Open Letters from KISS Grammar
The Irresponsible, Unteachable
Common Core

—Dr. Ed Vavra

     An interesting thing about the Common Core is that its creators do not give any detailed ideas of how or what to teach in order to meet the “standards.” Page six of the English Language Arts statement includes the following: “The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach.” And “A great deal is left to the discretion of teachers and curriculum developers.”

     In fact, everything is left to the “discretion of teachers and curriculum developers.” The designers of the standards have no freakin’ idea of how to teach to them. They hide this by claiming that they are giving the teachers the “freedom” to teach in their own way. I’ll believe that when I see the developers give some valid “detailed” examples of instruction to meet specific standards.

     The people who probably have the most trouble with the standards are our classroom teachers. Over the last few decades these teachers have had to try to adjust from one set of state standards to another every five years or so. Many of them are very frustrated. They will become even more so (and many of the best will drop out of teaching) as the success of their students on these illiterate assessment tests becomes part of the evaluation of the teachers themselves.

     Many teachers find the “Common Core” incomprehensible. Unfortunately, they often feel that it’s their fault for not being able to understand it, but as I’m suggesting in this series, it’s not the teachers’ fault—the Core is illiterate. As an example of what is actually happening, I have been told that in some school districts, curriculum plans are made by “Intermediate” groups. Apparently some states set up such groups to tell the classroom teachers what to do to meet the standards. This too I find incomprehensible. Our system is way too complex for any individual to comprehend all of it, but it would be nice if some people focus on these groups and inform the rest of us about what these groups do.

     It seems, for example, that people trained in general education make lesson plans for teachers in English and Math. Perhaps I’m wrong. I’ve been told, however, that in some districts all the teachers of a specific subject are to be on the same page of a textbook on the same day. They’ve even been told how to teach it. Under these circumstances, we cannot blame the teachers for the failure of our schools.

     My point in this letter is that many more people should ask about the connections between the standards and what teaching is required to meet them. I hope teachers will forgive the comparison, but in effect, these standards (the carts) are almost totally separated from the teachers (the horses). It’s a major question relevant to our tax dollars, to the sanity of our teachers, and to the futures of our students.

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 You may publish or share them in any way you like.