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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

CC Change and Challenge

By the time you get around to reading this, all of you will have noticed that David Coleman is leaving the Common Core effort to become the new head of the College Board:
The Times article is interesting in that it brings up two kinds of objections to CC: from Texas in the name of regionalism and community values. I think we can leave that alone, both because Texas is Texas and because, as I discovered at TLA their own Lone Star version of CC is pretty much CC. Now doubtless that will change when the Science and Social Studies standards become available. But from what I hear Texas will hardly be the only state to steer away from those political battles. The second objection is that the real root of gaps in school achievement is poverty. Now I agree that there is a great deal to be said for that. And you can even make a compelling argument that by spending so much energy and $ on CC, as if that were the answer, we disguise or distract from the issues we really need to face — poverty. And yet I also disagree. Because the students most harmed by not knowing how to read NF or Informational Text, as CC has it) are those who need it most.

Awash in the distractions of popular culture, and encouraged by a previous school focus on personal response to focus on their own interior emotions, the students who were not introduced to evidence, argument, and debate at home were all the more unprepared for life after school. Now I might argue that sports had long provided a universe in which evidence, stats, and intelligent argument were important (as I wrote here some time ago, if you want to understand a subset of boys in your libraries, listen to sports talk radio). But schools rarely make use of that passionate mindset. So providing a structure in school for all students to look at evidence, analyze argument, and see themselves as detectives, scientists, crusading historians is a good idea.

But that brings me back to a key challenge everyone who reads this needs to think about: we know there are great NF books that serve the CC — well written and designed, filled with apt, carefully selected images, texts that take students on journeys of discovery. But teachers don’t know them and cannot use them. Publishers reluctance to make NF available to schools in digital or paperback formats, or via something like rental, is a real roadblock. If you see a publisher, make the case — that is one thing I will be doing at BEA.


  1. Myra Zarnowski says:

    Availability of NF is a major problem. Yesterday, I spent the day at a local elementary school where I am working on a grant funded project using NF science books. The teachers tell me that their primary problem is lack of material. They simply don’t have the books and other simple materials like journals that the need. When our grant provided them with books –some classroom sets and a classroom library for independent reading–they made spectacular use of it. They children read, wrote, did projects, made charts, discussed ideas and evidence–everything they should be doing to use language to learn. Again and again they talked about how having quality books and materials made THE difference.