Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Turn Up the Heat

A friend and her 4-year-old came to visit last week. While I was making dinner, the fire alarm shrieked. The warning was on account of the scallops with bacon (I was feeling the call of the south).

Our Little Friend: What's that sound?
My First Daughter: It's the fire alarm.
Our Little Friend: What does it mean?
My First Daughter: It means Mom is cooking.
Our Little Friend: We never hear that when my mom is cooking.
My Second Daughter: Maybe she's not cooking hard enough.

As states adopt and begin implementing the Common Core standards, there's bound to be a bit of a shock. In several arenas, but just now I'm thinking of reading passages.

Rigor is what's got all the nerves in a twist at the moment, and I'm all for rigor, but it's not all we should be considering. Rigor out of context--like most anything out of context--is meaningless. One could take it to mean increased readability measure, or higher grade level vocabulary, both of which can be used to unintentionally silly effect that diminishes any credibility a text might have had without such manipulations.

In "Publishers' Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy, Grades 3-12," David Coleman and Susan Pimentel describe how we--the providers of text in curriculum and assessment--need to be cooking harder in order to produce high-quality texts of sufficient complexity to meet the demands of the standards.

So there needs to be what I think of as content density and richness of ideas. Passages need to show evidence of thought and care, both in terms of the approach to the subject and the craft itself.

We're not just filling pages with print. We're giving students opportunities to learn and think and reflect and make connections and then come up with their own ideas.

UPDATE: Formatting fixes.

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