The Fordham Institute Throws in the Towel on the Common Core.

…or so you might think.

Just to prove that my indignation about the Indiana State Legislature’s decision to upend our investment in academic higher standards isn’t me being an erratic firebrand, I encourage you to read the article posted by The Fordham Institute, On Common Core, We Cry Uncle. It’s tone is a bit of a departure from other documents and reports we’ve grown accustomed to reading from this trusted organization.

As an English teacher who enjoys encouraging the writing of others, and as a practitioner of guiding students towards mastering the Common Core State Standards, below you’ll find the constructive academic feedback I left the writers. I draw my conclusions based upon the standards in the Writing and Language strands, respectively :

Never in my years as an English teacher have I seen such sophisticated use of satire and reverse psychology.

Michael and Tommy, on this collaborative assignment, I recognize your mastery of:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.A – Your intro was very compelling and perfectly framed the coming content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.B – Your inventive inclusion of counterarguments was natural and avoided the awkwardness of including it just for the sake of doing so.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.C – Through snarky phrasings, your cohesion throughout the piece was seamless. 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.E – Your brief conclusion was the final nail in the coffin of this argument. Way to stick the landing.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.4 – Your consideration of the audience and purpose of steeling their resolve was accomplished.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.11-12.1 – A grammatically and mechanically flawless piece of efficient command of the English language.

Areas of Refinement:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.D – on a future assignment for another audience, let’s work on developing our objective tone.

 

Summary:

This is a brilliant piece of argumentative writing with a satirical tone. Don’t be alarmed however, if people comment in the “troll” vernacular, thinking that your satire was either to be interpreted literally (e.g., like an alarmingly many do the books in the Holy Bible), or a deliberate attempt to pawn them on this *sacrilege* of a “holiday”, April Fool’s Day. Don’t let their lower thinking and spiteful rhetoric discourage you. I think you may have a career in this genre.

As I’ve been talking about, the institution and subsequent repeal of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is the perfect example of a sensible conversation that is completely derailed by misinformation for purely political gain. There are others, but this one I have a bit of a corner on, as a practitioner of curriculum design aiming for these academic targets. The lies I’ve heard are rampant. Let me explain. Teachers were/are involved. The classroom perspective was included. From the onset, there wasn’t a political agenda in creating a list of academic targets–in fact, how could there be? Algebra is algebra. Standard English is Standard English. The motivation in the initiative reflected the dearth of achievement, the growing gap for our most struggling schools and learners, and a fairly realistic way to address PART of it. If the establishment responds by throwing the baby out with the bathwater, they demonstrate a lack of many of the critical thinking skills the CCSS itself can help impart (through the locally designed curriculum of artisan teachers). I routinely tell my students that nothing is written—only rewritten (wish I knew the source for that truth).

That those of us who are in the profession—but above the simpleton tactics being employed in ousting the CCSS in Indiana—wouldn’t have noticed this approach, is an insult to our intelligence and mastery of the content we teach. I’m reminded of my nephew, who as a toddler, brought a water gun into the house, concealing it as he entered. I watched as my own mother asked him what her grandson had behind his back. He first lied that he didn’t have anything, then when confronted, pretended in earnest he didn’t know he had it in his hand. Behind his back.

The Common Core in and of itself should guide teachers towards creating curriculum that enabled students a clear path towards presenting much more valid arguments than what this faction has accomplished through fear and misappropriation. If I sound angry, it’s because I couldn’t have fathomed such egregious behavior would have made it to a bill, let alone out of committee, any more than I could’ve figured that my nephew would’ve been able to sneak that water gun into the house after being appropriately questioned.

It’s not that the governor has failed us teachers in this measure (among others such as the guns-in-school-parking-lots-decriminalization), it’s that he has betrayed teachers and students by forcing us to take a lesser route to achieving our goals, and thinking we wouldn’t notice that it’s either for political gain or due to a complete lack of capacity for problem-solving and critical thinking that isn’t at the behest of some constituency that has the same cognitive dysfunction.

Harsh? Perhaps. But I have real work to do because my OWN cognitive dysfunction manifests like this: I believe that if I don’t create a sense of urgency for my teenage students that reading with the utmost of comprehension and writing with the utmost of clarity is the most important thing to accomplish right now, I’m putting their very lives at risk. Yes, as whack as it sounds, I believe that it is my mission is to save the lives of teenagers by teaching them how to read and write, and in doing so, they achieve the ability to think critically.

