Fact-Checking Georgia Teacher’s Claims About Common Core’s ELA Standards

In a strongly-worded blog post reprinted by both Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s Get Schooled blog and Washington Post‘s Answer Sheet blog, Georgia high school teacher D’Lee Pollock-Moore details, what she calls, the “seven deadly sins of Common Core English standards,” claiming that the standards are “too ambiguous” and “devalue key components” of the English-language arts curriculum. Pollock-Moore claims that under the Common Core, students will not learn “how to emulate famous authors” nor do they “learn the basics.”

But in her mischaracterizations of Common Core, Pollock-Moore has committed a few “deadly sins” of her own.

The standards cannot be both ambiguous and have too many standards.

Pollock-Moore criticizes the Common Core for not being specific enough, but even uber-foe Diane Ravitch says the standards are “far too specific.” In fact, the Common Core contains fewer standards than most sets of state standards that it replaced and challenges students to more deeply understand what’s being taught rather than have a surface-level understanding of concepts.

For example, Pollock-Moore complains that the standards “do not even address character types in any grade level, yet character types remain on testing materials and example lesson plans published by many states.” In fact, a third-grade standard says “Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.” It’s certainly reasonable to assume that such a standard covers character-types, such as protagonist, antagonist, etc.

The Common Core does not “devalue teaching key components of the ELA curriculum”

Pollock-Moore claims that there aren’t any technical writing standards in the 6-12 Common Core “curriculum.” In reality, the standards do actually include standards for technical writing. Moreover, that mistake – calling the standards a “curriculum” is an important one. The Common Core is not a curriculum and does not take creativity out of the classroom or preclude states from implementing additional levels of specificity for things like technical writing. Pollock-Moore should see the opportunity for crafting the lessons her students need (writing a blog or thank you note) based on standards that will prepare them for college and career.

The Common Core gives teachers flexibility and autonomy to develop engaging lesson plans. The point the D’Lee Pollock-Moore really seems to miss about the Common Core is that while it does create a roadmap for educational success through concepts students should master, it’s up to schools, districts and educators to determine the best roads to take to get there. While more can certainly be done to provide better and more comprehensive professional development for educators, surveys show that by and large, teachers support the standards because they understand their value.

But what Pollock-Moore’s blog post does do is underscore an incredibly important issue: professional development is vital.

It’s clear that Pollock-Moore teacher was not fully trained to understand how the standards give teachers flexibility and autonomy, and she has deeply misread or misunderstood other standards. As we have pointed out before, professional development is vital to ensuring that the Common Core State Standards are implemented faithfully in states across the country.

Providing teachers with the tools and resources they need to fully understand the standards and how to teach to them is essential to ensuring that teachers are prepared to teach the more rigorous standards and students are ultimately prepared for their future after high school.