The Common Core State Standards released today represents a ”not-to-be-missed opportunity for the nation to begin catching up in verbal achievement,” says E.D. Hirsch, Jr. The Core Knowledge Foundation issued a statement in support of the initiative in which Hirsch describes the English Language Arts standards as “a significant improvement over the earlier drafts.”
“Especially welcome is the drafters’ insistence that the language arts standards must be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum and their recognition that verbal achievement–including reading comprehension–is based on general knowledge. By emphasizing the critical fact that language mastery also requires knowledge of history, art, music, and science, and moreover that these subjects should be included in the class time devoted to literacy, these standards go beyond the narrow literary emphasis of even the best of the existing state standards.”
The big win for those who advocate for a coherent, specific core curriculum is the Standards’ call for elementary reading instruction to be “fully integrative, including a rich blend of stories, drama, and poetry as well as informational texts from a range of content areas.” The call for schools to teach a coherent curriculum (not just nonfiction for the sake of nonfiction) that builds knowledge across grades is a validation of the Core Knowledge approach to literacy, notes Foundation President Linda Bevilacqua.
“While various reading approaches include nonfiction, and textbook publishers are paying greater attention to reading in the content areas, they have typically failed to grasp the importance of developing a cumulative and coherent approach to building knowledge within grades and across grade levels. States and textbook publishers who wish to be standards-ready will now need to understand that randomly selecting and inserting individual nonfiction titles into their English Language Arts programs is not sufficient.
“This random approach to content in language arts fails to recognize how domain knowledge builds within and across grade levels. It’s a missed opportunity and a waste of precious instructional time,” she said. Hirsch is also quoted in support of the standards in this morning’s Washington Post. Elsewhere Edweek’s Catherine Gewertz posts a comprehensive look at the reactions to the standards, both good and bad.