professornana (professornana) wrote,

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So many questions

In an email from Renaissance Learning to IRA attendees (I can only judge from the email headers that they had purchased a list of some sort from IRA), I was invited to a range of presentations in the AR booth in the Exhibit Hall during the conference. The topics to be addressed over the three days are below. After looking at them, I have come to the conclusion that I could have simply purchased an exhibit badge, attended these presentations, and had enough PD. Fortunately, while IRA (and its sister organizations) has an open policy in terms of exhibitors and the products they sell, the organization also has several excellent sessions on REAL reading and REAL strategies and even some stuff on UNprograms (Donalyn Miller, Terry Thompson, and I are doing one on building reading and writing communities, for instance). I keep coming back to CCSS and AR and other programmed approaches to learning because of overblown claims, unsubstantiated by research (conducted outside of the companies involved) that basically suggest that THIS is the panacea.

There were some tweets this morning from a workshop being conducted about CCSS that made claims I could not believe. Now, given that I was not there and so did not have the full context of the tweeted information, I will not point fingers. However, here is one tweet: CCC rewards reading, rereading, depth, passion. It's freedom for authors. Another tweet stated that CCSS is being considered internationally as work force preparation is so important (I had not heard this claim yet). See, here is the problem in a nutshell: we have not even finished developing the assessments and administering them to see if this PROGRAM works (versus the things we know that DO work already) and we have spent BILLIONS of dollars already. Ignore for the moment the whole thing about college and career ready (because we certainly were NO doing that before). Forget also that education was not BROKEN nor did it need FIXING (except hat apparently some companies were not making enough money off the backs of teachers and students). And put aside that some of the PD is being done by folks who are not educators or that the curriculum itself was built (they use the term architect, so built seems reasonable) by some folks with NO classroom teaching experience. Let’s begin with this: if this is to become the national curriculum, the thing that unites all those disparate schools and districts, then we need to have not just a common core but common definitions. What is reading? (and Google just gave me 5.3 billion hits with several hundred “personal” suggestions:,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.44990110,d.b2I&fp=dc330505fabf7b0b&biw=1366&bih=622). What do we do when we read? If someone did not know how to read, what advice would you give them? Jerry Johns asked these questions of kids years ago (and I used a part of it when I did my own dissertation 20 years ago). He got a variety of responses as well. What is a STANDARD, ANCHOR STANDARD, MODEL FRAMEWORK? How can we assess without tests? How can a computer assess writing? What is nonfiction? How does it differ from informational texts? What is creative nonfiction? Just how much NF do we have to use? Where does the TIME come from for the new things we need to do? If it is not in the CCSS does that mean it is not necessary? And why, for that matter, pick on ELAR when careers and colleges need kids who are proficient in ALL content areas (This, I realize is a BIG can of worms)?

I could go on and on, but I hope you catch my drift. There are way too many questions here, questions that are being answered in different ways. There is not a day goes by that I see something that contradicted what I read the day before. Cognitive dissonance, folks. If I am confused, I cannot help but think kids are, too. Kids deserve better. They deserve more. They deserve teachers who know the true value of books and reading without scores and measurements and VAM and the like. They deserve YOU. Thanks to all of you who are asking the questions, making the decision to proceed with best practices, and putting kids first.

Here are the AR topics I mentioned in the first paragraph:

Building Academic Vocabulary

Using AR in the Common Core Era

Intervening with your Struggling Readers

Assessing your ELLs

Utilizing the
STAR Assessment to Guide Instruction
Tags: ar, ccss, claims, questions, research

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