Sunday, September 1, 2013

Reforminess: 120, Content-rich Curriculum: 45

I saw this article in the Washington Post about DCPS's cutting the minimum recess for elementary students to 20 minutes day. It goes without saying that twenty minutes per day of recess for younger students is ridiculously inadequate. But here's what really caught my eye (emphasis mine):
Recess time varies in the District. Some schools saw a reduction this year as Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson implemented new requirements meant to ensure that all elementary students get a minimum amount of time in each subject each day: two hours of literacy, 90 minutes of math, and 45 minutes of science or social studies. An additional 45 minutes is required for an elective, such as art, music or physical education.
What? Isn't DC a Common Core adopter? Isn't the Common Core supposed the second coming of curricular education reform?

If you're spending two hours a day on "literacy" and forty-five minutes a day on non-math content (social studies or science) and if you consider art, music, physical education, or foreign language to be an "elective" rather than crucial content, then the Common Core will not help your students because you're not getting the Common Core's supposed intent. In this case, the assumption is that literacy is a skill that must be mastered before children learn content. "Literacy" is primary and content is an after thought.

So what do Common Core advocates, especially those who also support current education reforms, think of this? Just as I find their silence on expansion of central bureaucracy and spending thereon baffling, I find their silence on this topic baffling, and troubling, as well.


  1. "'Literacy' is primary and content is an after thought." Maybe you've addressed this before and I missed it but I don't get why this is a big problem. If some kid is unable to read, or reads really poorly they aren't going to get much out of trying to read rich content because they won't be able to read it. Like wise they won't be able to get much out of a Stephen King novel because they won't be able to read it. Basic reading comprehension is one of the fundamental building blocks of everything else, after all how are you suppose to understand the Civil War if you can't read the text book?

    If it is the case that there almost all of the kids in the DC system who are totally up to date on reading skills and are still being made to do non-challenging reading exercises day after day, well then yes that's probably not the best policy. But that doesn't seem to be the case at all, a huge number of kids seem to be struggling with being able to read something and comprehend it. That is they need help with "literacy" because it sounds like they are struggling with being able to read.

    1. @longwalkdownlyndale Hahaha. I have written about this ad nauseum. See my posts under the label curriculum for example.

      I'm afraid we disagree about the way literacy develops.

      I'm not saying we should have students reading books that aren't accessible to them. I'm saying that we must teach them about the content at the same time so that when they read about said content they understand what they're reading. How are you supposed to understand what you're reading about the Civil War if you've never heard of it or been taught about it? I took my kids to museums and taught them about all kinds of things before they were able to decode. I have taught high school students who were very weal readers. I taught them about complex topics all the same. Then when they read about them, they could make sense of hat they were reading.

      The technical process of decoding is a skill and yes, minimal instruction in reading strategies can be useful, but otherwise, reading comprehension and literacy aren't skills. You comprehend what you read because you have background knowledge on the subject. You can't practice reading comprehension skills; to get to be a better reader, you can only read lots and lots and learn lots and lots of stuff

    2. I meant "weak" not "weal" and "what" not "hat." Also forgot the period at the end of the comment.


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