He Who Controls The Language…

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‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’

~ Lewis Carroll, “Through The Looking-Glass”

In the Humpty Dumpty world of the Common Core, “level the playing field” means providing accommodations for learning disabled students during classroom instruction and assessment AND denying those same accommodations during standardized testing at the end of the school year.

During the school year teachers are legally required to follow a special education student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) which describes services and accommodations to support their learning.

Test accommodations are intended to remove obstacles presented by the disability so students can equally “access” the test and demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

When learning disabled students take their State ELA exams at the end of the school year, they are not allowed to have the test read aloud to them because that accommodation is considered to be a modification of the reading assessment and their score will be invalid and not accurately reflect the students’ reading ability.

The question is, said WagTheDog, if providing legally required testing accommodations invalidates the test score, then why are those learning disabled students even required to take the test? Common sense, not the Common Core, would dictate that there is nothing to be gained from subjecting a special education student to a 4 hour ordeal or test of his or her reading disability. These are not diagnostic tests and the disability has already been identified and evaluated by mandated diagnostic and screening tools administered during the school year.

The question is, said WagTheDog, if we gave a Common Core listening test would we require hearing impaired students to remove hearing aids or cochlear implants and then expect them to answer questions about a passage that was read to them?

The question is, said WagTheDog, if we gave a one mile Common Core walking test, would we require amputee and paraplegic students to remove their prosthesis, get out of their wheelchairs, and start “walking”?

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These policies do make perfect CENTS if your goal is just to manipulate data and fabricate evidence to support your claims regarding a “crisis” of poor quality education programs and ineffective teachers that plague our nation’s schools.

Not only are special education students required to take these tests without their accommodations, but NCLB regulations also require all students, with few exceptions, be tested at their grade level, rather than their instructional level and ability.

During the 2013- 2014 school year New York State Education Department consulted with a group of stakeholders in preparing a waiver request and renewal application for the U.S. Education Department asking for more flexibility with respect to this requirement…

“Stakeholders from across the State, representing teachers, administrators, parents, and community based organizations have assisted the Department in responding to the requirements of the Renewal application. During the first week of November, an external “Think Tank” was convened, and members were asked to be thought partners with the Department as it drafted its response to the renewal requirements. A large portion of the members of the ESEA Renewal Think Tank also participated in the original ESEA Waiver Think Tank that guided the creation of New York State’s approved ESEA Waiver application. To date, The ESEA Waiver Renewal Think Tank has met five times since convening in November, with various related work groups meeting at least twice additionally during that time period.

In addition to the Think Tank, the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and Department staff have solicited feedback on the waiver through meetings with a wide variety of organizations, including the Title I Committee of Practitioners, the English Language Learners Leadership Group, the DTSDE Training Group, and the District Superintendents. Since one of the most significant amendment proposals involves the assessment of students with disabilities, staff from the Office of Special Education consulted with the Commissioner’s Advisory Panel for Special Education and with representatives from the thirteen Special Education Parent Centers funded by NYSED.”

The citation above came from a January 2014 NYSED Memo/Update which also explained the basis for the waiver request…

“There is a group of students with significant cognitive disabilities who cannot demonstrate what they know and can do on the general grade level assessments, even with accommodations. These are students who are not eligible for the State’s alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards…

NYSED is applying for a waiver to allow school districts to administer the general State assessments to these students with disabilities, but at their appropriate instructional grade levels, provided that (1) the State assessment administered to the student is not more than two grade levels below the student’s chronological grade level; and (2) the student is assessed at a higher grade level for each subsequent year. The student’s instructional grade level would be calculated annually and separately for English Language Arts (ELA) and math…

However, these students need to be provided with instruction with special education supports and services at a pace and level commensurate with their needs and abilities and their individual rates of learning. 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.

NYSED holds all schools and students to high expectations and believes this waiver will lead to more appropriate instruction and assessment of students, while ensuring that students with disabilities participate in the general curriculum and the same State assessments, but closer to their instructional levels in order to obtain instructionally relevant information from the assessments…”

On 7/31/14 The Huffington Post reported…

“New York students with disabilities will be held to the same academic standards and take the same standardized tests as other kids their age next school year, the U.S. Education Department said Thursday, spurning the state’s efforts to change the policy.”