It’s a befuddling thing isn’t it? And I’d be extremely self-conscious about it if I thought I might be the only teacher who thinks this way.

But I’m not.

Misguided War on the Common Core? At VERY least.

I think Bloomberg’s David Shipley does an excellent post-mortem on the completely political “state overreach” by Governor Mike Pence and State Senator Scott Schneider in repealing Indiana’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Based upon the draft of the *new* Indiana College & Career Readiness Standards (which for better or worse, THIS English teacher would call blatant plagiarism of the CCSS, minus the helpful organization of sequence and scope inherent in the CCSS but absent in this draft) along with The College Board’s subsequent announcement that the SAT is being realigned to the CCSS, I think this will be one of those “misguided” efforts that blows up on the Tea Party fear-mongering faction of the Indiana State Government.

I’m very open to hearing the debates. I’ve considered every perspective a CCSS opponent has thoughtfully shared with me, and can’t find any validity in the passage of this repeal as it appears to only create MORE work for our already overstressed education workforce. Not that implementing the CCSS is easy, but for us to go it alone? After 3+ years of building curriculum, considering a testing schema, and dumping hundreds of thousands of manhours statewide into getting ready for such a seismic shift? That’s foolhardy in ways that defy reason and as Shipley says, can only be determined as political (and thus self-serving to both Pence, Schneider, and those who voted for it ).

As I’ve said before, you would actually have to have mastery of several of the standards in the CCSS to successfully refute something like a set of common sense standards. Just because you bark at more things doesn’t mean you’re a better dog. I’m not advocating that the CCSS is perfect. Not by a longshot according to curriculum developers much smarter than myself. However, the rabidly viral Badass Teacher’s Association (an organization that threw me out for suggesting we draft a 2.0 version if the 1.0 wasn’t worthy), never expressed interest in practicing any of the Four C’s: collaboration, communication, critical-thinking, and creativity. I had no idea my desire to suggest that was an offense. Maybe it was just too badass.

Though I’m a staunch supporter of us having a single set of core standards coast to coast (core, as in, not the entire apple), I’m not specifically brand loyal to the CCSS. I’m just fearful of what this and similar legislation coming out of this General Assembly Session foreshadows. What it’s about ultimately are politicians (and yes, also voters who are kowtowed into illogical fears) becoming all the more capable of doing things to restrict teachers and caring administrators from taking advantage of some of the best resources to come to the education market for helping our kids stay competitive for what comes next. Let me enumerate.

For non-education folks: Here are THREE key takeaways from the General Assembly:

  • We think the federal government is pulling a socialist takeover by saying that learning targets the National Governor’s Association came up with are an overreach.
  • We think decriminalizing having a gun in a school parking lot makes sense.
  • We think we need to stop and ponder for a year or several the idea that preschool is right for Hoosier tikes.

I’m not stretching the truth much if at all in my interpretation. And I’m not naïve the amount of horse-trading that goes on in the State Capitol Building’s hallways. But based on the voting record of these senators who made these three things Indiana law this past month and to think that with these choices, they represent the electorate’s best for our children’s education, maybe we all need to go back to school.

Goodbye, Maddie.

Like I often do the night before a trip, I awoke early, without help from alarm clock. The clock read 5:00 on the dot, and I could feel a tremor on our bed. I figured it was Maddie, our Cocker Spaniel, chewing on her nails or the fur between her toes—a habit that has annoyed me for years. Mostly due to my inability to help curtail it with careful grooming and frequent discouragement. But there was enough of a difference in the movement that I didn’t do the typical maneuver where I shovel her over on top of my wife’s feet with my own. I grabbed my glasses and iPhone from the bedside charger and swiped open the flashlight app. I saw she was panting and causing the bed to shimmy. Panting. That was peculiar. The room was plenty cool. I  carried her to the living room. When I sat Maddie down on the floor, she had leaden feet, slogging her way towards the area rug—a very untypical behavior for this otherwise energetic pup (yes, even at 13, she’s always been a puppy to me; as naive and clueless in her latter years as she was at the beginning. Maddie never demonstrated much curiosity or cleverness besides getting into every trash can we ever owned).

