professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Hop on Board the CCSS Apology Tour

Susan Pimentel and David Coleman want to go on record and clear up all these pesky misconceptions about #CCSS. So, here is a link to their piece in the Huffington Post this week: This is just the latest in the CCSS "apology tour."

As much as I appreciate the fact that they are clarifying #CCSS and the ragin debate over fiction and nonfiction, I DO wonder this: why is it necessary to continue to clarify something that the authors of #CCSS find some straightforward? Here is their pronouncement from the article:

By high school, the Standards require that 70 percent of what students read be informational text, but the bulk of that percentage will be carried by non-ELA disciplines that do not study fictional texts. Said plainly, stories, drama, poetry, and other literature account for the majority of reading that students will do in the high school ELA classroom.

Okay, so we have all been led to believe that the opposite is true. How did that happen? Where were Pimentel and Coleman before NOW? If I were more of a paranoid sort (what was that noise?), I would think that the responses I am seeing of late are due to the enormous push back from ELAR teachers across the country and the demand that they place more and more emphasis on literary nonfiction. I would also think that some of the "misconceptions" arise from the lack of specificity in the documents (and even Coleman and Pimentel refer to info in footnotes. Really? As someone who reads nonfiction, most of the info is NOT in footnote form). And then there is the interpretation of those who are doing the PD for #CCSS who are also passing laoing this emphasis on nonfiction. Or perhaps it is the fact that even this article seems to contain contradictions:

Instead, page 57 of the Standards explicitly lays out the types of literary nonfiction suggested for study in ELA, and page 58 makes the types of text even more clear by listing sample titles -- all of which are high-quality works crafted for a broad audience, not technical documents. Additionally, our country's Founding Documents and the "Great Conversation" they inspired are offered as explicit models for high-quality literary nonfiction in the high school standards for the ELA classroom, as page 40 of the Common Core (see below) makes clear. In fact, it is now required that students encounter these documents in their ELA classrooms.

Somehow this paragraph seems to state that certain selections are "samples" and then later indicates that they are "required." I am beginning to see why there is confusion.

Putting all that aside, though, and in keeping with the theme these last few days, the approach of the UNprogram is to seek out literature first and foremost that speaks to the kids in our classes. Someone asked me in an email this week for a list to give her administrator of classics (and preferably annotated) that all high school kids should read. I responded with this:

My instinct is to point to Outstanding Books for the College Bound which has a new book ( of annotated titles. Here is a link to the older list at the YALSA web site:

Here are some other lists out there:

However, every time I am asked this I remember the research done by Connie Epstein years ago. She contacted the heads of the English departments at all the Ivy League universities and asked them for the titles they thought kids should have read before coming to their college classes. Only ONE title appeared on multiple lists: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN and many made reference to something by Shakespeare (though they could not agree on which of his plays it would be). Most of the respondents indicated that there was not ONE book they felt had to be read. Instead, they wanted to get kids who loved to read. Then they would introduce them to the classics at college. The quote I recall is that Epstein suggested kids get rewarded for "reading by the pound." The more they read, the higher their grade. Interesting thought.
Tags: ccss

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