Some special education advocates hailed the Education Department decision, saying it will enable students with disabilities to continue receiving the same opportunities as peers…

Joy Resmovits,“This Will Make Some Special Education Advocates Really Happy” 7/31/14

While I fully support holding all students to the same high academic standards, I do not believe it is fair to deny learning disabled students accommodations that enable them to equally “access” a test and fully demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

If there was a national Common Core Standard that said all children must be proficient swimmers  by age 5, would we insist that every 5 year-old regardless of individual ability, discard all flotation devices they have been using to learn to swim and repeatedly take a swimming test in the deep end of the pool, rather than test the skills they have acquired in the shallow end of the pool such as holding their breath, paddling with their feet, or treading water?

When it comes to deciding what is “fair” with respect to education policy, shouldn’t the academic, social, and emotional needs of students take precedence over the data-driven demands of student and teacher accountability systems?

Recently there has been media attention focused on half-truths and evidence-less claims about the quality of special education programs…

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…

The latest government figures show that the dropout rate for students with disabilities is twice that for nondisabled students. Two-thirds of students with disabilities are performing well below grade level in reading and math. By the eighth grade, that figure rises to 90 percent…

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. During his conference call with reporters, Duncan was joined by Kevin Huffman, Tennessee’s education commissioner.

Huffman challenged the prevailing view that most special education students lag behind because of their disabilities. He said most lag behind because they’re not expected to succeed if they’re given more demanding schoolwork and because they’re seldom tested.

“In Tennessee, we’ve seen over time that our students with disabilities did not have access to strong assessments. So the results were not providing an honest picture of how those students were doing.”

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

I have commented before on ed reformers penchant for cherry-picking data and self-serving efforts to manipulate and actually generate data supporting their claims.

Calculated claims implying that teachers just need to expect more and learning disabled students just need to try harder are not being sufficiently challenged or questioned by the media.

These sensational “sky is falling” claims are reported and repeated by a complicit media over and over again till the public can’t discern where the evidence-less claims end and the fabricated evidence begins.

Imagine how different the above article would be if independent fact-checking reporters actually challenged ed reformers claims and held them to the same high standards of evidence-based claims that their Common Core Standards demand of our students….

The question is, said WagTheDog, while your desire to see proof of academic progress is admirable Mr. Duncan, are you aware  that The National Center for Learning Disabilities has reported on the lifelong challenges faced by learning disabled students and that individual academic progress may be incremental and inconsistent depending on the accommodations and services provided to the student, and the specific nature and severity of the disability.

“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.”

The question is, said WagTheDog, have you considered Mr. Duncan that SED  guidelines specifically prohibiting the use of test accommodations and NCLB regulations requiring most students be tested at grade-level, might actually exacerbate the lack of progress and low performance of so many learning disabled students on reading tests, and you are deliberately misrepresenting that data as evidence of a lack of progress by special education students?

The question is, said WagTheDog did you really mean to suggest Mr. Hoffman that learning disabilities are a result of low expectations and a lack of testing and this condition can be turned around if only a learning disabled student worked harder and took stronger assessments?

Is it possible all this hype and rhetoric about grit, rigor, college and career readiness could simply be a distraction intended to take our attention away from the deals that are being made and the real “lessons” of education reform that are being taught in the backrooms of America, rather than in our classrooms?

In the Humpty Dumpty world of the Common Core and education reform the “lesson” is clear; power and privilege will trump proficiency and experience every time.

That is the only way to explain how unqualified and inexperienced education “experts” backed by taxpayers money, have been entrusted with the task of developing national learning standards and implementing national education policy in America.

Successful and diverse locally designed education programs across this country are being defunded and set aside for an untested standardized learning and testing program.

This “new and improved” program emphasizes the importance of data, research, and evidence-based claims, while there is no reliable research, data, or evidence to support claims that national standards like the Common Core will improve student learning and achievement.

Under the Common Core, truth may be even rarer than fiction.

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Cognitive Privilege

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I’ve been wondering lately if there is such a thing as cognitive privilege and what role it might play in the Common Core debate?

