In most states, these standards would be a big step forward, writes Fordham’s Checker Finn.
I haven’t eyeballed the math standards yet but, based on a preliminary inspection, the proposed standards for “English Language Arts & Literacy” are even better than the very good draft released in March.
They’re clearer, better structured, more coherent – and very ambitious. The “text exemplars” (appendix b) are mostly terrific. The “samples of student writing” (appendix c) are helpfully analyzed and annotated. A lot of commendable “content” is tucked in among a well-crafted assemblage of important skills. And while I remain underwhelmed by the research base (appendix a), in the end standards have more to do with judgment than with science.
. . . millions of American school-kids would be better served if their states, districts and schools set out in a serious way to impart these skills and content to their pupils rather than the nebulous and flaccid curricular goals that they’re now using.
Carnegie’s Opportunity Equation also backs the standards.
The standards don’t tell teachers how to teach, writes the New York Times.
“The standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach,” the introduction to the new English standards says. “They do not — indeed, cannot — enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn. The standards must therefore be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum.”
In keeping with those principles, the English standards do not prescribe a reading list, but point to classic poems, plays, short stories, novels, and essays to demonstrate the advancing complexity of texts that students should be able to master. On the list of exemplary read-aloud books for second and third graders, for instance, is James Thurber’s “The Thirteen Clocks.” One play cited as appropriate for high school students is “Oedipus Rex,” by Sophocles.
Five English texts are required reading. High school juniors and seniors must study the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Also, said Susan Pimentel, a consultant in New Hampshire who was lead writer on the English standards, “Students have to read one Shakespeare play — that’s a requirement.”
Texas and Alaska have bowed out of the process. Virginia and Massachusetts may stick with their own highly rated standards. However, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is using the Race to the Top competition to push states to adopt the CCSSI standards by Aug. 2.