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: http://tinyurl.com/d4qfxry
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.