Ed Week has an article titled A Happy Tale From a Common-Core Classroom by Lyn Caddaday here. She talks about how the common core has shown her how to greatly improve her classroom teaching of high school English. In my view, her report is undercut by the note at the bottom of the article stating that she works for publishers who are writing, and selling, Common Core curriculum.
I’m glad that Ms. Cannaday is having success in her classroom. Here’s my worry:
I taught high school English as well, for thirty-seven years. What I found—the elephant in the living room if you will--is that assigned reading like this drives out all other reading. In addition, few students (and I had many, many excellent students) do all of the assigned reading—or even most of it. They dip into it here and there, and listen to class discussions. They may even go on the Internet and read summaries. But the actual amount of reading they are doing is small.
I’m sure she can have interesting discussions with her students. I just don’t think a few essays and All Quiet will substantially improve her students’ reading skills—although selling the curriculum will surely improve the bottom line of her employers, Scholastic and Student Achievement Partners.
Professor Stephen Krashen, of UCLA, is adamant that the research shows that teaching skills is just testing skills; kids acquire skills through wide, avid reading. The kind of curriculum that Ms. Canndaday advocates does little to develop a love of reading in students. Actually, it will drive most students away from books.
The only way that students acquire sophisticated reading, and thinking, skills is by forming a habit and love of reading. That’s what schools should focus on. Interview the top SAT scorers. You’ll find they are all avid readers.