I Choose Book Floods over Common Core
In response to common core I shall continue to provide what students need- access to (and time to) read books of their choosing. Last year former IRA president and leading reading researcher Dick Allington reminded us that in a 90 minute block, students should be engaged in self-selected reading no less than 60 minutes. I am amazed that students living in book poverty are forced to continue in book poverty in schools. Federal, state, and local nabobs are all responsible for promoting the killing of reading with packaged programs- including online programs. Students need a lot of books that they can relate to and enjoy. I could care less about test scores. I want to enable students to grow into book loving citizens. My students have some of the best results in the state. When asked what program I use I simply hold up a YA novel that costs me about $10. But the students become lifelong readers. That is what matters.
Oddly, common core goes against what scores of reading research tells us about struggling readers. If we got kids reading a lot- from first grade on – there would be little need for remediation in later years. The moment we connect students with the power of self-selected reading we begin to rehabilitate them from years of skill-drill-kill malpractice.
Younger students are often bored to tears with intensive phonics and worksheets when they could be learning the same thing from “Big Books” and books of their choice. Rhyme, Rhythm, and Repetition are the three R’s that younger students need – (Dan, Dan the flying man). And you wonder why kids are growing up with a disdain for reading? Mind you- the higher level students who have been avid readers for years- do fine on tests and are often exempt from this test prep madness. When are we going to bring these students (who grow up in book poverty) into the community of readers?
A recent common core presentation by the Florida Department of “Education” incorrectly stated that “Mature language skills needed for success in school and life can only be gained by working with demanding materials.” This, of course, is totally wrong and anti-evidence. I hardly think that one is doomed in life if they cannot answer manufactured questions about “Antigone” or a piece of dense non-fiction. Success in school and life is not based on common core tests or the SAT. How did we let those with no life commitment to students fool us into a common core coma?
Of course there is no need for common core at all. The myth of broken schools is being pushed by politicians and ersatz educators like Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, Jeb Bush, and Arne Duncan. What is worse is that groups like AFT, NCTE, NEA, and even the IRA are feeding the common core crocodile – hoping to be eaten last. As our non-poverty students and low poverty public schools score at the top of international tests- the Jeb Bush test cult tells us we are failing. These same individuals dither while US child poverty is hovering near 25%.
The “achievement gap” begins long before students ever enter a school building. Growing up in book poverty and or actual poverty takes its toll. Schools and teachers have become scapegoats for the ills of society. The response to all of this is- more testing! The immoral RTTT program has cascaded into diverting billions more to the educational testing complex. This is a social crime of mass proportions. So my answer to common core is a polite “NO.”
PS: You have the audacity to try and stop teachers when they introduce students to the joy of reading after they spent 7-10 years stuck behind a computer and doing mind-numbing worksheets?