This lack of energy was concerning to me, but I tried to frame it with our visit to our vet just this past Wednesday. Ironically, I was feeling puny that day, and had called in sick, and here I was, at my wife’s behest, taking the typically-healthy of our two dogs to the vet. Maddie had developed a bit of a cough that wasn’t going away on it’s own. The vet couldn’t tell me anything conclusive after the inspection, but only speculate about her pre-existing heart murmur. She couldn’t hear any labored breathing or the telltale gurgle of fluid buildup in the lungs. She was careful to remind me of the broad spectrum of ailments present in an older dog before ending on a higher note of a possible sinus infection. Two prescriptions and $75 later, I was out the door with Maddie. I even filmed a short clip to send to Kim to show that she was doing okay after the visit.

And so, I thought perhaps that this sinus infection had escalated into a more advanced case. I watched as she made her way to the back door I was holding open, then peed on the small pile of snow I had shoveled off of the deck these past few weeks, and made her way around her typical circuit. To forestall my own impatience at this turd-sniffing routine, I made coffee and ushered Glory, our two-years-older-and-much-more-decrepit Sheltie out the same back door. Minutes later, Glory yelped. Not the typical “all done” bark, but a yelp. One that means, “Hey, human. Something’s not quite right out here.” I grabbed my jacket, stepped into my mud boots and went to find Maddie. The freezing rain was now starting to come down with a bit of force, pattering audibly on the deck and hot tub cover as I swept the yard with a flashlight. She wasn’t anywhere around the fence sniffing for bunnies and squirrel scent. She was lying in the doghouse. In a freezing rain shower. I knew what this meant, but didn’t want to jump—couldn’t jump to that conclusion.

You see, this dog has been everything to my wife. I remember when Kim had mononucleosis over a decade ago. Maddie snuggled with her every day she was bedridden during that bout. Then again, there was the time Kim had her appendix out after a terrible misdiagnosis, which led to a shit show of a surgery which meant a terribly extended recovery time for Kim. Bedridden again, Maddie was her faithful canine-hot-water-bottle, bringing her comfort and company while I begrudgingly went to work for the very tiny boss I was betrothed to at the time. Two years ago, Kim was once again laid up, for what we hope to be the last time in a long time. The ordeal wasn’t just the typical physically draining one. Kim was as emotionally and mentally incapacitated as well. But her dog was by her side, while I continued to go to work.

You see, I’ve been oddly jealous of this dog. It sounds peculiar, but she has had more cumulative time snuggling with Kim than I have. It’s just the way our lives have unfolded, and in some ways, being Kim’s “snuggle buddy” was her entire bailiwick. Generally, Maddie was better at it than the frenetic redhead Kim married a couple years before we adopted Maddie from Megan, Kim’s sister. And because of this, I am genuinely concerned for my wife. Maddie was my surrogate for her on trips like this very one that I had to leave for. She kept Kim from worrying about noises that went bump in the night (mainly because that dog was the majority source for said noises as she made midnight prowls for forgotten snack plates, and tasties discarded in the trash). In short, Maddie kept Kim from feeling like a travel-widow on so many occasions she deserves a presidential medal of honor for her proficiency at the task.

When I went to get Maddie out of the doghouse, she wouldn’t move. She didn’t resist, but she didn’t have any desire to comply. I pulled her out with a gentle tug of the collar, and she unwillingly stepped down, and I honored that by scooping her up and carrying her in. She started panting again. When I put her on the floor, she stayed where I left her for several minutes as I went about my morning routine, preparing for my trip. It was like she was missing her cues. “Maddie, I’m about to leave, and I need you to clock in and take care of Kim while I’m gone, ‘kay?”

“Right, Dad. I know. I want to. I just don’t think I’m feeling so great.”

About the third time I whisked past her and saw her literal hang-dog expression, I scooped her up again and put her on the couch, where she laid down her head, but continued to pant. And shiver.

“Maddie, you know I’m counting on you, right? I need you to keep Kim company. I can’t always be there for her.”

“I know. Yes, Dad.” she somehow communicates back shifting her big brown eyes to me while keeping her chin on the pillow, her hindquarters shivering.

And I then realized, for the first time and for the first time considered what it meant. My god, Maddie. You won’t always be here either.

I wasn’t comfortable with heading to the airport with Kim finding her like that. But I was also not eager to wake Kim up to tell her I was concerned. As though she sensed something, Kim awoke and came into the living room so quietly I didn’t notice.

