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Susan Following David Coleman's Common Core Model: 17 Days on One Short Story

Ohanian Comment: 
Hat Tip to Jim Horn at Schools Matter. I missed this when it appeared. 

Chris C has discussed the EngageNY modules. 

So have I--a number of times. Here's one and another. And so on. Put "EngageNY" into a search on my site and you'll get 21 hits. But none are as devastating as what you'll read below. 

New Yorkers, go to the EngageNY website and there's Commissioner King's picture looking like he's proud of it. But those of you in the rest of the country shouldn't think this putrid mess is only something for New Yorkers to worry about. EngageNY is following Common Core architect David Coleman's instructions about "close reading." Be warned. 

Also, keep in mind why these lessons are being installed across the country: 
In short, the Common Core revolution is meant to resign children to their hopeless future as a member drone of the 99%. I'm currently reading David J. Blacker's The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neo liberal Endgame, which shows that "educational institutions are strapped into the eliminationist project--the neoliberal endgame--in a way that admits no escape. . . ." It's not a cheerful tale but an important one. We need to understand why this is happening. 

As introduction to this particular piece, read what reality-based teacher already posted about David Coleman's vaunted 'close reading': 

In my school 9th grade teachers are using the vaunted new NYSED lesson pods/seeds for their curriculum.

Both students and teachers hate the lessons.

Whoever developed the seeds/pods decided that the most important skill to teach students is close reading of text.

To that end, the lesson seeds/pods have students learn what close reading is, then read a short story while practicing that skill.

Students read the same story over and over and over and over...

...For days and days and days...

...Until they no longer care about what they're reading, they no longer care about what they're learning, they no longer care about English class. . . .

NYSED ELA Lesson Module -- 17 Days On One Short Story

by Perdido Street School

As I posted earlier this week, the teachers who have had the misfortune to have to use the Common Core lesson modules provided by NYSED at a website they call Engage NY have found that the material is so full of mind-numbing, soul-sucking drudgery that they had lost the interest of students by the second week of school.

I have heard many complaints from teachers about one module that has students read and re-read one short story over and over and over and over for 17 straight days...

Here is an overview of that 17 day lesson module:

Lesson Text Learning Outcomes/Goal

  1. St. Lucy's (p. 225: title, Stage 1 epigraph, and paragraph 1) Students will begin the curriculum learning to read closely as they examine an excerpt from Karen Russell’s short story, "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves." They will explore the structural complexity of this as they examine the epigraph, a description of Stage 1 of Lycanthropic Culture Shock.
  2. St. Lucy's (pp. 225–235: Stages 1 and 2) Students will listen to a read-aloud of the first half of the story. This lesson provides important fluency support and introduces students to some of the text’s central concerns. Students are introduced to the narrator, Claudette, and the rest of her pack, as they begin to consider the narrative arcs of the main characters.
  3. St. Lucy's (pp. 235–246: Stage 3 to the end of text). This lesson concludes the read-aloud of the text and ensures students have sufficient familiarity with the arc of this story to engage fully in the close reading activities in subsequent lessons. The lesson assessment asks students to identify one of the text's central concerns and practice marshalling textual evidence to support their thinking.
  4. St. Lucy's (pp. 226–227: From "'Ay caramba,' Sister Maria de la Guardia sighed." to "Neither did they.") Students will return to the Stage 1 narrative to uncover connections between the Stage 1 epigraph and the Stage 1 narrative. Students will look more closely at Claudette, Mirabella, and Jeanette--the three main characters in the text--and consider how Russell's precise language helps us understand both the girls and their experience at St. Lucy's.
  5. St. Lucy's (pp. 225–227: Beginning of text to "Neither did they.") This lesson introduces students to text annotation and reinforces the value of rereading a text multiple times. Students will consider the reason the girls are at St. Lucy's while practicing using their annotations as a tool to find evidence.
  6. St. Lucy's (pp. 227–229: Stage 1, from "That first afternoon, the nuns gave us free rein of the grounds." to "It can be a little overstimulating.") Students will continue to learn the close reading skill of annotation as they begin, for the first time, to interrogate Russell’s text by considering the accuracy of the Stage 1 epigraph. This serves as an introduction to a key tension in the work and establishes a foundation students will use to challenge this and other texts in lessons and units to come.
  7. St. Lucy's (pp. 229--231: from "Stage 2: After a time. . ." to ". . .cocked her ears at us, hurt and confused.") Students will continue to develop the skill of answering text-dependent questions through writing as they analyze Stage 2 of Lycanthropic Culture Shock more deeply. This lesson introduces students to the NY Regents Text Analysis Rubric. In this and subsequent lessons, they will refine their understanding of text analysis by using this rubric to assess their work.
  8. St. Lucy's (pp. 231–235: from "Still, some things remained the same." to "This was a Stage 3 thought.") This lesson deepens students' consideration of the developing rifts at St. Lucy's. Through Claudette's eyes, they examine the experiences and development of the three main characters. Here, students will refine their ability to marshal textual evidence by learning how to paraphrase and directly quote evidence in their writing as they prepare for the Mid-Unit Assessment.
  9. St. Lucy's (pp. 235–239: from "Stage 3: It is common that..." to "Jeanette got a hole in one.") Students will continue to read closely and answer text-dependent questions as they begin a deep examination of Stage 3. Here they will consider some of the difficult choices Claudette makes, deepening their understanding of how Russell develops this character. In this lesson, students will prepare the Mid-Unit Assessment through collaborative discussion.
  10. St. Lucy's (pp. 239–241: from "On Sundays, the pretending felt almost as natural... to " the pack felt about anything.") Students will demonstrate their understanding of the text they have read by writing a formal response to the Mid-Unit Assessment prompt. After the assessment, students will continue their examination of Stage 3, practicing their annotation skills.
  11. St. Lucy's (pp. 239–245: from "On Sundays, the pretending felt almost as ..." to "...that was our last communal howl.") In this lesson, students consolidate their understanding of Stage 3 and move toward an exploration of the text’s climax in Stage 4. Students will review their reading annotation from Lesson 10 by participating in a Text-Dependent Questions Gallery Walk that will continue students’ work with text analysis through an evidence-based discussion. Students will again dip into a subtle interrogation of the text by considering the veracity of the Stage 4 epigraph for the characters.
  12. St. Lucy’s (pp. 245–246: from the Stage 5 epigraph through the end of the text) Students will work collaboratively with a partner, using the NY Regents Text Analysis Rubric to revise their Mid-Unit Assessment. Students will conclude their analysis of Stages 4 and 5 and consider Claudette's assimilation process.
  13. Entire Text: This lesson begins students' analysis of the St. Lucy's text as a whole. Working in groups, students will analyze the different stages of Lycanthropic Culture Shock. This work supports the final unit assessment that asks students to look critically at Claudette and make a claim about her ability to assimilate into human culture.
  14. Entire Text: This lesson continues students' exploration of the key ideas, characters and central ideas in Russell's text. Student groups will present their analysis of one of the stages of culture shock in the text. Students will use the annotations and information they learned from the presentations to write a response to a prompt that asks students to analyze the how Russell develops a central idea and use multiple pieces of textual evidence.
  15. Entire Text: Students will learn how to revise their Lesson 14 writing response by adding an introduction and a conclusion, preparing students for the End-of-Unit Assessment.
  16. Entire Text: Students will prepare for the End-of-Unit Assessment by discussing and engaging in a class debate about the prompt. Students will consolidate their understanding of the text by considering and interrogating its fundamental premise--the value of assimilation.
  17.  ntire Text: Students will exhibit the literacy skills and habits developed in Unit 1 by writing a formal evidence-based essay addressing the assessment prompt.

