professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Lipstick on a Pig

I have my good days, and then there are days when I mutter a I look in the mirror words to the effect that I am putting lipstick on a pig. I think everyone has those days, and I am not writing about them nor trying to elicit any sort of affirmation of my lovely countenance. Nope, what got me to thinking about the pig and her lipstick was a blog posting about, you guessed it, CCSS. Here is the headline from the post: Inquiry, Curiosity, Exploration and the Common Core. It talked about these three elements as being key for student engagement. Yep, they are. But they have always been elements that are key to engagement, not just now. And engagement has always been a issue we have wrestled with as we plan lessons. Not just now under CCSS. According to the author of the post, it is all about teaching kids how to ask questions and making sure they do not draw us off task with those questions. The blog then goes on to describe three lessons that build on these elements. Are you still with me?

You see, there is nothing new in the lessons suggested (at least nothing earth-shaking to me). For more than 30 years, I have tried to engage students using a variety of strategies and activities and techniques, etc. Most teachers worth their salt still do just that. The standards themselves are nothing different either: determine main idea with texts in various forms and formats, interpret information from a variety of sources, evaluate a speaker's purpose: I have taught to all of these in the past. It is the trappings that are new, but it is still the same "stuff." You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. The lipstick do3es not change the inherent nature of the pig.

Let me see if I can use a different example to clarify: ACCELERATED READER. The claims from this program are astonishing until you realize that the gains/results are NOT from the computerized test. Instead, the real effect comes from reading aloud, providing time at school to read, allowing kids choice in reading matter. In other words, creating a school climate that values reading. I already know the studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of those elements. There is no study that shows that simply taking a test (multiple guess) over a book improves anything other than recall of details for a test. It's lipstick on a pig.

I worry again that we are drawing attention to PIECES and not seeing the forest for the trees if you will permit me to mix my metaphors. I worry that the focus on on SOMETHING instead of SOMEONE.
Tags: ccss, curiosity, engagement, exploration, inquiry
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