Is it possible that there are highly intelligent individuals who lack the empathy, experience, and wisdom to “see” and understand the academic challenges and struggles faced by disadvantaged and learning disabled students? These individuals mistakenly believe that all students have the cognitive ability and a responsibility to learn and test the way they do.

Educators encourage their students to learn how to think for themselves while a cognitively privileged person believes students should be taught to think the way they do.

“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 9/19/12

Educators help their students to become independent thinkers while cognitively privileged people will often demand that students are trained to be text-dependent thinkers.

There has been a lot of focus on teacher accountability and the importance of every child having a highly effective teacher. From my experience, one of the most important qualities and essential “skill” of a good teacher is the capacity to have empathy for students and even their parents.

I have criticized David Coleman and his infamous statement expressing disregard for thoughts and feelings. Coleman played a powerful role in development of the Common Core Standards and from my perspective, the Standards reflect his lack of understanding or concern for the needs of cognitively delayed and learning disabled students. David Coleman clearly has a passion for close reading and not surprisingly the Common Core Standards demand that all students learn to read and think this way.

In a recent commentary on the accreditation of Wheaton College, David Coleman stated…

“Reading well is at once a powerful and a fragile practice. In our time, the technology of interruption has outpaced the technology of concentration. It takes a certain reverent respect for what an artist has made to give the work sufficient attention (and love) to allow its full depth to emerge.

Attentive study also requires daily work. The report Academically Adrift documents that as many as 35 percent of college students study less than five hours a week. On average, students are studying only 12 to 13 hours a week; this is half as much as a full-time college student spent studying in 1960. 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.”

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

If cognitive privilege does exist, David Coleman is clearly it’s poster child, and this might be the reason he does not “see” or understand the challenges faced by nontraditional college students that could impact the amount of time they have to study…

If you picture the average college student as an 18-22 year-old who lives on campus, attends day classes, and is up until the wee hours of the night, you may need to readjust your thinking…

Ask most people to describe the typical college student and you’ll probably hear something about a recent high school graduate, someone in their early 20s who lives on or close to campus, and whose life is a mix of daytime classes and campus social activities. Walk into the library at many of our institutions, and that is a description of the people we are likely to see.

But the reality is that the traditional 18-22 year-old student is now the minority in higher education.According to the National Center for Education Statistics there are 17.6 million undergraduates. Thirty-eight percent of those enrolled in higher education are over the age of 25 and 25 percent are over the age of 30. The share of all students who are over age 25 is projected to increase another twenty-three percent by 2019…

According to a recent national report titled “Pathways to Success,” the most significant challenge is retention. One of the three defining characteristics (the other two are age and socioeconomic background) of a nontraditional student is the presence of an at-risk factor, such as  working full-time, raising a child as a single parent or lacking a traditionally earned high school diploma…

Traditional students may be taking 5 or 6 years to graduate these days, but add up the barriers confronting nontraditional college students and it’s clear that higher education institutions will be challenged to create the support systems needed to help them persist to graduation…

To improve what we know about these students, governments need to develop better tracking systems for data collection. Other recommendations in the report suggest putting nontraditional students into special cohorts for group support, shorter class terms that accommodate individuals balancing work and family, a hybrid learning experience that mixes online and onsite classes, better coordinated systems that simplify access to libraries, tutoring and technology support, mentors and life coaching to help overcome dispositional barriers, bridge programs to facilitate access for high school dropouts and flexible exit and entry points to accommodate family and job situations…”

Steven Bell, “Nontraditional Students Are the New Majority” | From the Bell Tower 3/8/12

David Coleman may wax nostalgic about his days at Wheaton and “the vitality of the classroom conversation as the main event of college life”  but his vision of college readiness is out of focus considering the growth of online classes and the special needs of nontraditional students.

Coleman does not appreciate the importance of informal learning outside the college classroom as he stated, “One of the saddest clichés (or excuses) I often hear is that “the most important learning in college happens outside the classroom.” 

David Coleman might reconsider his views on student learning if he had the opportunity to read my previous post citing a recent Gallup-Purdue study that learning experiences outside the college classroom are very important for career readiness..

