Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The engageNY CCSS Primer

In which engageNY provides a brief explanation of why the Core is baloney

That one-stop-shopping for fully sliced Core baloney, engageNY, has a simple chart that can be used to see why the Core is, along with all its other flaws, not particularly necessary.

"Pedagogical shifts demanded by the Common Core State Standards" is a handy list of twelve shifts (six math, six ELA) that teachers implementing the Core must make "to be truly aligned with it in terms of curricular materials and classroom instruction." There are only twelve, so let's have a look, shall we?

Balancing Informational and Literary Texts

Just so you know, this is just a short chart, so there will be no support for any of this. David Coleman just thinks that students would benefit from rich texts about non-fiction subjects because, well, he thinks so.

Knowledge of the Disciplines

That's what the heading says. The "explanation" says "students build knowledge about the world (domains/content areas) through TEXT rather than the teacher or activities." So apparently one "pedagogical shift" will be for teachers to stop pedagogying. "Here's a book, kid. Go get smart."

Staircase of Complexity

"Students read the central grade appropriate text around which instruction is centered." Other than the "grade appropriate" part ("Stop whining, Chris. Just because you can only read at third grade level, that's no reason for you not to just read this seventh grade level text. I don't want to hear about your frustration"), is there anything here that we needed a national standards movement to establish. But wait-- there's more--

"Teachers are patient, create more time and space and support in the curriculum for close reading." As an interesting side note, "and support" seems to have been added in an edit. So remember teachers-- be patient and supportive. Stop being impatient and abusive which, apparently, was the previous pedagogical standard in NY? You heard it here first. Also, remember to give each a student area open enough to have to turn the books' pages.

Text Based Answers

"Students engage in rich and rigorous evidence based conversations about text." This remains one of the great Hallmarks of Stupid in the Annals of Core Lunacy. Remember, when discussing The Sun Also Rises, never mention The Great European War. When covering "The Gettysburg Address" you certainly don't want to mention the Battle of Gettysburg.

And when teaching smaller children, definitely never allow them to make connections between what you're reading and their lives. Which is kind of hilarious, because I teach high school but my wife teaches first grade, and I know what happens in first grade as soon as you say, "So, this puppy is brown. Does anybody know anything about brown puppies?" But remember-- it's never too early to explain to students that their own lives, experiences, and knowledge are unimportant and not worth sharing or consulting. Just what's on the page, kids.

Writing from sources

Yes, absolutely. Previously teachers have just told students, "When you write a paper about this subject, just make stuff up." Remember: when making an argument, your ideas have no value. (Unless you are David Coleman)

Academic vocabulary

This represents a bit of a Common Core head fake, because we're all supposed to be taking academic vocabulary OUT of instruction because David Coleman has decreed that it will be taken out of the SAT. But I do think it's fun that jargon is now a pedagogical shift. A good thing once again, as I have been teaching writing students to just "look at that thingy with the stuff in that lump of wordy things."

Now, the other six are math shifts, but I think even I, an English teacher, can spot the problems here.


Do less, more deeply. I never understand how this is supposed to work in math. Isn't math fundamentally sequential? Will slowing the sequence down not ultimately reduce the amount of actual math involved in a high school education?


This one says, I kid you not, "Principals and teachers carefully connect the learning within and across grades so that students can build new understanding onto foundations built in previous years." And I'm thinking that even if your previous math curriculum planning was "Let's buy a math textbook series and use it across all the years of our school" you already had this covered. This is a shift??!! A big, new change that CCSS will usher in? What the hell have you guys in New York been doing??


Students are supposed to have speed and accuracy for simple calculations, and teachers are to make time for them to memorize core functions (not Core functions). Now THIS is good, old-fashioned state-level response to a New Education Program. You take what you want to do, and then blame it on the NEP. If there's anything that's been clear about CCSS, it's that memorization is out, and doing simple things in long convoluted ways to show that you Really Understand what's going on is in. Way to be an old school rebel, engageNY.

Deep Understanding

Here we go. Students don't just learn "the trick" to getting the right answer. They understand the math. Because getting the right answer is just a trick. Would that we had more tricky people in the world.


Students are expected to use math and choose the right application even when not prompted to do so. So, after teaching them for years that every problem should engender multiple responses, the more arcane the better, students should conclude that this means there is really just one right approach to pick.

Dual Intensity

Students are practicing and understanding. Both of them. Again-- a shocking, radical shift, but only in the sense that if this represents a shift, what the hell were teachers doing before?

So there you have it, in brief. EngageNY's interpretation of the Core-- one part useless foolishness, one part stuff that isn't actually in the CCSS, and one part pedagogy that any non-brain-dead teacher was already using. Thank goodness the CCSS are here to save us.


  1. Yes, Mark Naison is more than just "some crazy old guy with a beard and a stunt candidacy." His experience in forceful protest is a necessary component not only for BATs but also for defeating corporate deformers across this nation. Mark is indefatigable, a badass rapper and dancer, and a very kind a giving individual.

    I attended the rally and was so impressed, motivated, and energized by the teachers, parents, and students who took part. I brought my 16-year-old daughter who not only tells me she would like to teach but also shows great aptitude for it. All BATs treated her with respect, encouraging her aspirations for the future. She learned about activism first hand and will be influenced by the events of the last several days for years to come. I could not ask for more.

  2. This deconstruction of engage ny is a must read....

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. My look at Coleman's Close Reading and Gettysburg Address.