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86 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Newly-Windexed Window into the Common Core, May 28, 2012
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This review is from: Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Paperback)
Already, before they've even been implemented, the words "common" and "core" have moved into our schools, unpacked their stuff, and begun to act in general like they own the joint. Where exactly did these standards come from and what do they mean to teachers, administrators, parents, and students?

Ask no more. PATHWAYS TO THE COMMON CORE is 197 pages of concise elucidation, making it one book you'd love to put into the hands of everyone associated with education. With its short introduction, the book claims we can bicker and carp about the new standards or we can look for the silver lining and make something of them -- something that can actually help our students. From there, Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman take us on a tour through the reading, writing, and speaking/listening and language standards, laying it on the line in simple terms: This is what they say, this is what they DON'T say, and this is what they mean for us if we're going to do the job right.

One interesting implication of the CCSS is how they bring us back to the heyday (30s and 40s) of the New Criticism, when text was king. Close analysis of text is back, meaning some common (and beloved) practices associated with reader response will be downgraded and outright eliminated. Included in this would be practices like connections to self and accessing students' background knowledge on a topic before starting a reading. The Common Core has little patience for such truck, instead asking students to read, retell key points in the text and, once understanding is established, move on to interpretation of key ideas and analysis of structure. Somewhat confusing still is the CCSS architects' suggested texts -- almost all classics -- which go against the authors' suggestion that children enjoy choice in reading selections -- almost all YA lit works. It appears the two can be done at the same time, but to my mind, using classics as the sole means of "increasingly complex text" might lead to additional hits for Spark Notes and sites of its ilk. More exciting is the CCSS's advocacy of contemporary journalism and feature writing, especially on topics of high interest to students. Some good writing is going on in contemporary journalism and nonfiction texts, and it is with open arms that we should be receiving these works into the classroom.

While the work of English teachers is daunting, it's nothing compared to the work of the content area teachers. In fact, this is the greatest danger lying ahead for the CCSS. It rightly promotes much more reading and writing and the in-house DOING of both. The trouble is, there aren't enough hours in the school day if it's to happen solely on the English teachers' watch. Instead the CCSS depend upon science, social studies, and even math teachers assuming some of the load by assigning much more informational and persuasive text as well performing more writing in their classes. Will these teachers take the task on, set aside process-writing time in their classrooms, and collect class sets of papers, thus walking a mile in the English teachers' shoes when they are already stretched to the max with their own curricula? The answer is in the question, I fear, unless there is a huge shift in educational thinking and the content area teachers take a serious look at how their teaching priorities must evolve.

Complete with examples of how the CCSS might be implemented and what it might look like in classrooms, PATHWAYS TO THE COMMON CORE is a bit of a no-brainer in the buy or don't buy department. If nothing else, administrators and curriculum leaders should read it, but it's really not going to have an impact unless teachers read it and buy in, too. Informational text itself, this book is clear, concise, and a wake-up call of sorts. If you thought you understood the CCSS because, well, they seem simple and straightforward enough, read this book and think again. I did, and I feel like my eyes are open for the first time, I have a much better picture, in other words, of what to do next as I move forward.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 10, 2012 7:39:41 PM PDT
BS Detector says:
"While the work of English teachers is daunting, it's nothing compared to the work of the content area teachers."

I don't want to pick a fight. That's a careless, unsubstantiated, and unsubstantiate-able statement. Let's try to all be on the same side.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 11, 2012 2:12:26 AM PDT
Ken C. says:
D.O. -- It's not meant to be any of those things. I'm only saying that the CCSS call for more reading and writing activities in the content areas than already exist. As content area teachers are already up to their ears with existing curricula, this means they will be forced to reconfigure, reconsider, and reframe their approaches, losing some breadth in the name of depth as they do. Not sure how that comes across as negative -- it's simply matter of fact. I empathize in a big way, and I AM on your side!

Posted on Dec 25, 2012 3:16:42 PM PST
As Iskim through this, I see it makes the assumption that fourth graders are reading five pages of fiction at day at home. Many teachers are in schools where 1t graders have literallly NEVER read a single page of fiction at home in their entire lives. Many teachers in urban areas where the wefare mentality dominates (I'm entitled, I don't have to work for it) have kids who NEVER read, never write and don't intend to. Illegals who flood these schools and know little English and/or have had little or no education in their home countres can't even read 4th grade level texts in high school. So, how does this work? Serious answers please.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2013 2:24:41 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 1, 2013 2:25:32 PM PST]
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Ken C.
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