“Maddie’s not doing well, babe,” I told her. And then I repeated to her what I’d seen. Like Maddie had done thousands of times, Kim returned the favor of gently snuggling up against her on the couch, asking her what was wrong. I couldn’t even watch.

Fifteen minutes later, I was out the door, like a coward, off to the airport, a thousand some odd miles away from this…decision.

I arrived at my gate and the phone rang. It was Kim calling to tell me she was at the nearby pet emergency facility. The doctor had told her that the x-ray revealed an enlarged heart and that the prognosis wasn’t good. They advised we put Maddie to sleep. As Kim relayed the information, I started denying that it was time for this ultimatum, bartering for second opinions and the like. I hadn’t realized that Kim wasn’t asking me for advice—asking me to be strong for her where she was weak. She was already at a place of decision; one that demonstrated her strength.

And as I type this, crying like a baby in front of a bunch of other travel-weary midwesterners at O’Hare International, I’m worried about my wife. I don’t know what this loss is going to do to her. But I worry without a certain empathy I’ll likely never be able to achieve. I’m referring to that capacity to fully realize what this other person, my wife, is capable of in feats of strength. Whether it’s one of the many illnesses she’s battled, or the ultimate betrayal of an inept employer, a financial hardship, or complete and utter ideological meltdown resulting in us both quite literally losing our religion, I’m convinced she handles them all with so much more poise and with the stability of a slab of granite than I could ever muster.

Of course there’s a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy I’m attempting to conjure with that statement. There’s a sliver of hope I’m trying to manufacture on a day when it feels like we lost one of our human relatives. And I hope I can be forgiven for resorting to such a coping mechanism. Because, that’s exactly what that is to me—a coping mechanism. I need it not just to mourn a dog that drove me apeshit most every day with the messes she made, the midnight moments she made me stand on the deck in my boxers signaling in at least three different languages how in earnest I yearned for her to come in immediately so I could go to bed, and all other sorts of idiosyncrasies…I need to end on a hopeful note because I’m away from my wife for the next week and for the first time, she won’t have Maddie next to her in my stead. That breaks my heart and unnerves me like I never anticipated. So forgive me that schmaltz, that codependence, that weakness. Or not. But at very least forgive me for needing to write about the death of a dog, a family member, a sort of colleague and put this out there for my own selfish and mesmerizingly debilitating reaction to this loss.

That need I’ve had is one I’ve never really taken notice of until now. That need I had for Maddie to simply be there for Kim. I took that entirely for granted. And that’s why it hurts so bad. I can’t say thank you to this creature for her faithfulness nor can I fill that void. All I can do is be grateful she left this world as quietly as she burglarized all those boxes of crackers, half-eaten cookies, and roast chickens left to close to the edge of the kitchen island. Even in that final act, one I know in one in which she had no choice, just a heart that was giving out, at least she spared Kim a drawn out decline.

Maddie took care of Kim one final time.

Let’s Get Logical.

Long time readers know I’m passionate for good design trumping bad design—especially if the bad design is only en vogue because it’s the *convention*. Logical punctuation is one of those things. We designed language (contrary to those who believe a literal interpretation of the Tower of Babel story). We designed grammar (much to many’s chagrin). Thus, we can afford to change it to suit not just our needs, but our rationale thinking.

In the past, I’ve linked to the article on Slate discussing the advent of logical punctuation. Today, I’m sharing another article, one from the up and comer, Grammarly.com, with a VERY helpful infographic.

So, for what it’s worth, I have to tell my students to do it the illogical way but I don’t hide from them the fact that the logical way is a better design (and damn easier to comprehend, apply, and remember as time goes by).

Image

Free Write Fridays

In my high school writing classes, I like to use a certain activity I’ve called “Free Write Fridays”. Essentially, it allows students to write about whatever they want to for at least one period of their week. Granted, we pride ourselves on offering our students a lot of choice in our instructional design at Indy Met, I have a rationale that is tethered to a different motivation than the typical research backing ways to improve student engagement.

Even though Google cracked down on their “20% Time” in 2013, it is ingrained in their corporate culture. If you’re late to this story, the essence of 20% Time is that Google employees had free rein to work on projects of their own curiosity one day a week. Allegedly, some of Google’s most innovative and popular projects were developed by employees during these weekly work session. Gmail is likely the most notorious 20% Time project.

