Archive for the ‘informational text’ Tag

How to Turn Great Literature into Informational Text   2 comments

Sharing Diane Ravitch’s:  How to Turn Great Literature into Informational Text.  Funny, yet useful!

 

 

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THE STORY KILLERS by Dr. Terrence Moore – Book Review   7 comments

storykillers book

Michelle Malkin has called The Storykillers  “a stopcommoncore must-read.”

It is a must-read.  It’s interesting and important.  It’s packed full of understanding about the Common Core English standards, which are ruining the love of learning as they distort what it means to be educated.

The book pits logic and common sense against the theories, deceptions and absurdities of the Common Core.  It cuts through the Common Core’s wordiness and plainly states this truth:  that Common Core is stunting and killing both the classic literature stories themselves and The Great American Story of liberty and self-government, stories that our children and our country cannot do without.

In  The Story Killers: a Common Sense Case Against Common Core, Dr. Terrence Moore tells us that the restoration of legitimate, time-tested classic literature —the best that has been thought and said and done and discovered“– can solve  America’s educational decline.  The faulty theories of Common Core can not.

If you don’t read book, please remember Dr. Moore’s most important point:  We Must Fight For Our Stories— which Common Core is stealing

The great stories are not disposable!  Who persuaded us that they were?  Losing them means losing, piece by piece, what it means –or meant– to be us.  No amount of supposed career prep info-texts can pretend to make up for that.

Good readers, regardless of what they did after they grew up, developed the love of reading/learning by reading stories.  Young and old need stories to process life.  Great learners fall in love with learning not because of manuals, articles, and  informational texts but because of fascinating stories.  Classic works of literature are being neglected, shortened, misinterpreted and replaced, under Common Core.  And THE Great American Story– the story of freedom —  is being undermined along with the other classics that Common Core neglects.  The book explains exactly how this is happening, using the standards themselves as its centerpiece.

We must fight for our stories.

applebook - Copy

Dr. Moore’s book asks questions like this one:  Why does the new Common Core edition of the  American literature textbook, The American Experience, by Pearson/Prentice Hall 2012, contain sections on government forms,  and an EPA report?  Is this the new and “more rigorous” literature that will prepare our children for college?  Or is it an attempt to “keep the nation’s children from reading stories, particularly traditional stories that run counter to the political ideology” of the authors of  Common Core?

Dr. Moore points out that a widespread, fraudulent adoption of Common Core brought us the fraudulent reading (and math) theories upon which Common Core Standards rest. Common Core was never pilot tested as it should have been, before virtually the whole country adopted it.

You know how long it takes for a new drug to get on the market before it receives approval from the FDA,” he writes,  “Yet here is the educational medicine, so to speak, that all the nation’s children will be taking every day, seven hours a day– and no clinical trials have been done.”

Dr. Moore points out, too, that “most of the money that funded the original writing of the standards came from the deep pockets of Bill Gates. Perhaps related to this fact, the Common Core will have students working far more with computers… the people behind the Common Core also have a hand in running the tests and stand to gain financially…. the other people who stand to make out like bandits are the textbook publishers. If that’s not enough to get one wondering, it turns out that the actual writing of the standards was done in complete secrecy.

(Shocking! Terrible! And true.  Yet how many people know these facts in the face of so many ceaseless Common Core marketing lies being put out by the likes of Exxon, Harvard, Jeb Bush, the National Governors’ Association and even the National PTA, all of whom were paid by Bill Gates to say what they say about Common Core.  Don’t listen to them!  They are financially bound to say what they say.  Listen to people like Dr. Moore, who do not accept money from the Gates club.)

In his book, Dr. Moore talks a lot about what is NOT in the English standards as well as what’s there.

The traditional aims of education– to pursue truth, to find true happiness, to be good, to love the beautiful, to know the great stories of our American tradition– are not the designs of Common Core, he says.  The Common Core is a program that kills stories in order to direct people to “be preoccupied with only  the functional aspects of human existence and to have almost no interest in the higher aims of life.”

plato

Dr. Moore reminds us that controlling stories (or the lack of stories) is the same thing as controlling people:   “Plato pointed out in his Republic a book never read in today’s high schools, nor usually even in college– whoever writes the stories shapesor controls– the minds of the people in any given regime.”

