Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Common Core Architect Says Teachers Are Overreacting To Nonfiction Requirement

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    Indiana teachers will have to start teaching Common Core standards in 2014. Changes to the English language arts curriculum call for students to read more nonfiction.

    We’ve written before that the coming Common Core standards put a greater emphasis on reading nonfiction and could change the kind of texts teachers use in their classrooms. According to The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton, many English language arts teachers are dropping units on poetry or literature to make way for the new academic standards:

    But the chief architect of the Common Core Standards said educators are overreacting as the standards move from concept to classroom.

    “There’s a disproportionate amount of anxiety,” said David Coleman, who led the effort to write the standards with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Coleman said educators are misinterpreting the directives.

    Yes, the standards do require increasing amounts of nonfiction from kindergarten through grade 12, Coleman said. But that refers to reading across all subjects, not just in English class, he said. Teachers in social studies, science and math should require more reading, which would allow English teachers to continue to assign literature, he said.

    Indiana is one of 46 states on track to adopt the new standards by 2014. Layton’s article suggests English language arts teachers don’t have to chuck favorite novels or stories to incorporate more nonfiction in the curriculum, even though that’s what many have done.

    Emily Richmond has a nice explanation of why the misinterpretation is worth noting. From The Educated Reporter:

    This is a wrinkle I haven’t yet seen reported, and it certainly raises a lot of questions. Here’s a couple of mine: If the expectation is really that non-fiction texts will be used by teachers in all subject areas, and not just English class, why are those critical instructions buried in a footnote in a 60-plus page primer on the Common Core — as Layton pointed out? If English teachers are indeed abandoning literature in favor of non-fiction in a misguided attempt to comply with the new standards, shouldn’t somebody be calling a staff meeting?

    Richmond writes that the Common Core has reached a “critical juncture” as states align to the new standards. The changes have many opponents, including Republicans who don’t like that the Obama administration has pushed for the new academic standards as part of the Race For The Top program.

    In Indiana, the support of conservatives who oppose the Common Core may have helped defeat outgoing state superintendent Tony Bennett, who favors the changes. Superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz opposes the new standards.

    What do you think about the requirement that schools move to more nonfiction texts as they adopt the Common Core?


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