Celebrated author, Dan Pink has written about this in his book DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsMany a business leader and educator who religiously study Pink have tried to incorporate this element of autonomy into their workplaces as well.

But if Google is feeling like the philosophy is getting away from their productivity, what will they do to replace that “crunch” on autonomy? How will they continue to fuel innovation if Pink’s right and taking away a person’s autonomy deflates motivation? I don’t know with any certainty, but my hunch is they won’t. At least privately they won’t. And I won’t either.

Here’s my vision for my students: that their 20% time (which is only 10% time considering it’s every OTHER Friday) becomes a platform for showcasing their works in progress during the other 80% (90%) of time working in my class. The difference is entirely about one’s ownership of the work. A public blog over the course of a semester raises the stakes for my kids. It makes them care about how they will be perceived and—I’d like to think—makes them care more about learning the grammar and sentence structure skills necessary to craft a particular message for an even more particular audience.

For example, have a look at one of my student’s blog. Darshane is writing about basketball and enjoying figuring out how to plan future writing projects expressing his passion and opinion on the sport. Let him know what you think, even offering some constructive criticism. He’s the type of student who wants to build a platform for himself and contribute something meaningful to the world.

To me, that’s a bargain at 20%.

How NaNoWriMo Illuminates Craft.

Two weeks into #NaNoWrimo, I’m feeling the fatigue–not just of writing, but of our recent tumult in Kim’s job loss, and dealing with it accordingly. I took Friday/Saturday off and killed it today, netting over 4200 words, and bringing my running total up to 27,582. This translates into 110 pages of my manuscript thus far with plenty of story still ahead in my notes.

To be clear, this is a fun diversion for ME. I’m not doing it because I have delusions of grandeur in publishing what I’m writing. It’s the first big project I’ve tackled for sheer enjoyment in a craft for which I have a ton of experience as a reader, but not as a writer.

As a result, I’m thinking about the impact this mental workout is having on me. Aside from needing a break late this week, knocking out a bunch of words isn’t difficult for me. There’s absolutely no pressure to hit my daily quota of 1,667 words (6.6 pages a day). But being reflective, I’m thinking about how I cultivated this and will be spending MORE time on this reflection following the event’s conclusion after Thanksgiving. Here’s what I’m thinking about that has some substance:

• I couldn’t do this task if I couldn’t type about as fast as I can think up sentences. Writing this by hand would kill me. Writing this hunt and peck would kill me. Doing this any other way than with my ten fingers flying would kill me. And I’m eternally grateful for the two typing classes I took in high school over twenty years ago. See kids? You DO use your high school education years and years later.
• I wouldn’t be ready for this had I never encountered Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY and learned about her “Morning Pages” routine. Simply put, the first thing you do to start your day is to draft three free written pages as fast as you can. Longhand in a normal notebook. Every day. I did this for the first time about 12 years ago, and have long since migrated the practice to the very admirable Buster Benson’s site 750Words.com. His data visualization is piercing. And the combined practice of typing and MORNING PAGES here on his site are blissful to an aspiring writer.
• I wouldn’t be as trusting in this process of the NaNoWriMo blitzkrieg if I didn’t know and believe in the work of Hungarian professor Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi. His theory of “flow” is LEGIT and I’ve thoroughly lost myself in the balance between a high enough level of challenge along with my skills in wordsmithing/storytelling to experience this amazingly satisfying sense of Flow.

Tori McCallister beat me to it with her post (http://goo.gl/S48KLn), but I’m ecstatic to be making these connections, and better understanding my emerging craft as a writer, regardless of whether I end up making money as a novelist or not. I’m an English teacher by trade and NaNoWrimo is helping me shore up theory and practice as a man of letters.

So, what do you think? Let me know in the comments.