The book’s title describes the killing of two important types of stories:

The great stories are, first, the works of literature that have long been considered great by any standard of literary judgment and, second, what we might call the Great American Story of people longing to be free and happy under their own self-government. The Common Core will kill these stories by a deadly combination of neglect, amputation, misinterpretation…”

Then,

On the ruins of the old canon of literary and historical classics will be erected a new canon of post-modern literature and progressive political doctrine. Simultaneous to this change, fewer and fewer works of literature will be read on the whole. Great literature will be replaced with ‘information’ masquerading as essential ‘workforce training’.”

Moore explains that the proponents of Common Core hold up “the illusion of reform” while continuing to “gut the school curriculum” and to remove its humanity.  He points to page five of the introduction to the Common Core where  this chart appears for English readings:

Grade Literary Information
4 50% 50%
8 45% 55%
12 30% 70%

So our little children under Common Core aligned school books won’t get more than 50% of their reading from stories.  And our high school seniors won’t get more than 30% of their reading from stories.  The bulky 70% of what they read must be informational text:  not poetry, not plays, not novels, not the books that move our souls.  In English class.

Thus literature is on the wane in public schools,” Dr. Moore writes, and traditional literature classes are being eroded, despite the fact that the Common Core proponents aim to deceive us and make the “public believe that they are requiring more rigor in reading.”

Dr. Moore calls us to fight for our children’s access to the great stories.

There has never been a great people without great stories. And the great stories of great peoples often dwell on the subject of greatness. They dwell on the subject of plain goodness as well: the goodness that is to be found in love, marriage, duty, the creation of noble and beautiful things. It is patently obvious that they authors of the Common Core are uncomfortable with these great stories of the great and the good.  They are plainly uncomfortable with great literature. And they are even more uncomfortable with what might be called the Great American Story.”

Read much of what the so-called education reformers are speaking about lately, and you’ll see it:  they call for sameness, common-ness, for the forced redistribution of teachers and funds, and above all, for equality of results.  Not greatness.  Not the ability for a single student or school to soar above the rest.  No exceptionalism allowed.  (Anyone ever read Harrison Bergeron?)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Obama advisor Linda Darling-Hammond, the testing companies, the Common Core copyright holding groups– the reformers seem to avoid the concepts of goodness and greatness in favor of a twisted version of “social justice” equality, which is, frankly, theft, along with being as foolish as the reasoning behind the society of Harrison Bergeron, which is in no way truly fair, or truly helpful.

“…They fully expect us to shrug with thoughtless indifference.  Do not be fooled.  The fate of our stories is the fate of the nation,” writes Dr. Moore.

book and kite

Dr. Moore does the unthinkable:  he subjects the Common Core Standards to actual critical thinking (which they claim to promote).

Since everyone loves the expression ‘critical thinking’ these days, let us subject these standards to a little critical thinking.

He questions the  Common Core Initiative’s obsession with technology and testing.

bored by screen

Computers are a lot more like televisions than anyone is willing to admit… it is true that art teachers can now much more easily show their classes great paintings and sculptures by using the internet.  It is likewise true that history teachers can employ actual speeches of Churchill or Reagan using videos found on the web. Ninety percent of the time, though, that is not how the computer is being used… The arch-testers of the Common Core champion the use of the technological elixir that cures all illnesses and heals all wounds without even pausing to warn us of the potential side effects… we are not invited to consider how much technology is compromising the old literacy. Least of all are we supposed to realize that the remedy for our growing twenty-first-century illiteracy is traditional, nineteenth-century education.”

He asks us to re-examine the assumption that because technology has changed so much, schooling should also change so much.  “Does schooling belong in that class of things that does not get ‘updated’ every week…  human institutions and relations for which we must be initiated into certain permanent ways of thinking, lest we be cast adrift on a sea of moral, cultural, and political uncertainty?”

He points out that education should not be confused with job training and that “going to college” is not the same thing as gaining knowledge; and that the authors of Common Core are “lumping college readiness and career readiness together” without stopping to explain what either means nor how either will be affected by the lumping.

