Ann Policelli Cronin, an experienced teacher in Connecticut, says that the Common Core should be considered a first draft. Here are her comments:

The Common Core State Standards: A First Draft

Much of what is written about the Common Care State Standards is based on a faulty premise about their quality. For example, on August 18, 2013 in The New York Times, Bill Keller wrote that the Common Core State Standards are “ the most serious educational reform of our lifetime and will raise public school standards nationwide”. Three days later, Charles Blow wrote that the Common Core State Standards will teach students “ to think critically and problem solve” and will “bolster” good teaching.

Not so. The Common Core Stare Standards will diminish student learning in high school English classes and will inhibit good teaching.

The CCSS harken back to the past and contradict the research of the past 70 years in the field of English language arts.

The CCSS will not develop strong readers. The authors of the standards herald the fact that they will require all students to read difficult literature. The truth is that assigning student to read books beyond their ability, rather than putting time and effort into developing the students’ skills and fostering their interest, will make them use the internet to locate summaries and analyses of those books instead of reading them. The CCSS do not address how to motivate students to actually sit and read a book, engage with its ideas and questions, and actively respond to those ideas and questions. With the CCSS, students will not be asked to BE readers.

The CCSS will not develop effective writers. All student writing will fit a prescribed formula for an argument in an impersonal, objective voice. Inductive reasoning and narrative thinking, the two other kinds of thinking that students need to develop through writing, are eliminated due to the CCSS concentration on the deductive reasoning of argument. Students will also be hampered in their development as writers because they will not be allowed to use the personal voice, as both Mr. Blow and Mr. Keller did in their pieces. Timed, in-class writing is valued rather than the deep thinking of multiple revisions. With the CCSS, the students will not be asked to BE writers.

David Coleman, the author of the English Language Arts Standards for the Common Core proudly says, over and over again in his stump speeches that English classrooms now prepare students for a world in which others care about what they think and feel, but in reality, he says, often with an unprintable expletive, “No one really cares what they feel or think.”

That is the world for which the CCSS will prepare the next generation, a world in which individual ideas and questions are absent.

There is an arrogance to the CCSS and to their spokesperson, David Coleman.

There is an arrogance to the English standards being written by people who have never taught English.

There is an arrogance to ignoring the rigorous standards of the professional organization of English language arts teachers, the National Council of Teachers of English, disregarding their published critiques of each draft of the CCSS, and being impervious to the fact that NCTE has not endorsed the Common Core State Standards.

There is an arrogance to saying that the narrow CCSS definition of what it means to read and what it means to write will help students to be the innovative thinkers and autonomous learners that the workplaces of the future will demand them to be.

There is an arrogance to saying that the standards that other countries have determined as measures of achievement, such as the ability to learn when faced with new situations or problems and the ability to think critically and creatively through collaboration with others, are not achievements because those skills are not on the narrowly confined tests aligned with the CCSS.

There is an arrogance to saying that student achievement can be defined only by the tests that the designers of the ill-conceived CCSS have commissioned.

It is time to look at the existing CCSS as a first draft. We have the knowledge and the expertise to write a next and better draft. As researchers, as English teachers, and as those who know well the workplace of the future, let’s work together to create standards which help all of our students to BE readers, to BE writers, to Be thinkers, and to create a world in which, indeed, we are all expected to have the motivation and the skills to express what we think and what we feel.

Ann Policelli Cronin, a recipient of national and state-wide awards for English teaching, curriculum design and professional development, has been creating English programs and supervising middle and high school English teachers in Connecticut for 27 years.