My NaNoWriMo Workflow

As I was talking to a friend about her process for NaNoWriMo, I couldn’t help but ask what she was writing with. I realized my process was a bit whackjob after describing it to her, but there’s a rationale. Here’s my workflow for the contest, starting ENTIRELY in the browser, of which I’m fond of Chrome:

750Words.com:
I do my drafting here because I have a long-standing relationship with this phenomenal app and couldn’t even begin to do NaNoWriMo without its influence on my confrontation of the blank page. I love it that I have several hundred thousand words in there to prove its impact on me. I write my entry, then I quickly hit Command + A to select all, then copy…

Draft:
…and paste it here. There is something afoot here with this amazing word processor, and this is such a project for me to put it through its paces. I love the HEMINGWAY mode and the version control. We’ll see what happens as I put longer form content into this tool. I get my running word count total here, and

Notational Velocity / Simplenote:
…and paste it here too, on my Mac. I live in this app. I’m writing in it now. I wrote my ENTIRE thesis here first, let alone EVERY grad school paper before moving it into Google Docs or Pages for pagination and other formatting. Notational Velocity is an OS X client that syncs with a bunch of things. Me? Dropbox and Simplenote, the latter of which syncs elegantly to my iPhone and iPad.

Then, I head to NaNoWriMo.org and update my word count total. That’s it.

So, my burgeoning book is backed up to FIVE different places, FOUR of which are servers of other trusted companies, all in about 30 seconds after I finish my session. I get my credit for those sites that accumulate writing for me and I’m protected. in several ways. As a work matures, like I alluded to, it then gets moved to another app like GDocs, or Pages. Scrivener could be another tool I put in here at this point too, but the important thing for me I’ve discovered is to have a running word count and also to get rid of the skeuomorphism of the 8.5×11″ US Letter page. If I’m writing for a novel, this isn’t in any way helpful. But word count is incredibly motivating.

What’s your process for NaNoWriMo?

Ohio’s Transformation Into Texas

We teachers who espouse progress and continuous improvement of our craft really need to consider the source when reviewing the criticisms and allegations of Mark Smith. This Buckeye is the president of Ohio Christian University, and leaving me in disbelief that neither John Boehner nor John Kasich are no longer the most annoying, paranoid, simple-minded, illogical politicians in Ohio. However, I can imagine such ignorance from this small time college President Mark Smith, who THINKS he’s in the business of education shepherding his flock of 3,300 Christian students. How he ever ended up on the STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION is beyond me, and how being president of a myopic evangelical Christian university gives you merit to weigh in on K–12 education policy is further YET beyond me. And yet he does weigh in on The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the subsequent and controversial PARCC assessments built upon the CCSS.

Granted, Smith is citing the PARCC Assessments as the impetus for his comments, these tests stem directly from the Common Core State Standards which education professionals behaving like Luddites deride. I don’t disagree with the strain that the PARCC assessments may cause, but I take great issue with the claim that the CCSS isn’t high quality. For most states, it’s an even wash, and for many in the South, they’re a major improvement.

In a transient culture where there is a HIGH degree of probability that students may start school in one state and complete their K–12 education in another, isn’t it FAIR to those families that their transcripts are based upon SOME common understanding of the skills they should acquire, filtered anecdotally through an artful teacher that chooses the content and makes the skill acquisition process (we call that “learning”), something local and germane to the culture and readiness of a student through differentiation? Did I lose you there?

Here are some thoughts I have based upon this guy’s rational thinking:

• By his logic, the US Constitution shares the same risks as the Common Core State Standards for upholding a communist agenda.

• By his logic, our currency system which so fluidly works across state lines could be cited for promoting socialist ideas.

• Evidently McCarthyism is ALIVE and well in this country.

• I’ve been teaching the CCSS for over two years with growing appreciation for their structure in preparing students for what comes next by giving teachers guidance for curriculum design. And though I do not represent the company itself, I know that the LearnZillion Dream Team of 225 teachers who have worked doggedly on CCSS lesson planning would likewise agree.

So, Mr. Smith…have you READ the standards? Have you visited a classroom where Common Core aligned lessons are being taught by actual, highly-qualified teachers to actual students? I’d invite you to my classroom where I’d help you with the most relevant skill you are currently lacking…writing sound arguments. Let’s look to the first writing standard for 11–12 graders:

The President will be able to (PWBAT) write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

But let me further unpack that for you so you know what the lessons will entail: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11–12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11–12.1a Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11–12.1b Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11–12.1c Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11–12.1d Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11–12.1e Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

We’ll take it easy, make sure you have options for each mini-lesson that match your learning style, and if you need to change your stance because there is simply not enough supporting evidence, then hey. No problem, buddy.

The CCSS nor PARCC are NOT communistic, socialistic, or evil. If it hurts to implement them, then we’ll need to increase the state budget for aspirin. And that may not be a bad idea. Perhaps Texas will foot the bill.