The Common Core Building Should Be Condemned

“I see the Common Core as a set of standards that everyone agrees would be smart for us to implement,” wrote superintendent Mains (Dec. 22, 2014). Whoa, Mr. Mains! Everyone?! How about that backlash at King’s forum (Dec. 4, 2013)?

Mr. Mains attempts to “educate” us by presenting a skeletal graphic of New York City’s marvelous Chrysler Building. He analogizes that the various structural parts of the building represent components of Common Core: “The Common Core Learning Standards are the sturdy skeleton on which all NY state education reform is based.”

Too bad the Common Core Learning Standards are not as high caliber as the Chrysler Building. Using Mr. Mains’ analogy, we find that the structure of our Common Core Building is very weak [its design never has been tried before – children serve as experimental guinea pigs]. Our building is huge [a curriculum/testing/standards monolith in NY and across the nation], and tall [pre-kindergarten through grade 12]. The horizontal and vertical supports [the learning standards] are weak [they are inadequate, empty, lack specificity, are not academic], thus do not provide excellent education. The large amount of high-quality material necessary to support the upper floors [classics and historical content necessary to learn about our culture] is missing [especially for grades 9-12; also grades 5-8]. Thus, our building is not structurally sound [students will NOT be prepared for college or careers]. Our Common Core Building will not withstand high wind load [education lacks rigor]. Moreover, we find that unhealthy, choking, deadly mold [Obama’s and Duncan’s push of utopian Marxism into U.S. schools] has invaded the walls. Our Common Core Building must be condemned.

Here’s an empty NY standard, written identically for grades 3, 4, and 5. It is a cut-and-paste boilerplate standard: “Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension: a) Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding; b) Read grade-level prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression on successive readings; c) Use context to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding, rereading as necessary.” What constitutes “sufficient accuracy and fluency”? We are given no clue!

Boilerplate standard for grades 9-12: “By the end of grade [insert grade level], read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, poems, in the grades [9-10; 11-CCR] text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade [10; 12], read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades [9-10; 11-CCR (college and career ready)] text complexity band independently and proficiently.”

What is “text complexity band”? From the standards: “Measures of text complexity must be aligned with college and career readiness expectations for all students.” Gobbledegook! Quantitative algorithms use word frequency and sentence length to determine a Lexile, the text’s complexity of literary selections students will read. Ridiculous! Shouldn’t we select books based on literary quality rather than sentence length? We’ve seen 50 years of low-level reading skills. Will this problem now magically be fixed by using techy-sounding terms such as “text complexity band”? Well, no! We’re not stupid!

The standards game is a ruse: the standards are empty, devoid of meaning, lack explicit and pertinent content, and are worthless. They are generic reading skills, not academic standards! The standards can be applied to “The Three Little Pigs” or to “Federalist 10 Papers.”

Here is an example of a well-written Massachusetts 1996 Standard. Note its specificity and its focus on our cultural heritage: “Analyze foundational documents written in the 18th or 19th century that have historical and literary significance in American culture (e.g., George Washington’s Farewell Address, ‘The Federalist Papers,’ or the Declaration of Independence) with respect to their purpose, setting, central argument, supporting details, and the logic of their conclusion.”

The textbook publishing companies have real tyranny over our schools. They control what gets read in class and how it is taught. The majority of teachers will “teach to the test” using Common Core materials because their jobs are on the line through Common Core assessments.

The following example was found in “The Story Killers; A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core” by Dr. Terrence Moore, professor of history at Hillsdale College. Here is a pathetic grade 12 “teaching” lesson from “The British Tradition,” a Common Core Teacher Edition textbook regarding Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” a classic literary work. Keep in mind that students never read the actual book! Writer comments are in brackets:

Elizabeth McCracken, modern author, describes her childhood nightmares and movies she watched [So what? Does McCracken add anything to students’ knowledge and understanding?]

Literary terms are introduced: “Gothic,” “Romantic” [Pretty weak stuff for grade 12.]

A reading strategy is introduced: making predictions [Wouldn’t it be difficult to make predictions if one has not read the actual book?]

By the sixth page of the unit, students read – not the book -Shelley’s Introduction about writing “Frankenstein” [Does any thinking person call this rigorous?].

Further, the editors encourage teachers to have students talk about monsters, draw pictures of monsters [remember, this is grade 12!!!], write an autobiography of a monster, dress up as monsters, talk about Saturday Night Live, share their favorite skits from the program, and act out a Saturday Night Live script, which the editors provide. Critical thinking? Hardly! Rigorous? Not a chance! Claptrap!!! That’s what this is!

Does Mr. Mains’ analogy pass the test, or are we hearing the “company line?” You decide.