No, Common Core Hasn’t Killed Cultural Literacy
Students are graduating high school under-prepared in cultural literacy, an Education Dive article suggest, which critics attribute to the Common Core. Opponents suggest the standards’ call for greater non-fiction texts has been construed to include “text-free” or “text-light” sources, like podcasts and tweets.
“When we flush literature down the toilet, we also flush opportunities to enhance our humanity,” says David Kirkland, a New York University professor. “School is beyond career and college training. We are preparing people to interact in a multicultural democracy.”
The article points to an ACT survey as evidence that more students are entering college unprepared. “I see more and more students coming into college having not read very much and not knowing very much,” says Mark Bauerlin, an Emory University professor.
However, it’s wrong to argue Common Core State Standards have impaired students’ reading and writing abilities, or to attribute a drop in college-readiness solely to the standards.
“Teachers are in need of greater professional development so that they can develop high-quality instructional materials aligned with the standards,” an analysis by the Collaborative for Student Success explains. “Thus, the gap in instruction should be attributed to sub-par professional support and weak implementation efforts, not the standards themselves.”
Wayne Camara, a senior vice president for ACT, acknowledges that reality. “I think we as a nation, we just expected the standards to be released, teachers to teach them, and for them to not need the support,” Camara says in the article. “We need to realize that the standards are more rigorous…In order to be successful we need to provide more support to teachers.”
A RAND study this spring found only 28 percent of math teachers and 31 percent of English language arts teachers find the professional development support they have received actually reflects their needs. A 2014 report by the Center for Education Policy found just two-thirds of school districts had provided professional development to 90 percent or more of their teachers.
Common Core State Standards are designed to help all students develop analytical and literacy skills necessary to competently step into college or a career. A great deal of scholarly research show analyzing source texts and using evidence to support a claim—hallmarks of the Common Core—are critical to reading comprehension and literacy development.
James Dittes, a high school English teacher in Tennessee, says that with the Common Core he’s “teaching at a higher level now.” “Students are demonstrating knowledge in far deeper ways,” Dittes wrote recently in Education Week. “Students are learning more—they progress faster and with more certainty through the curriculum as writing and literacy have joined to form a two-lane thruway.”
As more teachers receive the support they need to teacher to higher levels, it’s likely students will graduate high school prepared for post-secondary coursework in ever greater numbers. The lack of professional training “should serve as a wake-up call for state leaders, who must improve the support systems for teachers, empowering them to adjust to the challenges of helping students reach a higher bar,” three Arizona Teachers of the Year explained last month.