An Open Letter to the Louisiana Standards Review Committee
Dear Louisiana Standards Review Committee Members:
One of my principal concerns with the Common Core State Standards in English language arts (CCSS ELA) is its divorcing of textual understanding from context. (For an excellent explanation of this CCSS quality of isolating texts from their contexts, see this piece written by New York teacher education professor, Daniel Katz.)
The public survey format for CCSS in Louisiana fosters this divorcing of CCSS from context as any commentary on CCSS must be molded to fit the current structure of CCSS ELA and math, and in line-item-response fashion, at that.
No room to step back and consider CCSS context in the survey. And yet, it is beyond time for Louisiana to consider CCSS within some context.
In May 2009, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and then-State Superintendent Paul Pastorek signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to commit Louisiana to be “state led” and participate in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative.
On June 02, 2010, CCSS was officially completed and released to the public.
Just under one month later, on July 01, 2010, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) recorded in its minutes that it had adopted CCSS.
And what would have been sensible– what would have offered context to any consideration of replacing the Louisiana state ELA and math standards with CCSS– never happened:
A deliberate and detailed comparison of the current Louisiana ELA and math standards to CCSS.
It would have been wise for Louisiana to critically weight its adoption of what was unknown yet surrounded by lots of “college and career ready” hype– CCSS– by comparing it with what was known– the current Louisiana state ELA and math standards.
Instead, Louisiana shelved its former ELA and math standards without a thought and blindly jumped into CCSS (or was politically propelled, and still is) without comparing it to current Louisiana state ELA and math standards to weigh the cost (fiscally and educationally) of switching from what Louisiana had to an unknown.
This is not how mature people live their personal lives.
Mature people make decisions informed by context.
Consider the purchase of an automobile. I own a Honda. I bought it because I owned one previously. That one, I bought based upon the established reputation of Hondas.
However, let’s say (in keeping with CCSS adoption), that a few friends told me, “We’re signing an agreement to buy a car that hasn’t yet been manufactured, but we are going to build it, and we know it will be better than all current cars because we have planned it to be so.”
Big surprise– it doesn’t turn out that way; even on paper, the “new car” does not exceed the theoretical performance, endurance, and cost effectiveness of all cars. So, for some reason– perhaps to just follow the group– I join my friends in what amounts to their new car experiment. We settle for garaging all of our former cars in favor of the new car– all for the sake of driving the same car.
Why is driving the same car better? Well, for one, those who market the parts and accessories can make a bundle on the mass marketing promise of sooo many people being roped into buying the same car– even if some have garaged superior cars.
Some who manufactured the now-supposed “better than most” new car could even have strategic career changes which allow them to benefit handsomely from now producing new car parts and accessories.
Others who actively promoted this new-car-sameness experiment do not allow their own children to ride in these cars.
Meanwhile, my starry-eyed friends and I can all now somehow claim American car-driving excellence because we all drive the same car.
And if the manufacturer senses any discontent among those who agreed to drive the same car, it can have its regional offices each conduct a review of the car. However, that “review” cannot include any hint of comparison to those former cars, which are not gone but merely garaged. Out of sight, out of mind.
And certainly, those new car owners should not be reminded that there was never any individual owner comparison of each owner’s former car to the new car as a means of critically informing the initial purchase. Such considerations could well hinder any pro-new-car efforts to preserve as much New Car Sameness as possible following the new-car-devoid-of-context review.
This is where we are as a state, and we are far from alone.
It is time for Louisiana to put CCSS into some context. It is time for a systematic and detailed comparison of Louisiana’s garaged state ELA and math standards to mass-marketed CCSS.
The outcomes of the 2015 review should be informed by such comparison.
Let us move forward by doing what should have been done prior to BESE-rushed CCSS adoption in July 2010.
Classroom teacher, St. Tammany Parish Schools