Any standard, Common Core or not, should be clear, measurable, and reasonable.
Here’s what I think about the Common Core writing standards for K-2. I’m going to use some examples from kindergarten.
The writing standards can be found in Writing as well as under Language.
Here’s a clear, measurable, reasonable kindergarten Writing Standard:
ELA Literacy W.K.1 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is…).
The Writing section (dealing with content) is generally good.
Some of the standards in the Language area are also clear and useful, for example:
ELA Literacy L.K.1.A Print many upper- and lowercase letters.
The place where standards become unclear is in the area of grammar, where the standards are for “writing or speaking”. (My italics)
ELA Literacy L.K.1.B Use frequently occurring nouns and verbs.
What are the frequently occurring nouns and verbs? How do I measure whether students are using them?
I have not found a single source that suggests how to measure this. Here are a few interpretations of how to teach to this standard.
State of New Jersey teacher’s guide for kindergarten: Teachers should “repeat back and elaborate on commonly used nouns and verbs in conversations with children.” (Isn’t the goal for them to be using simple nouns and verbs? What is the point of elaborating?)
McGraw- Hill Wonders Curriculum: Teaches the definitions of “noun” and “verb” in kindergarten and uses noun and verb word cards with simple words in 45 minutes of grammar lessons each week. (Does this standard say kindergarteners need to know the definitions? And do most kids need to learn the words “house” and “girl”?)
Heinneman’s Pathway to the Common Core: “The study of language should be woven into students’ authentic work.” (What does this look like for children who are low in language and don’t have much to put into their work?)
Common Core Handbook: “Expose students daily to an array of texts in which language is used clearly and correctly.” (Do we expose children to any other kinds of texts?)
When a standard is so vague, and interpreted so differently, can it really be called common anymore? If it can’t be measured, is it really a standard?
When writing and speaking are linked together in one standard it creates a false sense that every child needs to learn how to speak basic English in school as well as learn to write. Yes, language acquisition is important and can be done in fantastic ways, such as project GLAD (http://projectgladstudy.educationnorthwest.org/what-is-glad), but let’s not pretend we classroom teachers can measure each child’s speaking.
(http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/L/1/) Here’s the link if you want to check out the grammar standards for yourself and see what makes sense to try and measure.
Proper speech will be reflected in writing, so writing standards are really all we need. Sometime I will write my own version of the grammar standards.
Not today, though. There’s way too much to do before I meet my 25 new second graders!
Thanks for reading!