Friday, May 10, 2013

Common Core Curriculum-It's coming to a state near you.

Today I sat in another long long very long looooooooooooooong staff meeting. The reason this meeting was so very loooooooooooong is that our English Site Counsel Representative shared with us the new state Common Core Curriculum. Now, at first glance it sounds real official and one expects that this curriculum comes from either State or Federal Departments of Education. That was my first mistake. No, it does not. It is being promoted by the very school publishers that many school districts receive their books from, like Scholastics. It is supported by the Department of Education. 

Check out these Youtube Videos. These are the ones we watched in our meeting. 


Now for my gentle readers I have been teaching for over 20 years with Parental Units who were teachers. I have seen and experienced A LOT!  We were told that this new curriculum was going to provide a "more accurate snapshot of what the students are able to do." This new curriculum is also suppose to help students become more "critical thinkers" by reducing the fiction in the curriculum and add more non-fiction or "informational texts" for the students to read. Students by their 12th Grade year would be reading about 70 percent nonfiction. English teachers will be asked to teach "Author's Intention" by using some fiction books and we have about 60 books to choose from to teach this "Author's Intention." I did get to read one of the new curriculum books for this "critical thinking." Yikes!

The plan or the idea behind the National Governors Association Center for Bests Practices, which is not related to any state governors board, and the Council of Chief State School Officers- who are primarily supported by text book publishers- is to prepare students for college or careers. These two groups state that students have suffered from years of "easy reading and poor teacher training in synthesizing more complex reading materials."  States that accept Common Core Curriculum received waivers from the "No Child Left Behind" and other financial gains. 

The standards are said to be:
Aligned with college and work expectations;
Clear, understandable and consistent;
Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
Are evidence-based.

These new guidelines will replace great literature like The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and replace it with informational text like, The Environmental Protection Agency's Recommended Levels of Insulation and California Invasive Plant Councils's Invasive Plant Inventory.  I saw the book these were in and basically they are two-three pages long with several pictures. 
Want to learn more read Common Core Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects here.  Another substitution for the short stories and favorite literature units are essays by Malcolm Gladweel from his social behavior book, The Tipping Point. Why on Earth would you have students read this stuff!?

While I was at one of my school sites I over heard the Department Chair of the schools English Department pushing the need for this Common Core Curriculum. She believed that if the current 9th graders, who were failing English, didn't attend this coarse next year they were going to fail high school.  So, basically 10th graders next year could possibly be taking 2 English classes and 2 math courses to meet the state graduation requirements. When do they get to breath?

 The California Department of Education adopted this new curriculum for all the schools in the states in 2012, with the belief that because 45 other states have adopted the curriculum since 2010, that it was also going to be good for California. Check out there site here.

Now, today I got a chance to see the new material and curriculum. In our district we are to implement the English Language Arts by 2014, and Math, Science, and Social Studies by 2015. 

Let me share my observation:

1. The English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum and materials looked very similar to the current materials we are using in the classroom. My co-worker and I both went to our humble little office cubbies and found the same type books but with different covers. REEEEEALLLY!  What happened to the Language! program that was heralded as the fix- all for poor readers? Each district spent thousands of dollars on this program. Oh.. they are gathering dust in someone's closet unused. 

2. It worries me that fiction literature from author's like John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, Truman Copte, Ernest Hemingway, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Booker T. Washington etc etc etc..... will not be used anymore because teachers in both the Social Science and English Language Arts will be spending their precious time on "information text" instead. 

3. All Standard Testing for Common Core Curriculum will be computerized. Yes, there it is again... The good old Savior of mankind... the computer. School districts have been promised, again, that their infrastructure will be kept updated so that schools can have their students' access the Standard Testing online. Let me share with you a story. The FITT Computer That Could that I use for my classes is over seven years old. Many teachers in the district were promised that these FITT computers would be maintained and kept current. Many teachers were also promised that these FITT computers would be connected to fancy interactive white boards so they could do fancy instructions. This promise has not been kept. In fact the department that was created to maintain these computers was eliminated last year. REEEEALLY! And we are suppose to jump for joy at this promise??

4. Common Core Curriculum  reduces the expectations of our students and children by making math and reading simpler by giving the simple "informational text" instead of reading the classics. Even the Shakespeare literature have been reduced to 2-3 pages. Common Core Curriculum are also reducing the expectations of the teachers to better themselves. Common Core Curriculum hands over a script to less experience teacher while us "old timers" are encouraged to "shut up" or "retire." 

Now, for many of you who are reading this the first thing you are going to expect is that I am Conservative etc etc..... These comments are based on hands on personal experience. I have seen a signficant change in our education in America. It seems to me that I have been in the front row seat of this change. 

I would like to remind everyone who reads this........

We are the ONLY Nation in the world who educates EVERYONE! It doesn't matter what your social economic educational background is- every American or Visitor receives an education in America. 

We are the only Nation that has the Americans with Disabilities Law (ADA) and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These laws allow students with disabilities to a FREE AND APPROPRIATE EDUCATION (FAPE). 

Our testing scores are compared with countries who divide their students around the 8th grade between Apprenticeship/Job Training and College bound. American students are being compared to Europe's and Japan's Elite. 

My suggestion as a parent is to stand up and fight for your student's/child's future. Ignore the complaints of being a "helicopter parent" and be part of your child's future. We have taken a stand. 

Take a stand.....


  1. We all need to stand up as parents, stop being afraid of being accused of being a "helicopter parent" and be our children's advocate!