The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Although Times are changing, the CCSS are Still with Us

on July 17, 2017

Today I chose to post an essay I wrote 3 years ago. It appeared then in Valerie Strauss’ column in the Washington Post, not my blog. I believe it still has relevance today because the federal Department of Education is rejecting the ESSA plans of several states for not being demanding enough. In my view today’s FDE—like its predecessor—is asking far too much from schools and students at all levels. The Common Core State Standards, are just one example of the inappropriate expectations for teachers and students in this era of high-pressure in public education.

P.S.  Family members are visiting this week, so I won’t be able to write anything new. I hope that the older pieces I have chosen to post instead will be worth your time and interest.

Many things that are commonplace activities for adults — driving, voting, and paying taxes, for example — are not appropriate for children. I count the Common Core Standards, proposed for all our country’s public schools, among them.

Over my more than 50 years in public education I’ve come to know young children pretty well, and I am sure that 8-9 years olds are not ready to “describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect,” as decreed by one of the standards for third-grade readers of informational text.

In addition to the English Language Arts (ELA) standard quoted above, here are two others from the same category, the first for 6-7 year olds and the second for 10-11 year olds:

Gr. 1: Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.

Gr. 5: Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent

Reading through the whole list of ELA standards several times, I marked 18 others in reading, writing, speaking or language that I consider inappropriate for elementary level students because of the emphasis on skills or knowledge that children have not yet developed. I will not quote any of them here, but I urge interested readers to read the Standards and see how many they think are beyond the range of elementary level students.

What went wrong with the crafting of these standards intended for children of all races, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels?

The project began in 2009 under the auspices of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief School Officers. Standards development teams were assembled to write the standards for K-12 mathematics and English language arts.

According to an introduction piece, the standards were developed, “in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.” But in looking through the names, titles and institutions of the fifty people who made up the ELA development team, I was able to identify only one current elementary teacher. All the rest, were college/university professors, state or school district administrators, or representatives of private educational companies

In reality, then, these standards were written by highly educated adults who do not teach children at present and, possibly, never did. Unconnected to the scientific research on children’s intellectual and emotional development and the everyday realities of children’s needs, interests and behavior, those writers relied only the folklore of academia, fantasizing not only what children should be expected to know and do, but also what adults need to function in actual colleges and workplaces.

Unfortunately, what’s done is done. Forty-five states plus the District of Columbia have already signed on to the Common Core Standards (according to the Standards website), commercial publishers are racing to produce materials aligned with them, school districts are re-writing their curricula, testing companies are creating new tests to measure students competence, and teacher training specialists are offering standards workshops. Even some of the teachers who have lived through No Child Left Behind are resigned to this new swing of the pendulum and changing their classroom practices. The only hope for America’s children and its public schools is that parents and teachers will raise their voices for reason, wisdom, and quality education.

Already there are stirrings as local and national protest groups, are gaining members daily, and signs that teachers’ professional organizations that have been reluctant to take a stand on political issues are changing their ways. For example, at the recent annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, its Board of Directors voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that opposes high stakes testing, teacher evaluation by student test scores, and mandated standards. The same resolution also called on NCTE to support the inclusion of teachers in all future efforts to develop curriculum, instruction, student assessments and standards.

Like the protesters of the “Occupy” movements, informed citizens, skilled teachers, and responsible professional organizations must rise up to protect our children, our heritage, and our democracy. Let’s give even those children who can’t identify a “dangling participle” a chance to make it through elementary school.






3 responses to “Although Times are changing, the CCSS are Still with Us

  1. pauleck47 says:

    The Oregon State Grange has adopted a resolution to have the State of Oregon withdraw from the CC$$. I will send you a copy of the resolution by email. I guess if the states were truly looking for high quality, well researched standards that they should have looked at the state of Massachusetts which had standards considered some of the best in existence. So, what games are being played here? Who represented Oregon at the CC$$ meeting(s) (I debated a Mr. Nesbitt on Measure 98 at the Eastside democratic Club last fall when he mentioned something about being at a Governor’s meeting on the standards). It is time Oregonians verify that the standards are worth keeping. What about the Quality Education Model that is gathering dust on some shelf in Salem? I have a growing sense of urgency to protect our schools from funding leaks such as M-98 and from vouchers.


  2. Don Bellairs says:

    As a nation, it is painfully evident that too many of us suffer from an inability to think critically, the foundation upon which CCSS are predicated. Dr. Yatvin, with not much more than her opinion, suggests that first graders can’t learn to use “text features” to lead them to information they are seeking.

    Sure they can. A lesson plan block might introduce the terms as anthropomorphized characters…say, detectives. Kids could illustrate them, write physical and psychological descriptions, develop story lines, even make puppets. The “Table of Contents” character could “serve” the Icon, a mysterious phantom who changes names and inhabits all other things. You can keep most of the kids interested with this approach while introducing a more nuanced version of the functions of these characters that will,granted, only be absorbed and applied by higher levels of thinkers in the class–but, hey, that’s true of every lesson that is well-designed.

    None of these young students will be frustrated by the words when they see them on a…what do you call them?…high-stakes test–and 1/2 of the class will have grown adept at following the rubric.

    You can teach philosophy and political science to a five-year-old, Dr. Yatvi (and we shold, soon))n, if you are willing to be creative with your approach. As a matter of fact, those are two disciplines that need to be introduced with age appropriate curricula in primary school classes.

    Teachers should never assume that a child can’t learn something. Instead, they must work harder at distilling, synthesizing, analogizing the information they wish to teach (seeking help if they need it). Then students will work harder at thinking (critically) about what they are learning. Who knows, if we apply ourselves, we might one day learn how to self-govern again.


    • writerjoney says:

      Don, Although it may be possible to “teach” the things mentioned in the standards I identified, I believe that they will have no meaning or usefulness to the students at the ages designated. As a result, students would not use them unless forced todo so, and would soon forget them. Having taught elementary grades for several years before moving on to teaching high school English, I had pretty good grasp of what young children were ready to learn and use. The standards’ requirements I listed were not among them.


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