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…”

Higher Standards alone will not solve America’s student achievement problem. The Common Core emphasis on grit, rigor, and independent mastery reveals a lack of awareness and understanding regarding the academic, social, and emotional challenges of diverse learners. David Coleman may be determined to properly educate America’s youth, but he clearly lacks the capacity or desire to understand them.

I welcome constructive dialogue with people who may not agree with me, as I will very often learn from someone with a different perspective that I had not considered.

That said, there is not much to be gained from engaging in dialogue with individuals who are not interested or concerned with what other people think or feel.

Wouldn’t be proper Blogging etiquette to introduce a new term without providing a definition….

Cognitive Privilege; The advantages and benefits of possessing advanced cognitive skills and abilities; person may not be aware or recognize these benefits. Many cognitively privileged people believe that learning must be demanded and required in the classroom rather than discovered and acquired.

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What Makes A Good Teacher?

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One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.  ~ Carl Jung

Using students’ standardized test score to measure the quality of teachers is like counting patients’ cavities to evaluate the skills of a dentist or using patients’ blood pressure and cholesterol scores at the end of the year to determine the effectiveness of their doctors.

While David Coleman expects compliant Common Core teachers to teach to the test, most parents including myself want experienced and passionate teachers who respect and honor each child as individual learners and appreciate their special strengths and weaknesses.

A more meaningful measure of teacher effectiveness and quality would be how he or she raises the aspirations and dreams of students rather than how much the teacher raises standardized test scores.

Learning is a lifelong process and self-directed journey of discovery. It is far more important that a person is well educated than trying to determine if they have been educated well.

As Bruce Cameron wisely said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

This past school year Diane Ravitch shared on her blog a wonderful letter written by an elementary school principal reminding students what standardized tests don’t measure.

As you read this letter consider how many of these immeasurable qualities we also value in our public school teachers?

We are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you– the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do. They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school. They do not know that you have traveled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends. They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best… the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. There are many ways of being smart.

Diane Ravitch, “What the Tests Don’t Measure” 11/13/13

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Teachers are like gardeners

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Being a good teacher is a lot like being a good gardener. Good gardeners are optimistic and patient. They are able to see the potential in those struggling young seedlings and enjoy watching them grow, develop and bloom. They give special tender loving care to those few plants that are struggling and not thriving. 

They don’t blame the plant when it’s not performing well; they check the growing conditions. Is the soil the plant is growing in suitable or does it need amending? Does the plant need more water; does the plant need less water? Does the plant need more sunshine; does the plant need less sunshine. 

Good gardeners are good problem solvers, but realize that sometimes no matter what you do, the plant still will not grow the way you would like it to.

~ Elona Hartjes, “Good Teachers Are Like Good Gardeners”

If teachers are like gardeners, then the Common Core is like Miracle-Gro.

The makers of Miracle-Gro understand there are numerous factors that can impact plant growth, and their packaging includes the necessary disclaimer, “results may vary depending on rainfall and temperature.”

Soil formation and fertility is one of many influences on plant growth, and has a direct impact on the ability of a plant to thrive. There are 5 factors that contribute to soil formation including, parent material.

Parent material affects soil fertility in many ways…Parent material is the starting point for most soil development…The type of parent material and how the soil is formed will greatly influence the properties of the soil.”

~University of Hawaii at Manoa, “Soil Formation”

The architects of the Common Core also understand that there are many factors outside the classroom and beyond the reach of teachers that directly impact student progress and “growth” yet they did not include a similar disclaimer regarding the effectiveness of the Standards…

“The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.”

By coupling the Standards with standardized tests and VAM the architects of the Common Core can conveniently deflect any concerns regarding the efficacy and quality of the standards because the lack of students to thrive in the classroom is attributed to ineffective teachers.

The architects of the Common Core may claim to be concerned about proper implementation of the Standards, but they obviously knew it would be very difficult for teachers to focus on thoughtfully unpacking the Standards while they were busy packing their bags.

It is understandable that nations want to replicate Finland’s bountiful education “garden” but we are spending millions of dollars on new computers, software solutions, and standardized tests to increase student achievement while neglecting to invest in art programs, work-based learning, trade and vocational programs, adult education, wrap around services, and other community-based programs that help to assure America’s education soil is ‘fertile” and will properly nourish student “growth”.

