Two springs ago, Hefferman did an op-ed piece in the Delaware Voice citing educator Louisa Moats as proof we needed to pass SB51….  I completely destructed his argument back then.

However just like Diane Ravitch who was once pro-Common Core in its inception and now is one of the biggest alarmists to how much damage it has and will do, I was surprised to read in the Washington Post that the educator into whose basket Hefferman completely put all his eggs, has now defected to our side, (the good side, the side calling for the elimination of Common Core and a return to common sense.)

Common Core is ineffective and dangerous to children… Here are some of the new claims…

A) The “Language” standards pertain almost exclusively to written, not oral, language. The language standards at each grade level presume oral language competence and mastery of foundational reading and writing skills. There is no category for “Writing Foundations” to parallel “Reading Foundations” and thus the foundational skills of writing, including handwriting, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, usage, and sentence composition, are either overlooked, underestimated in importance, or awkwardly forced into other categories with no explicit link to composition.  (This is true.  It is like David Coleman had a brain fart and completely forgot about writing…  )

B)  The CCSS document reflects the influence of widely ranging opinions from all collaborators who submitted critiques and comments, The CCSS was purported to be consistent with research on learning to read, write, and do math, but actually reflected “current and popular ideas” (and misunderstandings) about learning that were acceptable to a wide range of non-educator stakeholders in 2010…

C)  The CCSS, unfortunately, embodies assumptions  and old wive’s tales that have not been validated through research or that may even contradict the findings of research.  The requirement that first-graders read as much informational text as narrative does not make sense for students learning to decode, who need to take baby steps through our complex phonics system.

D)  In the area of written composition, the act of dictating or illustrating as allowed by the CCSS in kindergarten, is not writing. Writing requires mastery of written symbol production (handwriting, spelling, punctuation) – which requires systematic instruction and practice before written composition is possible.

E)  Of most concern for students who struggle with language, reading, or writing, the CCSS states that all students should read text at grade level or above. This aspirational goal, while admirable, may lead to destructive consequences for that 40% who will fail simply because they are below grade level and who will be deemed “at risk” for reading failure.

F)   Of relevance to the community concerned with dyslexia and other learning disorders, the standards provide no guidance and no links to research on individual variation and avoid recommending any interventions for students who are functioning below grade level.  The implication that these students will magically learn to read better if they are simply handed more complex and difficult texts, and if asked to function like students who learn to read easily, is wishful – and harmful – thinking. (Did I just hear echoes of Patty Schwinn??)

G)  The lofty goals of the CCSS versus the realities of student learning, cannot easily be reconciled.  Students with dyslexia comprise at least 30% of the population. 34% of the population as a whole is “below basic” on the National Assessment of Academic Progress in fourth grade.  70–80% of students in high poverty areas enter school at risk for reading failure due to a bare minimum vocabulary. Mixed in as “poor readers” are all those who simply have not been taught how to read or who do not speak English. Yet, as if disabilities were an after-thought, Common Core expects these to perform equal to a normal child of affluence.

H) Raising standards and expectations without sufficient attention to the known causes and remedies for reading and academic failure, and without a substantial influx of new resources to educate and support teachers, is not likely to benefit students with mild, moderate, or severe learning difficulties which at minimum is over one third of the American student population.

I) Instead of being college and career ready, the stage is set for those disadvantaged students to suffer adverse consequences, such as forced grade repetitions, denial of promotion or diplomas, and irrelevant requirements that do not, in fact, enable students to be more ready for college or career.  In fact, Common Core will make them become less so.

J) Common Core Standards were formed devoid of any input from psychologists or medical professionals having experience in teaching those with disabilities on how to learn…. What we do know of teaching those with disabilities and of teaching Common Core are exact opposites, seeming to preclude an entire third of our population to become dysfunctional solely because of Common Core implementation.   Check out what we know so far on reading disabilities.

=====1) Reducing reading failure includes systematic instruction in phoneme awareness, phonics (with spelling), passage reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

=====2) Students must spend time reading – not simply being read to – from text of the appropriate level of difficulty.

=====3) if we do not catch students early (by second grade at the latest), improvement in their relative standing is much less likely and costs much more. Although many reading disabilities can be remediated or ameliorated by the end of first grade with systematic, explicit, phonics-emphasis instruction intensive effort on the part of teachers and students is required to achieve modest gains once students are beyond kindergarten and first grade.

