, that less educated workers have bad work habits, that the U.S. is falling behind other countries.

What’s strange is that this isn’t what you hear from many people who are working toward the middle class: people training, saving and in other ways striving to make it, who invariably see more dynamism and possibility…

Who’s right? Surely, the answer is up to us—and not just the strivers alone. One place to start would be by showing some respect for practical training. As millions of Americans know, even in a knowledge economy, countless valuable career skills can be learned outside a college classroom.

Tamar Jacoby, “This Way Up: Mobility in America” The Wall Street Journal 7/18/14

The Common Core ELA Standards with their emphasis on Close Reading of complex informational text do not address the work-based literacy needs of countless careers including welders and nurses who need to Read With Understanding

Imagine an ICU nurse responding to a doctor, when asked about the status of a critically ill patient…

Well, I’m not really sure if the patient is better or worse since I did not review yesterday’s chart as that would be providing context and using prior knowledge to help me understand his current condition, and I haven’t yet administered his medicine because I am still dissecting and deconstructing the craft and structure of your orders.

Seems to me the education and political leaders who have spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars implementing and assessing the Common Core boondoggle, should re-evaluate their own decision-making and critical thinking skills before they try to improve the skills of K-12 students.

 

Reading fiction improves college and career readiness

From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover that you have wings.

~ Helen Hayes 

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Common Core enthusiasts CLAIM that K-12 students need to read much more nonfiction and informational text if they are to be ready for college and careers.

These reformers must not have read the following informational texts that cite research and DATA suggesting a healthy “diet” of fiction provides plenty of “nourishment” and perhaps, better prepares our students for the cognitive, social, and emotional challenges of college and careers.

While comprehension of informational text is an essential skill for employees, it is the lack of soft skills and emotional intelligence that employers more often cite as, “The Real Reason New College Graduates Can’t Get Hired”.

“The imperative to try to understand others’ points of view — to be empathetic — is essential in any collaborative enterprise…

To bring the subject home, think about how many different people you interact with during the course of a given day — coworkers, clients, passing strangers, store clerks. Then think about how much effort you devoted to thinking about their emotional state or the emotional quality of your interaction.

It’s when we read fiction that we have the time and opportunity to think deeply about the feelings of others, really imagining the shape and flavor of alternate worlds of experience…”

~ Anne Kreamer, “The Business Case for Reading Novels” 1/11/12

“I’ve noticed for many years that executives I coach who only read non-fiction tend to be somewhat more two-dimensional in their perceptions of others and of situations; they seem to have fewer options to call upon when making decisions or solving problems…

The research Anne cites resolves my chicken-and-egg quandary: it seems that reading fiction improves your sensitivity to and appreciation of complex human situations; it provides a richer ‘toolkit’ of understanding from which to pull when making decisions and building relationships.

And as our business lives get more complex, faster-paced, less hierarchical and more dependent upon our ability to build support with those around us – that kind of toolkit becomes ever more critical to our success...”

~ Erika Andersen, “If You Want to Succeed in Business, Read More Novels” 5/31/12

“I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different…”

Neil Gaiman“Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming” 10/15/13

Can’t help but wonder if ed reformers penchant for doublethink, unsubstantiated claims, standardized education, and nonfiction, along with David Coleman’s infamous statement, “As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a s%@# about what you feel or what you think.” are all inspired by fictional text?

Talk about your irony…in futuristic fictional literature, reading a book is portrayed as dangerous to society because it promotes creativity, dissent, feelings, individuality, and independent thought.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Common Core State Standards are used to closely monitor and regulate reading in the classroom in order to discipline student thoughts, (stay connected to text), limit choice, and discourage personal feelings and reflections.


“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal . . . A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind.”

~ Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.”

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

~ 1984, George Orwell

“We really have to protect people from wrong choices.”

~The Giver, Lois Lowry

fiction

A Close Look At Close Reading

Learning is not done to you, it is something you choose to do.

~ Seth Godin , “Stop Stealing Dreams”

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David Coleman and other proponents of close reading clearly don’t have respect for students or the learning process.

Common Core’s emphasis on deep analysis of text and close reading is an inappropriate and misguided approach to reading instruction that will discourage and dispirit many students.

“…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?…

Finally, with the information gleaned from the first two readings, a reader is ready to carry out a third reading—going even deeper. What does this text mean? What was the author’s point? What does it have to say to me about my life or my world? How do I evaluate the quality of this work—aesthetically, substantively?…

Thus, close reading is an intensive analysis of a text in order to come to terms with what it says, how it says it, and what it means. In one sense I agree with those who say that close reading is about more than comprehension or about something different than comprehension…”

Shanahan on Literacy: “What is Close Reading?” 6/18/12

David Coleman has been promoting and “selling” the Common Core as new and improved learning standards that will prepare all students for college and careers in the 21st century, when close reading, the cornerstone of the ELA Standards, is a 20th century approach to learning and reading instruction.

“Now, it appears, Coleman wishes to impose his own high academic standards on students from kindergarten to high school. Moreover, he has a very deliberate approach to learning, and to reading in particular. He embraces what in the 1940′s and 1950′s was called New Criticism, a movement in U.S. universities that emphasized sticking tenaciously to the text of whatever one is reading.

In other words, all discussion in a classroom about a particular text needs to be based on the text itself (or, alternatively, needs to be compared to another text). New Criticism cautions the reader not to go beyond the text to consider, for example, the biography of the author, the social or historical period in which he/she was writing, or, for that matter, even one’s own personal feelings, attitudes, and experiences in relation to the text.

As Coleman famously stated at an April, 2011 presentation for educators sponsored by the New York State Department of Education: “no one gives a shit what you feel or what you think [about the text you are reading].” He doesn’t want students to take what they are reading and connect it to their own lives, or describe how they feel about what they’re reading”

Thomas Armstrong, “Architect of New National Curriculum: Power in The Hands of One” 9/28/12

Employers do not expect their workers to close read text in most cases, just comprehend it. Employees applying the close reading strategy in a fast paced and competitive business environment will most likely lose a client, an account, and even their job.

The Common Core cultivates compliant and close reading students who take tests, while many employers desire creative learners and confident problem solvers who don’t hesitate to take action.

Close reading enthusiasts claim that all students, regardless of individual ability or disability, will not be ready for college and career until they can independently “dive into” and master complex informational text, with limited or no prior knowledge. 

This claim defies logic as they would have parents and teachers believe that college students and employees do not have access to their classmates, co-workers, supervisors, a dictionary, a thesaurus, audio books, a Smartphone and other assistive technology devices that support weaker and learning disabled readers.

Close reading supporters claim that the ability to painstakingly deconstruct and dissect authentic text and passages that are “rich and worthy of close reading” is essential for the workplace while the vast majority of department memos, company directives, monthly reports, and business correspondence require reading comprehension skills.

Close reading advocates claim the strategy will cultivate essential and widely used college and workplace literacy skills, yet the reading strategy requires students to “discuss what the author is “up to” and demonstrate that they “understand how an author builds and shapes meaning through their craft and structure.”

Do close reading evangelists really envision an employee responding, when called upon for his or her recommendations regarding the current quarterly sales report…

“Well I’m not really sure if this data is good news or bad news because I did not read the previous quarterly report as that would be providing context and using prior knowledge to help me understand this month’s report, and I will need a little more time to go through this report because I am still dissecting the craft and structure of the introductory paragraph and haven’t even started to deconstruct the remaining text and determine what the author is up to.”

The Common Core are a contrived set of learning standards promoted by David Coleman to prepare our students for his ideal and imaginary world without reading disabilities, where all knowledge is derived from close reading text and the answers to all problems are text-based.