He points out that while the standards claim to wield the power to prepare children for “the twenty-first-century global economy,” that claim is based on nothing.  It’s just a claim.  And we have had economies to worry about since the beginning of time, none of which would have succeeded by taking away stories and classics, the very core that made people in the not too distant past far more literate than we are today.

He opposes this “pedestrian preoccupation with what will happen when children turn nineteen” because it “undermines the powers of imagination and of observation,” powers which are too important to ignore.  Think about it:  imagination makes children read and helps them to love books.  No little child is motivated to read because he/she is concerned about college and career, years from now.  The child reads because the story is interesting.  Period.

Dr. Moore also points out that the history of successful literacy shows a very different path from the one Common Core is leading America to follow.

Historically, what created the highest literacy rates?  Dr. Moore points out that it was high church attendance, combined with emphasis on the Bible, and schooling with an emphasis on traditional learning!  (And the Bible is composed mostly of stories and lyrical language, not of “rigorous informational texts.”)

Dr. Moore points out that Colonial Massachusetts and 18th-century Scotland had nearly universal literacy.  Newspapers in the 18th century were written at a far higher level than the journalism of today (which is written at the sixth-grade level.)

Yet the authors of Common Core insist that students should read far more recently written, informational texts, such as newspaper articles… Ergo, the literacy for the twenty-first-century global economy will be built upon the cracking foundation of our present semi-literacy. Was there not once a famous story-teller who said something about not building a house upon sand?”

He asks us to remember that the careful reading of stories enables us to “learn about good taste and manners. We learn all the the individual virtues and vices… human emotions… Through this vicarious activity, we are compelled to examine ourselves and thereby attain what used to be called self-government… What is a better study of ambition leading to ruin than Macbeth?  Wat is a better study of indecision and imprudence than Hamlet? What is a better example of adolescent love and passion in their raw state than Romeo and Juliet?  What is a better model of command than Henry V?… We hang onto these stories… that teach us who we are and who we ought to be. The study of human character through great literature, then, teaches us how to live.”

In the book’s last chapter, Moore explains that what is permanently valuable to students does not change very much.  He writes that a genuine common core would have included a group of magnificent books that each truly educated person would have read, at the very least.  Under THE Common Core, however, mostly informational, unproven texts and text excerpts are listed –and there is no set core of classic books.  He writes,  “Had the Common Core English Standards held up just a few great books, college professors could finally know what their incoming students had actually read.  Heck, even advertisers and comedians could know what jokes they could tell about literary characters”  Moore says that “the Holy Grail of school reform” is the set of “great books of our tradition.”

He recommends that students would read –PRIOR to high school–  titles such as The Tempest, Animal Farm, A Christmas Carol, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Then Dr. Moore lists a classical high school curriculum (which he says has been working in the schools in which he has helped to implement it):

Homer’s Iliad  (The whole thing, not a drive-by excerpt); the WHOLE of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Hamlet and Macbeth; the WHOLE U.S. Constitution; Le Morte D’Arthur, Pride and Prejudice, Plutarch’s Lives; Moby Dick; Huckleberry Finn, 1984; A Tale of Two Cities; Crime and Punishment; The Scarlet Letter, The Mayflower Compact; Uncle Tom’s Cabin The Prince; Confessions of Augustine; poetry by Frost, Longfellow, Dickinson, Poe, Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare; biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, speeches by Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan; and so on and so on.

Despite everything that is being taken away from the American English curriculum because of Common Core, despite the damage that is being done to children’s love of learning by removing the thing that makes people love to read and become great readers– stories– despite all else he exposes about the Common Core, Dr. Moore’s bottom line remains this one:

Anyone who thinks I have travelled too far afield or have jumped to conclusions about the true aims of the Common Core should read one further phrase found on the opening page of the English standards.  That phrase is more alarming and more revelaing than all the jargon about a new literacy and college and career readiness. ‘The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.’ …The authors of the Core are  forecasting that their program will change over the next ten, twenty, forty years… but the same people will be in charge. What will be the new and better evidence that emerges?  Who will get to decide what constitutes better evidence? Who will do the revising?”

