COMMON CORE MONSTERS: When 'Common Core' overcomes teacher professionalism and common sense...

[Editor's Note: The following originally appeared at Susan Ohanian's website ( as "Third Graders Get a Common Core Debriefing." We share it to help further the discussion of the odiousness of Common Core as Chicago teachers are facing some blindsiding from CPS officials on behalf of Common Core and Arne Duncan's town visit reflects the current state of the mlndless and fatuous talking point stupidities of current reality. There is also a recent You Tube satire on Common Core that you can locate through Diane Ravitch's blog at Enjoy.].

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. SUSAN OHANIAN WRITES: Kris Nielsen tells a story that makes my skin crawl, my blood boil, and my heart ache. For the past few days, Sara Wottawa, of Long Island, has heard these frightening words at bedtime from her tearful eight-year-old daughter: "Will you be here when I wake up?" More and more parents are reporting increased fear, anxiety, frustration, behavior problems, and even physical symptoms this year, mostly having to do with school. Social media groups are awash in stories like this, and PTA meetings have become a hotspot for complaints. What's so different about this school year? Parents say it's the Common Core and the learning modules that teachers are being forced to use. When Sara finally got to the bottom of her daughter's fear of losing her mother, she found out that she had been reading a book-- Nasreen's Secret School--in class, which brought about these feelings of dread. The book is part of a "close reading" assignment in New York's EngageNY teaching modules, which were rolled out this year are being widely used throughout the state--and the country. Let's be very clear here. The problem is not the book. The problem is in what EngageNY directs teachers to do with the book. I'm bothered by the way EngageNY deals with the book in general and the emotional content in particular. For the Standardisto, the primary content is How do people access books in Afghanistan?. For the eight-year-old reader--and for me, too--it is entirely something else. GRADE 3: MODULE 1: UNIT 1: LESSON 6 Close Reading of Nasreen's Secret School: How Do People Access Books in Afghanistan? Copyright � 2013 by Expeditionary Learning, New York, NY. All Rights Reserved. NYS Common Core ELA Curriculum EngageNY instructs the teacher to tell students that they will engage in the same close reading process they've done before-- but with a new text, about a child going to school in a new place. The book is about a girl who has lost first her father and then her mamma. Even after her school experience enriches her life, we return to this theme of loss. But note: For EngageNY the process is what's important, not the deep emotional content. Also note that from the get-go, the instructions ignore the emotional content of a child losing her parents--and the fear this would provoke in an 8-year-old reader. First, the teacher reads the story aloud, with students following along in their own copy. Next: Unpacking the Learning Targets (5 minutes) Direct students to the learning target "I can discuss how the main message of Nasreen's Secret School is conveyed through key details." Circle the word discuss. Invite students to share what this word means. Remind students that in reading closely the text Rain School,they talked about their ideas with one another, following class norms for conversation. Review the class norms for conversation with the class, emphasizing speaking in complete sentences, looking one another in the eye, and giving everyone a chance to speak.

Remind students that today, as they work with their groups, you will be listening in to start to assess how well they are collaborating with their peers.

So after reading this powerful story for the first time, students learn that the important thing is speaking in complete sentences. Supporting Learning Targets Ongoing Assessment I can identify the main message of Nasreen's Secret School by reading the text closely.

I can describe what Nasreen wanted and what she did.

I can sort key details from Nasreen's Secret School into categories.

I can discuss how the main message is conveyed through key details.

