Robert Pondiscio explains Why Standards Aren’t Sticky at Core Knowledge Blog. He starts with a military analogy: “Commander’s Intent” is designed to clarify goals without micromanaging tactics. Standards can’t do for education what CI did for the military because we lack “a shared understanding and deep experience with the tactics needed to achieve the desired results,” Pondiscio writes.
The draft reading standards put up for public comment this week by the Common Core State Standards Initiative can’t “stick” because they are built on a flawed model of reading as a transferable skill. By promoting even tacitly the idea the we can teach reading independent of content (decoding + reading strategies = the ability to comprehend everything), the standards offer little useful guidance for teachers, virtually ensuring that even these “fewer, clearer” directions will not be met. Only by describing specific texts and content across disciplines (making clear that comprehension equals background knowledge) with assessments aligned with those texts and content, can there be any hope of measurable progress.
Let’s be blunt: Find one single teacher drawing breath that needed a secretive committee of two dozen experts to tell her that high school students ought to be able to “discern the most important ideas, events, or information, and summarize them accurately and concisely.” This is not a standard, it’s a platitude. As a goal or statement of purpose, it offers as much guidance and direction as military orders to “win the war.” We do not lack clarity on our goals. We lack clarity on how to achieve them.
Is the standards movement a waste of time? Should we try to achieve consensus on effective strategies?
I’m atoning today — and fasting — so I’ll let cooler, better-fed minds deal with this.