=====4)  Aspects of reading instruction promoted by the CCSS (reading of harder, complex texts; reading aloud; reading in the content areas; writing arguments) may be appropriate for older students who already know how to read and write, but may serve only to frustrate less-skilled students if the text is impossible for them to read independently and if insufficient attention is devoted to building the requisite language skills that enable improvement.

K) Curriculum and instructional design is in the hands of publishers, professional interpreters, and state department officials. Not highly trained special ed teachers. The door is wide open for interpretations that are not optimal for students with learning difficulties. If early efforts to implement the CCSS are any indication, research-based instruction appropriate for poorer readers is getting short shrift.

L) The widely used Common Core Curriculum Maps (www.commoncore.org), for example, offer holistic, theme-oriented lessons organized around the reading of high quality texts, not around the systematic instruction of reading and writing skills.

M) Common Core [standards] often results in a checklist of discrete skills and in a fostering of skill-and-drill instruction that can fragment and isolate student learning in such a way that conceptual understanding, higher order thinking, cohesion, and synergy are made more difficult.

N) “Holistic, integrated learning” is said to be the goal of standards-based instruction. No exception is made for the novice or unskilled learner, no reference is made to the changing nature of reading over time, and no research base is invoked to explain the presumed dangers of a component-skills approach. It is to be taken as a matter of faith or philosophy that instruction in the component skills of literacy detracts from the real business of reading.

O)   No single series of model lessons and no single curriculum guide can describe the variations in content and methodology necessary to reach all students.

P)  With the CCSS’s emphasis on informational text, complex text, reading aloud, and inquiry-based learning, more of the nation’s attention is currently focused on higher-level comprehension, leaving almost no room for discussion of beginning reading and the needs of students with reading difficulties.  Air is being sucked from the room.

Q)  The teacher-directed, systematic, sequential, explicit approaches that work best are receiving much less discussion than they deserve. The risk, of course, is that even larger numbers of students will soon fail to become independent readers and writers.

R)  From the Common Core standards document, a reader cannot learn that speech sound blending supports word recognition, that spelling supports vocabulary, that understanding of morphology speeds word recognition, or that oral language capacities are the underpinning for written language. One would not realize that handwriting, spelling, and sentence composition support higher level composition. They do. They are how one learns, and they are all absent from Common Core.

S) In pilot Common Core programs, students with poor reading and writing skills, including those with dyslexia, were more likely to be subjected to instruction that was inappropriate in pacing, emphasis, and design. These unrealistic and Idealistic visions of student potential, coupled with unattainable standards, a “one size fits all” approach, and a purposefully complete disregard for decades of research on reading acquisition and individual differences, can only exacerbate student failure and suffering in our accountability-driven systems.

T) Current interpretations of the CCSS standards and curriculum create more obstacles for students than already exist. Advocates for students with dyslexia and related difficulties are encouraged to be vocal supporters of meaningful, research-based education that safeguards students’ self-esteem and enables optimal progress. The CCSS may play some role in guiding that process, but should not be the overriding or dominant influence on the content or methods of education for students with reading difficulties…

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As this makes quite clear, all students with disabilities need to be shielded from Common Core, not embraced by it. At this point, all must remember that Common Core was not created by educational experts, but was guided by businessmen. Common Core puts out a product that only a businessman could approve…. Businessmen don’t have time or the inclination required to deal with anomalies like real children,  who through no fault of their own, suffer from a disability.

What is more important, is that with Common Core, the overall ability of our average children to read and do math is going to deteriorate as this program goes forward.  There may be some redeeming factors to redeem the money invested, but as for now, they are buried deep beneath all the problems Common Core has wrought upon us….

In essence Common Core was specifically designed to teach geniuses, those children who upon entering a grade, are already proficient… It fails to recognize that not everyone comes into life with the same opportunities and therefore needs different approaches.

And, by its catastrophic failure,Common Core has opened one’s eyes that in order to actually close the achievement gaps in our high poverty areas, we need to teach those students as we do those with special disabilities.  They are disabled, just not physically.  They are disabled by circumstance. Therefore as we do with special education, we will need more man power, more individual instruction, more resources, then proceed on a trial and error method with each student until we can find what works best individually for each one…

It can be done, but it must be done through the public system (no charters) and it must be done without Common Core.

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