professornana (professornana) wrote,

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out of the mouths...

I posted something on FB last week. Before long, a few others had left comments. A former student who is an incredible librarian and doctoral students posted this: "Can I say that I find the fact that AR gets all the credit for my work as a professional ridiculous and insulting? When I do the work promoting great books, help kids to read and comprehend great books they've self-selected, and then some dumb computer program gets the credit for "transforming" students into readers: Baloney! AR doesn't make readers or thinkers; it makes test-takers. As a teacher and as a librarian, every choice I make as a certified professional transforms kids. Please, professional educators, stop spending your very limited budgets and even more limited instructional time on AR. Invest your money in great books and your time in talking to your readers." This was in response to another former student and brilliant librarian lamenting that her former library had been reduced to a warehouse for AR books.

This comment resonated with me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I share the sentiments about AR. I love this sentence so much: " As a teacher and as a librarian, every choice I make as a certified professional transforms kids." I see those choices being stripped away from teachers and librarians. CCSS and other programmed approaches are removing autonomy from professionals and putting control in the hands of the test makers, the corporate reformers, and many others who are far removed from the classroom. From text choices to approaches to instruction, decisions are being made. Look at this piece by a teacher who sat though PD on close reading shared by Anthony Cody: This sentence in particular speaks plumes: "What the Common Core creators mean by "close reading" seems a lot to me like coming in in the middle of a conversation and being expected to already know what was said prior to my arrival by listening very intently to the piece of the conversation I was privy to. Or looking hard, for a long time, at a corner of a puzzle and being expected to accurately guess the big picture."

There is that disconnect between what creators of CCSS label close reading and what close reading actually IS and has been long before CCSS commodified it. This disconnect is part of my concern about the standards. It is not the sole concern, though. Someone asked on FB if we had problems with the actual standards. YES I DO. Here is a wordle I created by cutting and pasting directly from the CCSS web site. Se what words POP? Those are the words that appear most frequently in the text at the site. Reading is never by itself here. Instead it is paired with assessment, strategies, games (WTH?), and comprehension.

CCSS wordle

But it is more than this focus that is problematic. First, there is the supposition that before CCSS, there was no rigor, there was no analysis of literature, there was no curriculum. And that is dead wrong. I have heard the arguments for a national curriculum stated in terms like this: "what if Texas decided no to teach XYZ (one example I saw used addition as the example, really?) and some kid transferred from Texas to a state where XYZ was taught?" This argument is so inane. I used plenty of textbooks when I taught middle school (and I used real books, too), and I saw the scope and sequences included. I had the state essential elements (as we called them back then) of what I needed to be sure my kids learned. The curriculum did exist; it was spelled out; there were tests.

But CCSS argues kids were not college or career ready until these new standards were written. If we just follow their prescribed curriculum, all kids will be ready for college and or careers. Really? Is there some research I am missing? To read the writings of the CCSS reformers, the standards are a magic bullet: they will make user teachers are teaching and kids are learning. Time will tell, but I suspect that the magic bullet might just wound teachers and kids more than provide the "magic" that was missing before the architects (and can we say once again how little classroom experience the architects had?).

The research continues to show what works in the classroom when it comes to reading: choice a teacher who is a reader and writer, attention to affective as well as cognitive needs of learners, access to books, time to read at school and at home. Take a look at BOOK LOVE by Penny Kittle or READING IN THE WILD by Donalyn Miller: here are the real standards we need to follow. We need to be the educators who make the choices that transform the lives of our students.
Tags: ccss, idiocy

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