The defeat of Tony Bennett as Indiana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction was attributed to many factors. Yet, as one post-election analysis indicated, the size of the vote for his rival, Glenda Ritz, suggests that the most likely reason was Mr. Bennett’s support for, and attempt to implement, Common Core’s badly flawed standards.
Common Core’s English language arts standards don’t have just one fatal flaw, i.e., its arbitrary division of reading standards into two groups: 10 standards for “informational” text and nine for “literature” at all grade levels from K to 12. These are just the most visible; its writing standards turn out to be just as damaging, constituting an intellectual impossibility for the average middle-grade student, for reasons I hadn’t suspected. The architects of Common Core’s writing standards simply didn’t link them to appropriate reading standards, a symbiotic relationship well-known to reading researchers. Last month, I had an opportunity to see the results of teachers’ attempts to address Common Core’s writing standards at an event put on by GothamSchools, a four-year-old news organization trying to provide an independent news service to New York City schools.
The teachers who had been selected to display their students’ writing (based on an application) provided visible evidence of their efforts to help their students address Common Core’s writing standards — detailed teacher-made or commercial worksheets that structure the composing of an argument. It was clear that their students had tried to figure out how to make a “claim” and show “evidence” for it, but the problems they were having were not a reflection of their teachers’ skills, or their own reading and writing skills. The source of their conceptual problems could be traced to the standards themselves.