I have only scratched the surface of this important book here.  I hope you will buy copies for your friends, your school board, your legislator, your governor, and especially for your favorite English teacher.  This book is a powerful tool in the fight to  reclaim legitimate K-12 and college education in this country.

Link to book:   The Story Killers: a Common Sense Case Against Common Core

Video: Dr. Terrence Moore Testifies Against Common Core Readings and the Lack of Local Control   8 comments

Dr. Terrence Moore, professor of history at Hillsdale College, testified last month to the Indiana legislature. This is the video of his short, (ten minute) excellent testimony.

He describes in detail what Common Core robs from students, as it cuts classic literature and dramatically cuts the heart away from readings including the U.S. Constitution and Tom Sawyer. He describes the truncation that will happen to classic works of literature in favor of informational texts in new Common Core aligned ELA anthologies. He describes how Common Core robs charter schools of parental control with the piercing question, “Are you Common Core compliant?” He also describes how Common Core testing makes teachers and charters servile to the Common Core.

He also says:

The thing that bothers me more than anything else is found on page number one of the introduction. That says that Common Core is a living work. That means that the thing that you vote on today could be something different tomorrow, and five years from now it is completely unrecognizable.”

That’s the real issue. Whether politicians, teachers or school board members like it today is actually, totally irrelevant. Don’t ask them if they like Common Core; ask them if they know that it can change at any time, but they don’t get a vote or a voice in what happens to it. Ever.

Thank you, Dr. Moore.

TribTalk: Is Classical Literature Diminished by Common Core, or Not?   14 comments

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56311293-78/standards-core-common-utah.html.csp

I watched this video, where the Salt Lake Tribune reporter asked Utah School Board Chair Debra Roberts whether Common Core took away classic literature –see minute 15:40.

Roberts laughed, said that she was an English major and would never support standards that were not strongly supportive of classic literature—  and then, without answering, took the conversation in the direction of how important informational texts are.

The fact is, informational texts used to be taught where they OUGHT to be taught– in science classes, history classes, and other classes.  But they are being force fed in all English classes now.

Certainly, some classic literature is still permitted in Utah schools under Common Core.  But it has been dramatically reduced, especially at the high school level.  Roberts would not admit this. WHY?

Debra Roberts’ signature (together with our former governor’s signature) put Utah’s former educational liberty under the thumb of the Common Core agenda.  She’s been on the Common Core adoption team longer than our current governor.  She cannot be ignorant of the truth.

She knows that Common Core emphasizes informational text and takes away classic literature.  She knows that in elementary school, students may read 50% classic stories and 50% informational text; and she knows that the percentage of informational text MUST increase while the percentage of classic literature must decrease, so that when a student is a high school senior, he/she must have 70% of his/her English class reading be informational, while 30% max may be classic literature.

She and others on the state school board continue to call those of us who call for the whole truth, “misinformed” and “erroneous.”

I requested an explanation of what exactly seemed “erroneous,” in the school board’s view, in the GOP resolution that Utah’s State Delegates voted to support last week.

I have not heard back from them.

I have also requested face to face meetings with board members and have been denied a meeting.   Here I am, a credentialed Utah teacher, denied a meeting to discuss my concerns about Utah’s new Core Curriculum.  Does that seem good?

I am willing to be proven wrong.   One person could be wrong.

But I don’t think it’s fair to call all 6,000 petition signers at Utahns Against Common Core, plus the 1500— 2,000 state delegates who voted against common core at the resolution vote,  plus the entire Republican National Committee, plus Sutherland Institute, Heritage Institute, Pioneer Institute, Cato Institute, Senator Mike Lee, Jason Chaffetz, and Rob Bishop, all “misinformed.”  –Especially not in the same week that the chair of the board misinforms reporters about Common Core.

Cherie Zaslawsky: Brave New Schools   5 comments

Brave New Schools

Guest post by California English teacher Cherie Zaslawsky

The much touted Common Core Standards (CCS) Initiative that is being pushed as a silver bullet to improve our schools is not simply the latest fad in education: CCS is actually an unprecedented program that would radically alter our entire K-12 educational system, affecting content (i.e. curriculum), delivery (largely via computer), testing (also via computer), teacher evaluations (connected to test scores), as well as creating an intrusive database of sensitive information from student “assessments.” This program, for all the protestations to the contrary, represents the nationalization of education in America, extinguishing any semblance of local control. Furthermore, it was essentially developed at the behest of billionaire Bill Gates, who also funded it to the tune of some $150 million, and who clearly thinks he knows what’s best for everybody else’s children. (His own are safely ensconced in private schools).

