A Common MisCOREception?

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I’m having a difficult time understanding the argument against the actual CCSS. I’m not referring to HOW they were developed, or ARE financed, but the case against using the anchor standards as a guide for lesson planning. Basically, there are four anchor standards, each provided in length below. As a social studies teacher, I cannot understand why we wouldn’t want every citizen to possess these fundamental – dare I say core – skills:

#1 College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading

To build a foundation for college and career readiness, students must read widely and deeply from among a broad range of high-quality, increasingly challenging literary and informational texts. Through extensive reading of stories, dramas, poems, and myths from diverse cultures and different time periods, students gain literary and cultural knowledge as well as familiarity with various text structures and elements. By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas. Students can only gain this foundation when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades. Students also acquire the habits of reading independently and closely, which are essential to their future success.

#2 College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing

To build a foundation for college and career readiness, students need to learn to use writing as a way of offering and supporting opinions, demonstrating understanding of the subjects they are studying, and conveying real and imagined experiences and events. They learn to appreciate that a key purpose of writing is to communicate clearly to an external, sometimes unfamiliar audience, and they begin to adapt the form and content of their writing to accomplish a particular task and purpose. They develop the capacity to build knowledge on a subject through research projects and to respond analytically to literary and informational sources. To meet these goals, students must devote significant time and effort to writing, producing numerous pieces over short and extended time frames throughout the year.

#3 College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening

To build a foundation for college and career readiness, students must have ample opportunities to take part in a variety of rich, structured conversations—as part of a whole class, in small groups, and with a partner. Being productive members of these conversations requires that students contribute accurate, relevant information; respond to and develop what others have said; make comparisons and contrasts; and analyze and synthesize a multitude of ideas in various domains.

New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. Digital texts confront students with the potential for continually updated content and dynamically changing combinations of words, graphics, images, hyperlinks, and embedded video and audio.

#4 College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language

To build a foundation for college and career readiness in language, students must gain control over many conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and mechanics as well as learn other ways to use language to convey meaning effectively. They must also be able to determine or clarify the meaning of grade-appropriate words encountered through listening, reading, and media use; come to appreciate that words have nonliteral meanings, shadings of meaning, and relationships to other words; and expand their vocabulary in the course of studying content. The inclusion of Language standards in their own strand should not be taken as an indication that skills related to conventions, effective language use, and vocabulary are unimportant to reading, writing, speaking, and listening; indeed, they are inseparable from such contexts.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we want an educated citizenry? Aren’t we the same people who chastise the likes of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones for propagating conspiracy theories? Aren’t we always arguing that the average American spends far too much time watching reality TV rather than learning about the world around them? Since the world is becoming more complex, don’t we need more adults capable of researching complex events/issues via complex journals and periodicals?

I certainly appreciate the criticism against the use of high-stakes testing, particularly within high poverty neighborhood schools, to evaluate a teacher’s “effectiveness.” However, I don’t believe in issuing a free pass to poor schools or students. Why? Regardless of HOW they were developed, or ARE financed, the four fundamental skills represented in the anchor standards ARE important.

Full disclosure: I am a public middle school teacher. I teach in a high poverty neighborhood school. Based on data, which I cannot share via social media, I know for a fact that a majority of my students are reading multiple years behind grade level. In fact, I have several 7th grade students reading below a 500L (Lexile) ranking. This doesn’t mean they’re incapable of learning how to draw conclusions or make inferences. It just means I have to put in the time and work on the front-end to find them more appropriate – leveled – texts. The way I see it, that’s just a part of the job.

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