NEW STUDY SUGGESTS REMEDIES FOR COMMON CORE’S LITERATURE DEFICIT
Failure to act could widen poverty-based achievement gap, harm college readiness
BOSTON, MA – State and local education policy makers in the 46 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards should emphasize the literary-historical content that already exists in the standards and add an additional literature-based standard to address Common Core’s lack of literary content, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.
How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk was written by Emory University English Professor Mark Bauerlein and University of Arkansas Professor Sandra Stotsky, a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“We could find no research to support the assertion that substituting informational texts for literature will improve students’ college readiness,” said Professor Bauerlein. “In fact, experience suggests that exactly the opposite is likely to happen.”
In 2009, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsored the Common Core State Standards Initiative and, with encouragement from the United States Department of Education (USED) and support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop common mathematics and English language arts standards that states could voluntarily adopt.
The vast majority of states, including Massachusetts, adopted Common Core after USED included adoption of the standards among the criteria for states vying to win federal “Race to the Top” education grant funding. The Bay State was subsequently awarded a $250 million grant.
“Massachusetts is testament to the value of literature,” said Professor Stotsky. “Its literature-rich standards include a recommended list of classic authors broken down by the educational level for which they’re most appropriate. As a result, the commonwealth’s students have consistently scored at the top on national reading tests and college readiness measures for nearly a decade.”
Common Core reduces the amount of literature students will study by more than half compared to the former Massachusetts standards. The literary content is being replaced by non-fiction reading material.
Among the items missing from Common Core are a list of recommended authors and titles, British literature apart from Shakespeare, and any study of the history of the English language.
State policy makers can either attempt to remedy the literature deficit by using the 15 percent leeway granted through Race to the Top to customize the national standards to meet local needs or they can withdraw from Common Core.
The authors fear that absent intervention, the very problems Common Core was designed to remedy will worsen. High-achieving students in academically oriented private and suburban schools will continue to get the rich literary-historical content that promotes critical and analytical thinking, while others will get little more than watered-down training in reading comprehension.
The paper will be released at an event entitled “Why Huck Finn Matters: Classic Literature in Schooling,” at which the authors will be panelists. The forum will also feature addresses from two experts on Mark Twain: Harvard School of Education Professor Jocelyn Chadwick and Twain biographer Ron Powers. It will take place on Wednesday, September 19th at 8:00 am at the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston.
In 2009 and 2010, Pioneer Institute analyzed the quality of the Common Core. Starting mid-2010, the Institute has led the campaign to oppose adoption of the Common Core national education standards, publishing a series of reports on their legality, cost, and further work on their mediocre academic quality.
Pioneer, along with the American Principles Project, and the Pacific Research Institute of California, commissioned a cost estimate of nearly $16 billion to implement Common Core, outlined in this report, National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards.
Along with the Federalist Society, the American Principles Project, and the Pacific Research Institute, Pioneer released a research paper, The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers, co-authored by former United
States Department of Education counsels general counsel, Robert S. Eitel and Kent D. Talbert, questioning the legality of the use of the Race to the Top Fund, the Race to the Top Assessment Program, and the NCLB conditional waiver program to push states to adopt the Common Core. Their study cited three federal laws barring federal departments or agencies from directing, supervising or controlling K-12 curricula and instruction.
In 2010, Pioneer published comparisons of the federal and state education standards documents, concluding that the federal version contains weaker content in both ELA and math. These reports were authored by curriculum experts R. James Milgram, emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford University, Dr. Stotsky, and Ze’ev Wurman, a Silicon Valley executive who helped develop California’s education standards and assessments. Recent reports include:
Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade: Why Massachusetts and California Must Retain Control Over Their Academic Destinies, The Emperor’s New Clothes: National Assessments Based on Weak College and Career Readiness Standards, Fair to Middling: A National Standards Progress Report, and Why Race to the Middle: First-Class State Standards Are Better than Third Class National Standards.
Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, datadriven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.