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26 April 2014 @ 02:58 pm
Spreading like poison ivy  
This article on how CCSS will impact colleges and universities (http://www.nas.org/articles/what_the_common_core_will_do_to_colleges) is unsettling. As someone who has worked at the university for some time, I have witnessed the effects of NCLB and, especially here in Texas, the emphasis on tests that have ONE correct answer. How does this play out? Even at the graduate level, students express concern about assignments that offer them a myriad of ways of completion (which do you prefer? what is the right answer?). Their responses to some of the children's and YA books demonstrate that they have trouble dealing with some abstractions even to the point that they cannot come up with questions to ask students that require abstract thinking. How will CCSS affect colleges? The article explores some areas I had not even considered. However, the final two paragraphs sum it up well: "So the effort to grease the skids from public school to college is founded on a mistake. But it is a mistake that Americans somehow cherish and won't easily relinquish. We would go a lot further towards both a greater degree of personal prosperity and national competitiveness if we really did improve K-12 education—not with the idea of making our schools operate better as conveyor belts to our languishing higher education institutions, but with the idea of fostering a true spirit of educational achievement among students, parents, and teachers...The task at hand, however, is to stop the Common Core before it can inflict more harm."

I think the way that CCSS rolled out and sort of gained speed as it did (runaway locomotive?) spurs concerns about consequences(note I did not use the adjective unintended when referring to consequences as I do believe that these "reformers" also have in mind the dismantling not just of teacher ed prep programs, but of so many other programs at the college and university levels they deem "useless" (how can a liberal arts degree help ANYONE, they wonder). I do think now that CCSS has taken hold in so many states that we will see more push back. For one thing, we are finally seeing how incredibly uneven (even more so than at the outset) the playing field is becoming. I think we are seeing implementation facing problems other than teacher and parent pushback. We are seeing problems with the initial assessments (some "new" tests have old items; some computer glitches have thrown monkey wrenches into the testing schedule, etc.). And some of us are agreeing with ultra-conservatives in our dislike and distrust of CCSS (though not for the same reason, but hey, power in numbers).

One other aspect of this piece echoes the concerns many of us have expressed about the overemphasis on nonfiction texts: "The trouble is that if you see the written word as mainly a device for conveying information, you miss many other things that writing can do. It stirs emotions; it points to truths beyond itself; alternatively, it conveys lies; it may possess beauty or it may be ugly; it can cause us to ask questions that the text itself does not ask; it possesses implications; it belongs to and participates in a larger context; it taps into secret memories; it rallies us to public causes. The Common Core slights all of these purposes. That is not to say it ignores them entirely. It gives some small space to mythology and literature—a space that retracts year by year as students progress through the Common Core. "

I know, I know. CCSS says some of this should be happening in content areas. I get that. However, all of this emphasis thus far is in the ELAR set of standards, so protests are, at beret, disingenuous. Syntax over similar, exile over literary elements. I would hate to be a freshman professor once the first crop of CCSS babies hit the colleges and universities.
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