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Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform: # 9 – David Coleman   68 comments

David Coleman:  Bye Bye, Classics

Countdown # 9

This is the second in a countdown series of introductions, a list of the top ten scariest people leading American education reform.  (#10 on the list is posted here.)

David Coleman, lead “architect” for the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of the Common Core, is not an educator, but a businessman.  Recently promoted to president of the College Board, he has promised to align the SAT with the Common Core that he built.  He plotted education for K-12 students, and now he’s plotting it for postsecondary students, too.

How can a one-size-fits-all alignment make sense for all students –whether bound for a minimum wage job, a two-year college or the top university in the world– prepare each using a one-size-fits-all Common Core program?  Either the lower-level students are to be pushed beyond reasonable expectations, or the higher level students are to be dumbed down.  Or both.

Coleman is an outspoken antagonist to narrative writing and is no fan of classic literature, so he singlehandedly slashed most of it from the education most children in America will know, either already –or soon.  Ask your kids, but remember, Common Core testing begins in 2014, so the intense pressure for teachers to conform to Common Core is yet to be fully felt.

What did Coleman do to Language Arts? He mandated that dreary informational text, not beautiful, classic literature, is to be the main emphasis in English classes, incrementally worsening as students get older.

What it looks like:  little children in an ELA classroom may read no more than 50% classic literature. High school seniors may only read 30% classic literature. The other 70% must be informational text, which means everything from historical documents (um– why not read those in history classes?)  to insulation installation manuals,  presidential executive orders, environmental programming, and federal reserve documents.  These are actually on the recommended reading  list.

Another weird twist to Coleman’s Common Core is that he says students must “stay within the four corners of the text” as if that were possible.  Context is not to be part of a discussion?  Outside experience is not to be compared to the informational text?  For a thorough, and eloquent, explanation of what has happened to English Language Arts because of Coleman’s influence, please read “Speaking Back to the Common Core” by Professor Thomas Newkirk of the University of New Hampshire.

What Coleman does not understand (–hmmm, maybe actual English teachers should have been invited to those closed-door meetings–) is that narrative is so much more than a style of writing.

Narrative isn’t just using the “I” word.  It’s more than “What I Did Last Summer.”

Narrative is a pattern woven (often unconsciously) into every style of memorable writing, whether argumentative, persuasive, expository, etc.  The best informational texts are narratively satisfying.

Coleman’s knocking down of narrative writing and slashing of it from academic standards is both ignorant and, to English teachers and astute kids, really confusing. For a funny, punchy review of the muddly ELA writing standards, read Professor Laura Gibbs’ “Inspid Brew of Gobbledygook”.

David Coleman is largely ignorant in the field of writing language arts standards.  One member of the official Common Core validation committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, pointed this out and refused to sign off on the validity of the Common Core standards.

And David Coleman is not even nice, as you’ll see from the video linked here, where he mocks student narrative and uses the “sh–” word in a professional development seminar for teachers.

Lastly, Coleman’s large financial contribution to the campaign of  Education Committee Senator Todd Huston (Indiana) whom Coleman hired for the College Board after his election, forms another branch of reasons that I can not trust this man to make wise decisions affecting children.

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