Part One of “The Pufferfish,” explained how the writers of the Common Core inflated the “standards” by including things that students already know and can do. To make the document complicated and thus intimidating, the writers of these “standards” used still another ploy—shuffling words to make it appear that they are saying something different, when in fact, the standards are identical.
Consider item 8 under “Reading Standards for Informational Text” (p. 39):
6th grade: “Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.”
7th grade: “Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.”
8th grade: “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant information is introduced.”
Is there a substantial difference in the three grades? Is there a real difference between “distinguishing” (grade 6) and “assessing” (grade 7)? Or between “Trace” (grades 6 and 7) and “Delineate,” (grade 8)? Aren’t the authors playing games—filling up the standards with boring repetition? And how can seventh graders determine that “evidence is relevant” without looking at the given evidence and thus determining that some of it is irrelevant? Such repetitive shifting of words is rampant throughout these “standards.”
The authors’ attempts to confuse readers by repetition with minor variations is, at times, almost comical. Under “Writing Standards” 1.b (p. 42):
6th grade: “Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.”
7th and 8th grades: “Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.”
Apparently, sixth graders do not have to be “accurate,” and the seventh and eighth graders do not have to be “clear.” Note, by the way, that this is the standard for sixth graders. Currently, college instructors are struggling to get most college Freshmen to understand what “credible sources” means. (A common complaint of college instructors is that students Google a topic and use the first hits they get as their sources for papers.)
And, as always in the Common Core, there are
no suggestions for teachers on how to reach this objective. Perhaps the
Common Core should be called “The Emperor’s New Core”? As in all of these
I’m not asking you to believe me. I’m inviting you to look at the standards
and see for yourself. The “Standards” are naked!
Dr. Vavra has been teaching writing at the college level for almost forty years. He is also the developer of the free KISS Grammar site, a curriculum design and instructional materials that present clear objectives and standards. Additional open letters on the Core are available at KISSGrammar.org/Open_Letters. You may publish or share them in any way you like.