If this is how teachers obeying the Common Core script will drag children through fiction, then I say let's abolish all fiction and stick to nonfiction, which I refuse to call "informational text" as a term setting it apart from fiction, which presumably contains no information. I don't want to let these Standardistos anywhere near fiction. In this Common Core template, the teacher's job is to "support learning targets," not students. The EngageNY lesson plan provides for a 10-minute "debriefing" (their word) after the close reading session on sorting key details into categories and discussing how the main message is conveyed through details. EngageNY doesn't mention kids' worries about losing their own parents but assures teachers: The leading children publishing and teaching resource web sites unanimously agree that these texts are appropriate and effective for 3rd -grade children. It would be interesting to know the names of "The leading children publishing and teaching resource web sites." EngageNY continues, "Some of the book's themes challenge students to think through and learn to communicate new ideas, which is why these texts are so effective and widely used." It would take a week to unpack the deep offense of this particular EngageNY injunction: "In Lessons 6 and 7 time is set aside to discuss with students that in some places in the world, there are wars that are scary. Use this discussion as an opportunity to build students' idealism, help them articulate it, describe what it means to act bravely, and notice how Nasreen pursues the power of reading." Maybe all you need to know is that in Second Grade these New York City kids victimized by this sort of thing had to study the War of 1912. EngageNY does have a section Meeting Students Needs. Here is the full teaching tip for Naureen's Secret School" For ELLs or struggling readers,consider highlighting their text to help them find some important details that will help them answer the questions. Oh well, the Common Core is the edpreneur's paradise: If you don't like these lessons, the Internet is awash in others. You can get a set of PowerPoint tips for $1.00. Let's return for a moment to EngageNY's use of "debrief" to describe what a teacher does after children read a story. debrief 1. to interrogate (a soldier, astronaut, diplomat, etc.) on return from a mission in order to assess the conduct and results of the mission. 2. to question formally and systematically in order to obtain useful intelligence or information: Political and economic experts routinely debrief important defectors about conditions in their home country. 3. to subject to prohibitions against revealing or discussing classified information, as upon separation from a position of military or political sensitivity. 4.Psychology. (after an experiment) to disclose to the subject the purpose of the experiment and any reasons for deception or manipulation. Thus with the Common Core, for students reading a book is their mission. And when they finish, teachers will interrogate them in order to assess the conduct and results of the mission. I've discussed EngageNY lessons before. They are skill heavy and soul deficient. You may want to visit their Data-Driven Instruction page which they tout as a precise and systematic approach to improving student learning throughout the year. Here those strong of stomach can access lots more lessons. For just one example, by the end of kindergarten Unit 6, the student will be able to: By the end of this unit, students will be able to: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions (e.g., who, what, where, when) requiring literal recall and understanding of the details and/or facts of a fiction text; With prompting and support, use narrative language to describe characters, setting, things, events, actions, a scene, or facts from a fiction text that has been read independently; With prompting and support, describe illustrations from a fiction text read independently, using the illustrations to check and support comprehension of the story; Read aloud in a group, with a partner, or alone at least 15 minutes each day; Identify the parts of books and function of each part (front cover, back cover, title page, table of contents); Demonstrate correct back orientation by holding books correctly and turning pages; Demonstrate understanding of basic print conventions by tracking and following print word for word when listening to a text read aloud; Demonstrate understanding of directionality (left to right, return sweep, top to bottom, front to back); Demonstrate understanding that a systematic, predictable relationship exists between written letters and spoken sounds; Point to each word in a line of print while reading aloud; Recognize and name the 26 letters of the alphabet in their lowercase forms; Recognize and produce rhyming words; Orally blend sounds to form words, e.g., given the sounds /k/.../a/.../t/, blend to make cat; Read and write one-syllable short vowel words with initial or final blends/clusters, e.g., tr-, fl-, -sp, -nd, -lt, etc. and initial or final consonant digraphs, e.g., ch-, sh-, th-, -ch, -sh, -th, -ck, -ng; Read decodable text that incorporates the letter-sound correspondences that have been taught, with purpose and understanding; Read and write words in which 's' > /s/ as in cats or /z/ as in dogs; Ask and answer questions to clarify information in fiction text read independently; Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with prompting and support, provide additional detail; Hold a writing utensil with a tripod (or pincer) grip and make marks on paper; Trace, copy, and/or write from memory the letters of the alphabet accurately in lowercase form; Use regular plural nouns orally by adding /s/, /z/, or /es/; Use spatial words: there, here; in, on; in front of, behind; at the top of; at the bottom of; under, over; above, below; next to, in the middle of; near, far; inside, outside; around, between; up, down; high, low; left, right; front, back; and Name and use commas and end punctuation while reading orally. Here's the Reader that's matched to these skills. Unit 6 Reader Skills Strand Kindergarten Core Knowledge Language Arts® New York Edition Here is the workbook with the skill sheets. And homework: Dear Family Member, This is a story your child has read at school. Encourage your child to read the story aloud to you and talk about the events in the story. If your child has difficulty reading a word, encourage your child to blend the word letter by letter to read it. And there's a Unit 6 Assessment and Remediation Guide. Then you're ready to go on to Unit 7. And 8. And . . . . Does anybody really think that treating children this way will help us catch up with Finland, where kids get recess every 45 minutes? We need to scrap the Common Core which provides such fertile field for this offal. We need to make plans for the revolution.


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 3 =