Here is how students have received the genius that is this EngageNY lesson module that uses one short story for three and a half weeks of lessons:

The first day, they're excited to start a new lesson and read a story that seems to be about werewolves.

By the third day, they're bored by reading and discussing the same story for three days straight and starting to get antsy.

By the sixth day, they're outwardly hostile to the lessons and the teacher for teaching the lessons.

By the ninth day, they're totally disengaged from class and talk openly about how much they hate English.

By the twelve day, they no longer give a shit about anything -- not the class, not the story, not the teacher, not the "assessment" (i.e., "test" for those of you who aren't fluent in reformy geekspeak) that is coming up on Day Seventeen.

By the seventeenth day, students complete the "assessment" with little regard to how they do on it because they stopped caring about the entire process somewhere between the end of Day Four and the beginning of Day Five.

Many people I know think that NYSED Commissioner John King and his merry men and women in reform at SED are diminished and humorless human beings, but I don't think that is so.

Any group of people that could call a website full of lessons that manages to completely disengage children from school "Engage NY" surely have a sense of irony somewhere beneath those nineties goatees and glasses.

A commenter on another Perdido Street School post who has taught this very 9th grade Engage NY module thinks he knows what the NYSED and Regents are trying to do with the Common Core lessons and tests:

As a 9th grade ELA teacher following the Engage NY Curriculum, I have seen first hand how destructive it really is. For three weeks we have been close reading one story! For the first time, my 9th grade students are completely disengaged. How many times can you annotate the same passage?

I also believe now that these units are actually lowering the rigor of my class. We are now into the second marking period and have read one story and written zero essays (other than the usely MOSL exam). At this point last year my 9th grade class had written two essays, read 5 short stories, and were halfway through their first novel, and we were having fun doing it.

The end of the opening unit has students reading (only key scenes) from "Romeo and Juliet" and then showing the Baz Lerhman film to supplement. How is reading 5 scenes from "Romeo and Juliet," rather than the whole play, more rigorous?

Indeed, more and more people are coming to see the claims of increased "rigor" in the Common Core math and ELA standards as hollow promises or out-and-out deception.

The Common Core State Standards are meant to dumb down children, strip them of their creativity and passion for learning, and show them that their future lives will be full of mind-numbing, soul-sucking regimented tasks and standardized work that they will do over and over and over again.

In short, the Common Core revolution is meant to resign children to their hopeless future as a member drone of the 99%.[emphasis added]

You can bet the children of the elites are not stuck reading 20% of "Romeo and Juliet" or spending a month on one short story.

The pushback against Common Core critics from the likes of College Board President (and ELA standards architect) David Coleman and NYSED Commissioner John King is that the increased rigor in these standards will help students to be college and career ready.

It seems to me having students read one scene in every act of "Romeo and Juliet" (approximately 20% of the text), then watch the film to fill in the narrative gaps or read one short story over and over and over in order to practice annotation will not get students college and career ready in any way, shape or form.

It will have them ready to drop out of school by the 10th grade, however, or just completely disengaged from their own education.

The Common Core -- the perfect tool for the corporate and political elites to grow a generation of numb, compliant children into numb, compliant adults. 

— Reality-Based Educator
Perdido Street School

October 19, 2013

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Susan Ohanian

Susan Ohanian, a long-time public school teacher, is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic, Parents, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Phi Del...