In January, with the release of our analysis of state K-12 science standards, we reported that the state of state science standards was very poor—the overall national average was a very low C, and 26 states earned a D or F. This news was unwelcome, if also unsurprising.
But, as many people already know, a group of 26 states have teamed up with Achieve to do for science what the NGA and CCSSO did for ELA and math—to create a rigorous set of common standards that states would have the option to adopt as their own.
Whether those standards will be worth adoption remains an open question, but insiders tell us that we can expect the first public draft to be released for comment later this spring.
Our advice to the drafters of these “Next Generation Science Standards” (NGSS) was to look to the model state standards—to places like D.C., California, and Massachusetts—to inform their work. But what about the most commonly used national international benchmarks for science achievement—the NAEP, PISA, TIMSS, and ACT? The results from these assessments are often used to describe how well (or how poorly) states and nations are doing in science education. But are the standards that undergird these assessments strong? And can they provide a roadmap for the authors of the NGSS?
To help answer this question, using the same criteria that we used to evaluate each state’s standards, we asked distinguished biologist (and veteran Fordham science
I’ve posted before about the unusual interpretations and suggestions for implementing the Common Core standards that are popping up across the country. Earlier this week, more evidence emerged that when it comes to organizations peddling Common Core implementation resources and strategies, the buyer should beware.
When it comes to organizations peddling Common Core implementation resources and strategies, the buyer should beware.
Eye on Education, a publishing company that provides “busy educators with practical information” on a host of topics (professional development, school improvement, student assessment, data analysis, and on), released a report this week authored by Lauren Davis that highlights “5 Things Every Teacher Should be Doing to Meet the Common Core State Standards”:
- Lead High-Level, Text-Based Discussions
- Focus on Process, Not Just Content
- Create Assignments for Real Audiences and with Real Purpose
- Teach Argument, Not Persuasion
- Increase Text Complexity
At first glance, this appears to be pointed in the right direction. After all, nearly every point includes quotes from the standards themselves or from the publisher’s criteria released by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel.
Unfortunately, dressing up advice with strategically placed quotes does not a Common Core implementation strategy make. And, in all but one area, Eye on Education has gotten the spirit of the Common Core dead wrong.
First, teachers are told to “focus on process, not just content.” Here, the author gives lip service to the Common Core while at the same time prioritizing the teaching of classroom discussion skills over diving into substantive content and reading. Specifically, Davis argues:
“even if you craft strong questions, you cannot assume that students know how to be effective participants in a class
Teach Like a Champion versus the Common Core: Do pre-reading activities help or hurt struggling students?
Last week, I wrote a post about how reading instruction would change when aligned to the Common Core. Specifically, I outlined the vision of “close reading” that has been promoted by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel, the two chief architects of the CCSS ELA standards, which puts the focus on reading and re-reading grade-appropriate texts and using effective, text-dependent questions to guide lessons and class discussions.
The vision is compelling—I believe in the power of close reading and I also agree with Coleman’s point (made clearer in his comment on the post I wrote) that reading strategies are important only inasmuch as they are used to support comprehension of difficult texts. (They are not, in other words, an end in themselves.)
Its hard not to be biased in favor of one’s own interpretations of a text when it repeated back to you.
That said, there is one part of Coleman’s vision—specifically, his rejection of using “pre-reading” strategies to help prepare and provide context to students before they dive in to a complex text—that is likely to send shock waves into reading classrooms around the country, including those who are using the strategies suggested by Doug Lemov in Teach Like a Champion. And, while the decision about whether or not to download background knowledge and information to students before reading may seem like small potatoes in the context of our larger Common Core implementation discussion, it actually gets to the heart of a key debate about the long-term impact of “gap-closing” schools.
Coleman argues that by telling students a little about the stories they are
Catherine Gewertz at Curriculum Matters penned a post describing a meeting of chief academic officers from 14 urban school districts who came together to discuss how to help teachers implement the Common Core. According to Gewertz, the CAOs spent “hours exploring one facet of the common standards: its requirement that students—and teachers—engage in ‘close reading’ of text.”
It is exactly this “close reading” that Common Core supporters hope will usher in a new era of reading instruction—one where teachers select grade-appropriate texts for all students; where they have students read and reread those texts—perhaps more times than even makes sense or feels comfortable—to support deep comprehension and analysis; and where they push students to engage in the text itself—in the author’s words, not in how those words make us feel.
Common Core challenges us to help students (and teachers) understand that reading is not about them.
The reality is that the Common Core challenges us to help students (and teachers) understand that reading is not about them. Of course, what students read will often touch them, sometimes even change them. But that will happen only if, while they’re reading, they deeply understand and absorb the words and images in front of them first.
This is a lesson that David Coleman, one of the architects of the CCSS ELA standards, has traveled around the nation trying to help illustrate. His ideas are, of course, not without their critics. There are plenty of people who believe that Coleman, who has no classroom-level instructional experience, has no right to tell people how to run their classrooms.
Such criticism is not unsurprising.
About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Kathleen Porter-Magee is a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Senior Director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she leads the Institute’s work on state, national, and international standards evaluation and analysis.
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