California adopted the Common Core Standards (CCS) Initiative on August 2, 2010, only two months after the standards were released. Nor has this multi-billion dollar program ever been piloted anywhere! It’s a nationwide experiment—with our children as the subjects.  Nor was CCS ever internationally benchmarked. In California, as in most states, there was no time to devote to studying the intricacies of the program, vetting it, or introducing it to the public. Instead, Race to the Top money was dangled in front of state legislatures, and 45 states sprang for it, but 16 of these states at last count are already seeking to withdraw from the program.

Parents need to understand the implications of the Common Core Standards. These standards, which amount to a national curriculum via bundled tests, texts and teacher evaluations, would severely degrade our local schools. How? By lowering the standards of high-performing schools to make them “equal” with low-performing schools, in a misguided attempt to reach what its proponents call “equity” or “fairness” by mandating the lowest common denominator for all schools. True, this would close the muchballyhooed “achievement gap”—but only by dumbing down the education of the best and brightest to better match that of the unmotivated and/or less academically gifted.

The idea that all students should perform identically sounds eerily like something out of  Mao’s China. What happened to our relishing of individual talents and uniqueness? Would we lower the standards for the best athletes to put them on a par with mediocre athletes to close the “performance gap” in, say, high school football?

How do a few of the experts view this program? Dr. James Milgrim of Stanford University, the only mathematician on the Common Core validation team, refused to sign off on the math standards because he discovered that by the end of 8th grade, CCS will leave our students two years behind in math compared to those in high-performing countries. And according to Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the respected expert who developed the Massachusetts standards, widely regarded as the best in the nation, “Common Core’s ‘college readiness’ standards for ELA are chiefly empty skill sets and cannot lead to even a meaningful high school diploma. Only a literature-rich curriculum can. College readiness has always depended on the complexity of the literary texts teachers teach and a coherent literature curriculum.”

As English teacher Christel Swasey notes:  “We become compassionate humans by receiving and passing on classic stories. Souls are enlarged by exposure to the characters, the imagery, the rich vocabulary, the poetic language and the endless forms of the battle between good and evil, that live in classic literature.”  Instead, students will swim in the murky waters of relativism where all things are equal and no moral compass exists. We should not be surprised if they are also encouraged to view history along the lines of multiculturalism, “social equity,” and the Communitarian glorification of the collectivist “global village.”

Consider how drastically literature is being marginalized (30%) in favor of “informational” texts (70%) in the 12th  grade, with a maximum of only 50% literature ever, throughout middle and high school English classes. The switch to a steady diet of “informational” texts virtually ensures that students won’t be learning to think critically or to write probing, analytical essays, let alone to develop the love of reading and appreciation for the literary masterpieces of Western culture. Put in practical terms, it means that instead of reading Hamlet, Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice, your child will be reading computer manuals and tracts on “climate change,” “environmental justice,” and the virtues of recycling.

And the price of mediocrity? In California, implementation cost is estimated at $2.1 billion, with $1.4 billion as upfront costs—mainly for computers (every child needs one—along with special apps—could that be one reason Bill Gates poured a cool $150 million into this program? Perhaps giving new meaning to the word “philanthropist”…) along with training teachers to navigate the complicated new programs. Even though it’s been proven—as if we needed proof—that children learn better from real live teachers than from staring at LCD screens.

In addition, tests and “assessments” will be taken on computers—resulting in the harvesting of personal data that amounts to a dossier on every child, including choice tidbits about Mommy and Daddy.  And what is to stop the powers-that-be from using these assessments and test results to “re-educate” “politically incorrect” students who show too much independence?

