"That's not my Job, YOU teach That"

In the headlines yesterday is an article in the Washington Post about how Common Core State Standards are being misused -- wow, breaking headlines.  Sense my sarcasm?

The rift between policy and practice is deep, wide, and well-documented.  My most fond experience in law+graduate school was walking between campuses (literally) attending education policy-focused discussions at the law school, the education school, the policy school, and (even) the business school.  Those conversations talked past one another.  Every time.  There were such disjointed starting points, that it became very obvious to me how this policy-practice ravine began and why it persists.

Yesterday's latest, on how the curriculum standards for English Language Arts  require more nonfiction texts and the burden that is being placed on English teachers specifically, is but another example of what happens when worlds don't collide.

The article's main assertion is that the new common core standards in English require more nonfiction, rigorous texts that can appropriately be spread across teaching subjects.  It asserts that teachers from other subject areas (non English Language Arts teachers) are hesitant (if not opposed) to increase the teaching of nonfiction texts in their subject areas.  So, in practice, English Language Arts teachers will be forced to cut poetry, fiction, or some other beloved, endearing text to replace it with government reports.  (I'm summarizing and paraphrasing here.)

More after the break...

As a snippet, The Washington Post's article,Common core sparks war over words, reports:

In practice, the burden of teaching the nonfiction texts is falling to English teachers, said Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University: “You have chemistry teachers, history teachers saying, ‘We’re not going to teach reading and writing, we have to teach our subject matter. That’s what you English teachers do.’ ”
This doesn't surprise me. When policy filters down, it most often sounds like "you want me to add what to my plate?" instead of... "How can I use this to maximize impact on the students?" Or, even more critically "Does this increase the impact of something that I am already doing with my students?"  With the latter question, if the answer is actually "no," then there is space for a genuine discussion about how there is misalignment in curriculum standards and curriculum delivery.  However, policymakers have to consider that the first reaction (of adding more things for teachers to do) is often the ingrained reaction, and the second reaction (of using the new thing to maximize impact) is often the idealist's desire.  The final, third reaction is the question that perhaps bridges the policy-practice gap.  It's where the opportunity is.

I was a teacher.  I get it.  I really, really do.

I remember sitting in meetings hearing of a new curriculum or a new lesson or a new conceptual approach to deliver a unit.  I remember thinking... this might possibly add to my work.  OR, what lots of teacher may never say aloud:  this may make me have to trash something I've already been relying on.

But, I actually don't think it has to. 

The reason that I highlight this article in the Washington Post is because I think it scratches the surface of those regular, internal communications that are most readily heard in the education schools, district school buildings, and in classrooms.

Rebuttal?  Of course.

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