The release of 2015 NAEP scores showed national achievement stalling out or falling in reading and mathematics..
Critics of Common Core tended to blame the standards for the disappointing scores. Its defenders said it was too early to assess CCSS’s impact and that implementation would take many years to unfold….
In the rush to argue whether CCSS has positively or negatively affected American education, these speculations are vague as to how the standards boosted or depressed learning.
One telling example is this:
Something significant happened in 2011. It is probably safe to say that Common Core shifted text materials more to nonfiction than any event having occurred any time in the past.
There is no evidence however that shifting to non-fiction creates better students. In fact, evidence points to the exact opposite.
Prior to WWII our English curriculum was heavily based on British Classical writings covering drama, prose, poetry, and novels. Only after the 60’s with the informalization of education and the original ESEA of 1965, did problems of not being college ready after 12 public school years of education, begin. Until that time, a literature heavy English curriculum was understood as precisely the kind of precollege training students needed.
The very gaps Common Core was addressed to alleviate, will worsen.
“High achieving students in academically oriented private and suburban schools may receive rich literary historical instruction, students in the bottom two thirds of our student population with respect to achievement, especially those in low performing schools, will receive noncumulative, watery training in mere reading comprehension.”
Does College and Career readiness depend on non-informational texts being taught over 50% of the time? It appears no.
For one, the purveyors of Common Core offer no support or evidence showing how non fiction promotes higher proficiency in reading when compared to students who read almost entirely all classical fiction. For two, there is compelling evidence that the opposite is true.
Literary study in 1900 shifted from studying the classics to studying British Literature primarily at the insistence of the Committee of Ten, a group who convened in the 1890’s to standardize uniform entry requirements for college. Their work developed syllabi which listed required readings at each grade level. These syllabi influenced students up until after WWII. At no time did colleges cry out that a rich English literature background would impede college progress, In fact, it was seen as a necessary requirement.
Then in the latter 60’s as massive funding from ESEA began pouring into schools to alleviate “gaps”, academic levels began to become disappointing. In ELA efforts to improve achievement were undermined by inferior, lazy reading texts on lower levels of difficulty. As a result, remedial course-work in college has exploded, aided and abetted by lower admission’s requirements..
One of the best publicly educated states this past decade as consistently been Massachusetts. In 1997 Massachusetts developed a literature rich ELA curriculum. The results were impressive. Massachusetts led the nation in reading scores from 2005 onward. It’s numbers of Advance Placement successes, are also highest in the nation. Simply because they reintroduced classical British literature into all classrooms.
A diminished emphasis on literary study will prevent students from acquiring a rich understanding and use of the English language, a development which demands the exposure to the thinking of the most talented writers of English. Increasing informational reading in English class will tend to lead to a decreased capacity for analytical thinking in all students.
The choice of curriculum is not given a literary historical basis but instead is chosen by how well it supports the language construct being taught. In other words,”How” the test are supportive, takes precedence over what is being taught.
Common Core lays out what students should be able to do… not what they should know. In other words, the skilled naive worker…..
One can’t help but wonder if the case for more informational texts and increased complexity (though not necessarily text difficulty) is a camouflage for lowering academic challenge so more high school graduates now appear ready for college upon or before graduation.
The recent collapse of NAEP scores show that dissipation of knowledge, is exactly what is beginning to happen…..