Clearly Common Core is a disaster in the making.  So what can we do? The simplest solution is to insist that our school boards turn down the carrot of federal funding and reject Common Core in order to preserve the integrity of our local schools through local control and to continue to allow our teachers to use their creativity in the classroom. The price of compliance with Common Core, however tempting monetarily speaking, is just too high— the mortgaging of our children’s future.

——-

Thanks to Cherie Zaslawsky for permission to publish her essay here.

Orem, Utah – Video Presentation about Common Core by Three Moms   8 comments

Common Core presentation- this week in Orem, Utah.

Dr. Stotsky Sets the Record Straight on English Language Arts 70/30% @ USOE   9 comments

Is it logical to say that writing and literature will be effectively taught by all subject teachers?  All teachers do not have adequate training in grammatical, literary and editing background teach writing and literature.  But our Utah State Office is claiming that this will be the case.  A letter, seen below, from Tiffany Hall of the Utah State Office of Education, will serve as evidence.
The USOE is telling legislators and parents that nothing is really being taken away by Common Core, but informational text is being added to English literature in all classes and across all subjects:
The study of literature is not limited or reduced by the Standards,” writes Tiffany Hall of USOE, “Rather, we are looking at a more comprehensive view of literacy that includes a focus on reading information text in all content areas—and not just reading, but reading and writing with purpose and understanding in every subject area.” 
Does that make sense?  Can you imagine P.E. teachers, math teachers, and woodworking teachers effectively sharing the burden of teaching reading and writing skills, including literature and informational texts?  This is how we cut down on remedial college work?
Please.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K4URgulWhk
Before I post the USOE’s letter, here are two messages from Dr. Stotsky– a video, (above) and an explanation (below) from an email I received this week dealing with the misleading statements being put out by the Utah State Office of Education.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, as you recall, served on the official Common Core Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the validity of the standards because they were so academically weak.

———- Forwarded message ———-

From: Sandra Stotsky

Christel,
This needs to be explained over and over again.  The reading standards for ELA are divided into 10 informational standards and 9 literature standards.  That division goes from K to 12.   It affects high school English as well as middle school English.
It means that over 50% of the reading instruction must be devoted to informational reading and less than 50% to poetry, drama, and fiction.   The 30/70 division is from NAEP and is for the selection of reading passages on NAEP reading assessments.  It is specifically NOT for the English curriculum.
   
Just because David Coleman thinks that the NAEP chart is for the English curriculum doesn’t mean that it is.   He does want informational reading in other subjects.  But he refuses to clarify his stupid misunderstanding of the NAEP percentages.  He doesn’t know how to read tables and charts.
If Tiffany really thinks the 30/70 split means what she thinks it does, ask her how the English teacher can take care of 30% literary reading on a weekly basis (or daily basis) when she only teaches English 20- 25% of the school day or week.   Where is more literary reading to be done to get kids up to the 30% Tiffany thinks kids should be doing?  What other classes will literary reading be done in, if 30% of what kids read every day or every week must be literary and the English teacher is only 1 of 5 subject teachers?
–Dr. Sandra Stotsky
———————-
From USOE’s Tiffany Hall:
Hello—
I appreciate your concern about the Utah Core Standards limiting the study of literature in English classes. I studied and have taught English literature, and if I felt that students were not going to be reading high-quality literature as a part of their K-12 education, I would be devastated.
The study of literature is not limited or reduced by the Standards. Rather, we are looking at a more comprehensive view of literacy that includes a focus on reading information text in all content areas—and not just reading, but reading and writing with purpose and understanding in every subject area. You are correct that we already have these informational  books; we are now focusing on using them more effectively, and in supplementing them with authentic reading from the appropriate content discipline.
The evidence of this can be found in the  Utah Core Standards , which you can read here: http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/langartsec/Language-Arts-Secondary-Home/LangArts-CE-web.aspx
I’d like to guide you to a few specific places for evidence relative to your concerns about literature and instruction in English Language Arts (ELA) and how the Utah Core Standards are focused on creating a culture of literacy in schools.
On page 3, the Standards state “The Standards insist that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school. The K–5 standards include expectations for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language applicable to a range of subjects, including but not limited to ELA. The grades 6–12 standards are divided into two sections, one for ELA and the other for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. This division reflects the unique, time-honored place of ELA teachers in developing students’ literacy skills while at the same time recognizing that teachers in other areas must have a role in this development as well.”
This section continues on page 4, where there is a table indicating the recommended distribution of literary and informational passages by grade. This table shows a 50-50% split between literary and informational text in grade 4; 45-55% in grade 8; and 30-70% in grade 12. However, this refers to reading over the entire school day, not in a student’s English Language Arts course alone.  The Standards strive to balance the “reading
of literature with the reading of informational texts, including texts in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects…” The level and quality of reading informational text in all subjects is a critical element of creating independent readers who can read and understand a wide variety of texts that are present in career and college settings.
So what do the Standards say about reading in English Language Arts courses? In addition to literature, they also include literary nonfiction. A good example of what these two categories mean can be found page 65, where literary fiction and literary nonfiction texts are sampled. These are not required texts; the choosing of texts remains a local decision. These are offered to illustrate the range of high-quality reading. For example, these are the sample texts listed for students in grades 11 and 12:Literary Fiction:
“Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats (1820)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1848)
“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson (1890)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959)
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)Literary Non-Fiction:
Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
“Society and Solitude” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1857)
“The Fallacy of Success” by G. K. Chesterton (1909)
Black Boy by Richard Wright (1945)
“Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell (1946)
“Take the Tortillas Out of Your Poetry” by Rudolfo Anaya (1995)

