As those of you who read our newsletter have seen, our January focus was on the Common Core. We appreciate the responses we've received and are happy that one of our parents has allowed us to repost her response to continue this dialogue on making our educational structure stronger for our children (original wording of the newsletter is below the response).
As an educator expert on Common Core, I couldn't help but respond.The standards do emphasize higher order thinking skills and rich content learning through non-fiction. That said, the narrative is an essential form that is still strongly represented in the standards and actually the sentiment that you relay below is a bit of a "myth" about the Core.As a secondary teacher for over 15 years I saw so many student(s) come to me as teenagers with a deep knowledge of narrative structures and storytelling and able to write persuasively from the "I" point of view. However, they woefully lacked the ability to learn from informational text and did not have robust background knowledge in science, history, art, etc. They could read the words on the page but were not able to apply a critical lens to what they read or comprehend. The data also is clear that we have big gaps in college and career readiness - so the goal of the Core is to focus teachers on college and career readiness so we can reduce our large rates of college remediation. Moreover, many elementary schools use basal readers and almost exclusively teach narrative structures k-5. This has been a big issue for middle and high school teachers as the demands (turn) from learning to read to reading to learn.I do agree that we need a balance but I also think that the negative conversation about the reduction of narrative outlined by the Core is misguided and narrow - my opinion. Nowhere in the standards does it say that nonfiction is more rigorous than fiction. If you can find it, let me know. In fact the appendices of the Core are RICH with narrative examples - we are being asked to push students in new ways with what they do with them!Here is a link to my blog post on the subject:Respectfully,Sasha Kirkman
One of the debates is over the new emphasis on analytic and critical thinking. The Common Core focuses less on self-expression, and much more on persuasive, argumentative and analytical writing.
We must admit, we're biased. We don't think that writing about non-fiction texts is somehow more rigorous than reading and writing poetry, short stories or novels, and that writing explanatory or argumentative essays is more worthwhile than creative writing. Isn't there room for both? The Common Core stresses analytic, critical thinking-based writing, but what about the thinking-outside-the-box, imaginative approach to writing? What about the beauty of being able to write something that is not considered “right” or “wrong?”
At “Take My Word For It!” we will continue to celebrate creative writing - inviting our students to take literary adventures, while at the same time, teaching them about the craft. While we respect the aim and importance of the Common Core Standards, we will continue to offer kids the chance to grab a pencil and let their imaginations run wild.
-Sondra Hall Founder and Director