First, this expert asserts that nonfiction can be divided into four subgenres: biography, autobiography, memoir, and informational texts. I think I suffered whiplash when I read this. And further injury when I read the tortured distinction between memoir and autobiography. And making INFORMATIONAL TEXTS be sort of a catch all for the rest of nonfiction is rather interesting as well. I have seen other "experts" note that biography and autobiography are NOT nonfiction. And where is the narrative nonfiction distinction? It is a muddle. If the so-called experts cannot help us define which texts to consider, who can?
Another question in this online discussion dealt with rigor and complexity. The expert indicated we all read Appendix A (http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf). Research is cited from an ACT study that indicated that students who scored at the benchmark level had a better chance of passing a freshman level college course in history or psychology. The report is from 2006. The expert in the online discussion also pointed to the dumbing down of textbooks as being one of the reasons for demanding rigor and complexity. Well, how about considering some other research? How about the research that indicates slight correlations between ACT/SAT scores and success in college? We are relying on research by a company that produces tests. Sigh.
Finally, once again, this expert talked the party line when it comes to the fiction/nonfiction reading in various grades. K-5 should have about a 50/50 balance. Middle school kids should read more nonfiction 55 to 45 for fiction. High school kids should be reading nonfiction 70% of the time and only 30% for fiction. No mention, BTW, that this should happen in classes other than English (and I find this disingenuous in any event since we do not have CCSS for other content areas). Historical fiction could be read, but it does not replace nonfiction, the expert advised.
So, why do I continue to write about this? I worry that if the "experts" offer different perspectives (and seemingly very time they speak, this is the case) and answer questions differently or point to footnotes for answers to questions, how can teachers possibly meet the standards? I think calling a halt to CCSS in favor of some more revision might be a good idea. I hate to see such a flawed mandate go further. I worry about the damage done to teachers and to kids as a result of folks outside of the classroom deciding they knew how to FIX something that was not broken in the first place.
In Texas we are seeing the results of the "reforms" from a former governor, reforms which became NCLB at the national level. We are seeing kids who do not read unless forced to do so. We are seeing kids who did not have the chance to explore issues and topics because of all the benchmarks and practice tests and tests itself. And now, the proposed EOC tests are on hold (thankfully) but I am certain test prep is going on. I think about these kids and their learning as opposed to the learning I experienced (and the learning the architects of CCSS experienced as well). I am saddened that some believe they need the PHD approach to education (pile it higher and deeper). And as someone who loves children's and YA literature, I worry they will not get to lose themselves in a good book (as I did yesterday on the flight to New Mexico, ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell). I think of the souless items on the exemplar text list and want to weep. So, I will continue to SpeakLoudly and carry a big stack of books!
Now, I am off to drive along Rte. 66 with my husband as we begin Spring Break. I hope all of you get some break soon. You deserve it.