"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Common Core Confusion

A requirement embedded in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for more reading instruction using non-fiction is causing confusion. Exactly how much more non-fiction is going to be required? Some writers have said that elementary reading instruction must have 50% non-fiction and 70% for high school. Others indicate that the exact amount is not determined by the standards.

Apparently, the amount of non-fiction required will be based on the interpretation of school systems and/or state departments of education. Many are already asking teachers to reduce the amount of fiction students read...and replace it with non-fiction.

There's been an expected backlash against reducing the amount of fiction which students read...and replacing it with non-fiction. Elementary teachers and English teachers, especially, are concerned because of the important place fiction holds in their classrooms.

So, just how important is reading fiction? It turns out that it's extremely important.

Your Brain on Fiction discusses the neuroscience associated with reading fiction.
Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life...Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

These findings will affirm the experience of readers who have felt illuminated and instructed by a novel, who have found themselves comparing a plucky young woman to Elizabeth Bennet or a tiresome pedant to Edward Casaubon. Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined.
It's also true that reading and listening to fiction helps students develop a desire to read...and, since reading improves reading, the more students read, the better they will become at it. Teaching reading skills is important, but it's also important to give students an incentive to learn to read. We know that motivation matters...and the motivation to read is improved by reading fiction.

The confusion over the CCSS requirement for non-fiction needs to be addressed before schools, school systems, and states change curricula. Here's Diane Ravitch (reference to David Coleman - see here)...Will the Common Core Standards Reduce Time for Literature?
...English teachers across the nation are cutting back on fiction, because they have been told that the Common Core standards say they must.

The standards say that reading must be 50% fiction/50% nonfiction, and increase in high school to 70% nonfiction. Teachers are dropping novels and poetry and short stories to comply.

But David Coleman says that people are misinformed.

He points to a footnote on page 5 of the 66-page document. He says that English teachers can keep teaching mostly fiction, while math and history teachers teach more reading about math and history. (Had math and history teachers been teaching fiction up until now? Is this a change for them?)
Is the problem with the way the CCSS have been written? One of the "key points" of the language arts standards is to teach students to "write logical arguments based on substantive claims, sound reasoning, and relevant evidence..." Maybe the writers of the CCSS need some instruction on how to construct a clear and concise sentence.

Or maybe I just didn't read enough non-fiction when I was a student.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


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