These selections have merit for their content and their writing. An ELA teacher has the opportunity to link themes and subjects across the full range of literary choices: novels, poems, dramatic works, essays, speeches, memoirs, etc. As an English teacher, I always tried to provide a variety of reading choices for students. Great literary works are how we understand other people, other times, and other cultures. Students need examples of many kinds of great writing.

In Appendix B, found here http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/langartsec/Language-Arts-Secondary-Home/APPENDIX-B.aspx, the Standards provide a list of exemplary texts. (These are not required texts, but rather examples of appropriate reading selections.) Please look at the Table of Contents, beginning on page 5, for a listing of readings organized by grade level. You will notice informational readings are included in addition to stories and poetry. Informational reading is an important part of helping students answer questions and learn content in the elementary classroom. However, the topics and presentation are interesting and grade-appropriate. At the elementary level, all subjects are generally taught in the same classroom and by the same teacher, so a wider range of topics is included in these lists.

You’ll notice that by the grades 6-8, the  examples of Informational texts have been grouped by content area (ELA, History/Social Studies, and Science, Mathematics, and Technical Subjects); the ELA texts are literary nonfiction. And, you will probably also notice that the lists of fiction and poetry contain many of your favorites—there are certainly many of mine, including Chaucer, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Shakespeare.

I completely and fundamentally agree with your statement, beautifully written: “Great writing creates great writers. We learn how to write best from studying great literature. We learn about shared values. We learn the consequences of both good and bad choices without having to experiment personally. We learn about our rich culture and heritage when we study the works of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson and others.” And when I look at the suggested readings in the Standards, these readings are reflected. They are the study of English and Language Arts.

I am not sure from whence the claim that we are replacing literature with “tracts from the EPA” or “dry technical writing” stems. As you have seen in the Standards, the writing is high-quality, appropriate, and interesting.

The Standards outline reading in all the content areas, including writing created by and for scientists, historians, engineers…every field has writing and communication that is important to the work that field supports. While I might not pick up a computer programming manual to read for fun, I know that there are many people who would, and I’m grateful that we are all different in our interests and reading. I am also glad that teachers in all the content areas will choose appropriate informational texts for their students to read and develop content knowledge and communication fluency. As a concerted effort, as a collaborative school, students will have the opportunity to read and learn what they will need to know in our society.

And I will always believe that includes Macbeth and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Thank you for your concern. I hope that examining the evidence—the actual Standards document—has assured you that students in Utah are reading high-quality literature in their ELA classrooms—and reading high-quality writing in all the content areas.

Tiffany Hall, MA, M.Ed.
K-12 Literacy Coordinator
Teaching and Learning
Utah State Office of Education
Please note: Utah has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from state employees regarding state business are public records available to the public and media upon request. Your email communication may be subject to public disclosure.

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