Leaked: Draft of national standards for schools

Education wonk alert! A draft document of common core state standards, the latest effort to create more consistency in curriculum between the 50 states, is circulating in cyberspace.

The Core Knowledge camp — those who promote the teaching of shared, specific content and “a sequential building of knowledge” — were quick to weigh in on the document today, in a blog devoted to the issue. They’re not fans, as you might gather from the headline: “Voluntary National Standards Dead on Arrival.” They say the guidlines include little content and that they would be fairly useless to teachers and parents.

Here’s a quote from E.D. Hirsch, Jr., the Core Knowlege founder, which is posted on the blog:

At first glance, these language standards are, despite the brave descriptors, very similar to the dysfunctional state standards already in place. Like most state standards, they naively take a formalistic approach to language ability. They assume that the ability to understand literary and informational language is chiefly a how–to skill, whereas it is chiefly a topic-dependent skill that varies with specific topic familiarity. … One begins to despair.

You can find a copy of the draft here. Do you have an equally dismal view of the draft? Do you think it’s time for national standards?

image from House of Sims Web site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Standards check: How many of you adults can answer the following questions, taken from the California state history standards for sixth grade?

    1. Explain the significance of Abraham, Moses, Naomi, Ruth, David, and Yohanan ben Zaccai in the development of the Jewish religion.

    2. List the policies and achievements of the emperor Shi Huangdi in unifying northern China under the Qin Dynasty.

    3. Identify the location of the Kush civilization and describe its political, commercial, and cultural relations with Egypt.

    Consider, from the above, the person of Yohanan ben Zaccai. I have actually been forced — gotta teach the standards! — to prepare a lesson plan FOR SIXTH GRADERS to teach of his role in preserving Jewish knowledge after the destruction of the Second Temple. Yet, I have now asked at least 25 Jews, many of them veterans of Hebrew school and Bar Mitzvahs, and have not found ONE who has heard of this guy.

    The usefulness of standards is real, but vastly overrated, IMHO, and they can be damaging as well.

    Standards tend to be either so broad and complete that you can’t really do anything in a classroom without hitting one — for example, lists of all the components of good writing — or so specific and non-transferable (as a skill or foundational understanding) as to be useful only for memorization test prep, i.e., lists of the key battles of important wars.

    For those who don’t know about, E.D. Hirsch, Jr., he is a very controversial old-school advocate of cultural homogeniety and assimilation, arguing that if every kid knows all the terms and facts that a white middle-class American adult does, they can succeed. His books included lists of thousands of this normative vocab, everything from traditional academic stuff to names of important Disney movies, etc. Rather than an afterthought to teaching, he believes these are a pass to success and should be taught as an end in and of themselves.

  • Katy Murphy

    OK, you’ve stumped me. I’m 0 for 3 on your pop quiz.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Haha! You must repeat sixth grade!

  • Nextset

    This is an example of why we do not and should not have national education standards set by the feds.

    Centralization of everything through Washington DC ensures that rot will spread throughout the country at once. State jurisdiction keeps this from happening. It was one othe things this country was built on. It’s why we became stronger than the UK, our mother nation.