That is like a gardener purchasing a lifetime supply of Miracle-Gro, pruning shears, and rulers to measure plant growth, but having no more money to purchase frost blankets, a garden hose, or even pay the water bill.

 

Every Picture Tells A Story

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The Common Core “promises” to prepare our students for the 21st century but fails to deliver on this promise when the standards claim that students will learn more from close reading text rather than skyping or tweeting with a historian, researcher, writer, explorer, artist, poet, musician, etc.

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

Demanding that students stay “connected’ to a reading and think critically about informational text will not cultivate transferable and work-based creative thinking skills, just as spending hours solving Common Core math word problems will not cultivate real life problem solving skills.

In reality, career success in the 21st century is more about establishing close business relationships and connecting with clients rather than close reading skills and connecting with informational text.

The Common Core claim that text is a more “powerful” medium to convey information and express ideas than a painting, sculpture…

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or

or

…is absurd and reveals a lack of understanding and appreciation for, Multiple Intelligences, differentiated instruction, and the multimedia demands and expectations of 21st century jobs.

Even though Common Core enthusiasts claim the Standards don’t tell teachers how to teach, the Standards dictate that teachers “Shift” their instruction so…

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

The “Shifts” also include declarations such as…

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

Common Core State Standards: Shifts for Students and Parents

If Common Core enthusiasts were truly interested in preparing students for the 21st century workforce, the Common Core Standards would be more closely aligned with the 6 Drivers of Change and 10 Skills for the Future Workforce that have been identified by The Institute for the Future

Driver of Change #4 New Media Ecology: New communication tools require new media literacies beyond text…New multimedia technologies are bringing about a transformation in the way we communicate.

Skill #3 Novel and Adaptive Thinkingproficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.

Skill #6 New Media Literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.

Skill #10 Virtual Collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team. Connective technologies make it easier than ever to work, share ideas and be productive despite physical separation. But the virtual work environment also demands a new set of competencies.

Institute for the Future:  Future Work Skills 2020

Thanks to David Coleman, students across the United States are working to increase their global competitiveness by learning how to “dive in” and stay connected to text, while their counterparts around the world are acquiring transferable workforce skills and powerful new literacies that will enable them to collaborate and virtually connect with people.

The Common Core bias and emphasis on text-based and text-centric learning ignores the multimedia realities of a 21st century classroom/workplace and will leave our students ill-prepared to meaningfully and effectively participate in a company teleconference, video conference, or webinar. 

When I think back on the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder I can think at all…

I got a Nikon camera

I love to take a photograph

So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away…

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.

Don’t Stop Believin’

An arts education helps build academic skills and increase academic performance, while also providing alternative opportunities to reward the skills of children who learn differently. ~ Gavin Newsom

kidsneedart

There is a dramatic “shift” underway with respect to longstanding beliefs in our nation regarding the role and purpose of a public education.

During the BC ( Before Core / Before Coleman) era of public education, parents and teachers believed in the power of individual curiosity and creativity to unleash each child’s unique gifts and abilities.

In the BC era of public education many learning activities were vigorous rather than rigorous, they were passion driven rather than data driven, and they focused on the diverse needs of the students rather than the standardized “needs” of the test.

The Common Core discourages and dispirits many of our students as a belief in the ability of all learners to succeed has been replaced with a belief in the ability of the Common Core standards to “ensure” that every student graduates from high school “ready” for college and careers.

An education system that had previously honored the individual, and endeavored to fulfill the academic, artistic, athletic, and vocational desires along with the social and emotional needs of every student, is being replaced with a standardized system of learning that strives to fulfill the desires of employers and the demands of the learning standards.

Thankfully, growing numbers of parents, teachers, school leaders and defenders of public education are speaking out and teaching out in support of a properly funded public education system that raises up every child and helps each student to discover his or her purpose and passion.

Despite the “sky is falling” rhetoric of education reformers our students will be ready for adulthood and employment as long as we “Don’t Stop Believin” in our public schools and the special talents and abilities of every child.