And then there is all the pulling being done in the name of CCSS. As a child, I watched salt water taffy being pulled by a machine on the old boardwalk in Atlantic City (back before it became so commercialized). The machine folds the taffy over and over into itself and then stretches it seemingly to the brink of breakage. I feel that is sometimes the approach I see outlined in postings to teachers about how to apply CCSS, especially as it relates to close reading (and the stickiness of the taffy is a great metaphor for all that is being done in the name of nonfiction, but that is for a later post). Here is a posting I saw a few weeks ago. It centered on a photo of MLK at the March on Washington of 1963. The first question asked to the "reader" related to the impact of this moment on the Civil Rights Movement. Now, I can answer that with background knowledge. I know who is in the picture, where it was taken, and the moment in time it represents. Imagine, though, a 3rd or 5th grader coming to the same photo with ZERO knowledge. How could he or she begin to address the question posed? Okay, but on to the second thing prescribed in the posting: "readers" are asked to list the "actions" they see in the photo (suggestions were given just in case). Now I am scratching my head and feeling sort of twisted. Step 3 asks "readers" to identify a possible theme (and I was happy for a moment that there was not ONE them) but the suggestions provided were not themes; they were perhaps main ideas but I am not even certain I would call them that. Twist again, inside out. Next step was to return to the phot and now talk about the impact this moment had on the Civil Rights Movement with fresh eyes. Once more, I am twisting and turning and trying to understand how my insights could be any better given this twisted process.
Folks, I am just constantly doing a double take when it comes to things I see that supposedly address CCSS goals and the strategies being used. If I am confused, what about the kids? This is not just simple confusion or stumbling toward something; this is HIGH STAKES because, ultimately, the kids and the teachers will all be evaluated using new instruments (of torture?). Until or unless the architects can even agree on what is essential and how it should be taught (and even how it can be taught when kids do not have the requisite developmental abilities) and whether it all has to be measured and if there is some way to do this without making kids sit for days on end, until all this happens, we need to disentangle ourselves from the pulling machines.
I am trying to end on a note of HOPE (VISION). So, I leave with these two: I HOPE the teacher who has made the child feel a failure for reading only 39 books will rethink her or his arbitrariness in assigning ONE number for all kids. And I fervently HOPE that more and more folks speak up about the inconsistencies they are witnessing, the disconnects between CCSS goals and the PARRC measurements, about some testing companies and their more than questionable ethics, and about how, with summer coming up soon, we can stop the summer slide by ensuring that all kids have access to great books all summer long.