If you were unable to see the testimony from the Assembly Bill 303 hearing—the bill that would repeal Common Core in Nevada—you can access it here. A number of thoughtful and passionate stakeholders shared their opinion about the CCSS including parents, politicians, national consultants and educators. Although, any reader of this blog knows where I stand on the issue, I worry that opponents feel that their reservations are not being heard. Worse, I worry that opponents think practitioners are ignoring their concerns and have accepted CCSS without any due diligence. Consequently, for all readers, I thought it would be helpful to clarify three things.
One, our K-6 ELA curricular tools have been created and curated by teachers in Washoe. This is not political platitude but something we can specifically support with evidence. We encourage everyone to review what I am alluding to by visiting the site www.63000resources.com and Angela Orr, our K-12 Social Studies Program Coordinator, and Katie Andersen’s website www.projecttahoe.org. This is important because some argued that CCSS has meant marginalizing teacher professionalism in favor of implementing programs and buying new products. These websites demonstrate just the opposite. Teachers in Washoe have taken the lead on identifying resources, taking them through a Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle, and making recommendations based on what takes place in Washoe classrooms.
Second, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, an opponent of Common Core (her testimony begins at minute 36:00), appropriately shares her concern that because of CCSS, rich content knowledge will be marginalized from the K-6 ELA classroom. She argues that the CCSS are “content free” and contain no literary or historical knowledge that would contribute to a knowledge base. Listed, however, in the CCSS are these 57 words:
“By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas. Students can only gain this foundation when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades.”
Perhaps schools and districts outside of Washoe are missing the importance of this but our community is not; and I think Stotsky would be proud of what we’ve done. For example, Angela Orr has ensured that all teachers have access to We the People. Moreover, elementary school teachers are building out resources on topics for the primary grades including Colonial Towns, the Boston Tea Party, Early World Civilizations, Frontier Explores, Westward Expansion, Ancient Greek Civilization, Ancient Roman Civilization, the Civil War, Immigration, the Viking Age and the War of 1812.
Third, we are not unaware of the concerns raised by Common Core detractors. You can find evidence for this throughout our presentation materials in which we have read papers and watched video by CCSS opponents including Dr. Stotsky, Dr. Mark Bauerlein, the Pioneer Institute, and Neal McCluskey. They have been helpful in making sure we are asking the right questions and ensuring that we work through the consequences of the instructional decisions we make for our students. Dr. Stotsky has been an especially important voice because of all the guidance she has made available on text complexity and reading motivation.
I realize this post will not change opinions but I am hopeful that a bit more context for the work we have done in Washoe will help supporters of AB303 understand that some of their reservations are being addressed.