In a guest post for Jonathan Pelto’s blog, veteran educator Ann Policelli Cronin explains why the Common Core standards are a waste of time. For one thing, they were never tested on real students in real classroom, and no one can honestly say that they will prepare students for college or careers. That is sheer speculation or wishful thinking. What’s more, she writes, there is much in the Common Core ELA standards that is just plain wrong and/or incomprehensible.


The Common Core standards are also neither “high” nor “clear”. The Connecticut State Standards for English Language Arts are much more rigorous than the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and have a strong and deep research base that is totally lacking with the Common Core. The Common Core standards require a way of teaching students to read and to write that has long been discredited. Not only will the Common Core approach severely restrict students’ development as readers and writers, it will discourage students from even wanting to become readers and writers. The Common Core standards are definitely not rigorous, as teachers who have required rigor of their students know.


Standards that are rigorous encourage students to read and to write. They actively involve students in reading books that engage them and in writing poems, essays, narratives, plays, and speeches about ideas that are theirs alone. The author of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, David Coleman, has said over and over at conferences, in interviews and in online presentations that students’ personal responses and interpretations have no place in the classroom nor does discussion of the cultural and historical context in which books are written or in which students live belong in that classroom. Also, as writers, the personal voice of students is not allowed and essays of personal interpretation and evaluation have been replaced with impersonal, formulaic essays that have nothing in common with real writing. Rigorous learning engages students with the big questions that great literature poses, encourages students to connect their own lives to those questions, and requires students to integrate the classroom discussions about those ideas so that they create new knowledge for themselves.


As for the Common Core standards being “clear”, they are not. There are 42 English Language Arts standards crammed with almost 200 different skills to be taught in each academic year. They are a mishmash of skills without a plan of developmental appropriateness and devoid of logic as to why some of them are in one grade and others in another grade. In a recent article in Education Week (September 23, 2014), Mike Schmoker reports that Gerald Graff, the former president of the professional organization of college English professors (Modern Language Association) said that most of the Common Core standards are unnecessary and nonsensical. For curriculum expert Robert Shepherd, the Common Core standards are “just another set of blithering, poorly thought-out abstractions.” Schmoker challenges any of us to make sense out of this 8th grade Common Core standard: “Analyze how the points of view of the characters and audience or reader (e.g. created through the use of dramatic irony) create effects like suspense or humor.”


She adds:


Not only are students receiving a poor education with the Common Core but the dropout rate will also increase. The Common Core aligned tests have the passing rate set at 30%; therefore, about 70% of the students in Connecticut will fail those tests. Since all standardized test scores correlate with family income, many children of poverty will fail. The way to break that correlation is not by testing and punishing students but by addressing the needs of those disadvantaged by poverty and racism. Feed the kids, give them eye exams, lower the class size so that that they get the adult conversation they crave, add personnel for extended learning experiences after school and in the summer. Standardize opportunities for learning.


Insisting upon real rigor for all Connecticut’s children and addressing the needs of children disadvantaged by poverty and racism – that is how Connecticut will be a state where people want to live, work, and invest in their future.