Opinion
Standards Opinion

Follow-Up: How Common Core Is Like a New Set of Cookware

By Lauren Hill — March 20, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Lauren Hill

The old story goes like this: A daughter is watching her mother make brisket. She watches her mother cut off the end, and then asks her why she does this. The mother explains that she watched her mother do it. So, they call up Grandma and ask the same question, receiving the same answer. Luckily, Great Grandmother is still alive, so they call her. “Why do you cut off the end of the brisket?” they ask.

“Well, without cutting off the end, it would not fit into my pan.”

How much of what we do everyday is done to “make it fit into the pan”? The seven-period day? Departmentalized instruction? Grades? Grade levels? With fresh eyes, maybe we can discover a radical newness in our everyday work. The Common Core emphasizes critical thinking and depth. Shouldn’t that inspire us to reimagine our practice?

We can start by reevaluating our texts. The common standards emphasize informational reading and writing (almost 60 percent of the ELA standards). This gives us the opportunity to study the world: everything from the Declaration of Independence to the local newspaper; from “A Modest Proposal” to reality TV and the blogosphere. We need to help students become critical readers and writers of the texts they already value as well as what we wish them to appreciate.

The appendix to the common standards recommends extraordinarily high text complexity. I have taught The Scarlet Letter to juniors, yet it is a suggested exemplar for freshmen.

But here’s the thing. Not every student needs to read every word of every work. We can pull essential excerpts and examine them in small chunks—words, phrases, sentences—asking students to wrestle meaning from the text. Teaching complete works is important; that’s how students can see authors build characters or arguments over time. But we can mix whole-work studies with an examination of shorter works or excerpts along with students’ main mode of discourse, non-print media.

Maybe you think these methods absurd—and that’s OK. The Common Core standards do not dictate how we should teach the skills they delineate. Teachers, if trusted by administrators, remain the final arbiter between students and the standards.

Imagine a school where every student works on real projects that fulfill a vital need. Imagine a school where the curriculum flows as it does in our adult lives, in and out like a creek, as necessitated by obstacles or dictated by our curiosity.

We must respect our craft and ourselves and not settle for less than what we can imagine. We cannot continue to cut off possibilities just to make learning fit into an antiquated pan.

Lauren Hill teaches AP Language and Composition and 9th grade English at Western Hills High School in Frankfort, Ky. A National Board-certified teacher, Lauren works with the Implementing Common Core Standards team at the Center for Teaching Quality.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Standards Opinion How the Failure of the Common Core Looked From the Ground
Steve Peha shares insights from his on-site professional-development work about why the common core failed, in a guest letter to Rick Hess.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards Opinion Common Core Is a Meal Kit, Not a Nothingburger
Caroline Damon argues Rick Hess and Tom Loveless sold the common core short, claiming the issue was a matter of high-quality implementation.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards How New Common Core Research Connects to Biden's Plans for Children and Families
A study of national test scores indicate the early phase of the Common Core State Standards did not help disadvantaged students.
5 min read
results 925693186 02
iStock/Getty
Standards Opinion After All That Commotion, Was the Common Core a Big Nothingburger?
The Common Core State Standards may not have had an impact on student outcomes, but they did make school improvement tougher and more ideological.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty