I recently had the unfortunate opportunity to examine a SpringBoard assignment, sent to me by a concerned parent with a child in seventh grade. SpringBoard is the latest and greatest curriculum creation of The College Board which is led by no less than David Coleman, the well known architect of the Common Core.
Their website states, "SpringBoard is fully aligned to the Common Core State Standards and helps all students and teachers reach the goals of the Common Core Initiative. The Common Core Standards provide the “what” in the form of required achievements for students. Curriculum materials must provide the “how” to help students achieve the standards outlined."
This particular assignment from SpringBoard was titled Writing Workshop. I found this to be highly intriguing as I spent my entire teaching career using Writer's Workshop with my students, and finally supporting teachers in implementing the many fine nuances found within this complex teaching practice. Writer's Workshop allows for authentic writing as the students engage in the writing process and culminates in publication for a real audience. To the observer who knows little about Writer's Workshop, it may appear as an extremely messy process, but the highly skilled teacher understands the incredible organization that is needed to implement such a workshop successfully. Let's just say - it ain't easy. The process is full of writing, reading, talking, brainstorming, sharing and giving feedback, within a room that has a constant buzz filled with the energy of ideas and the empowerment of the student voice. All in all, it is beautiful. The high level of engagement is contagious – the urgency and excitement with which ideas are expressed – the smiles, the struggles and the support of the learners as they work together in groups to revise their writing pieces - it is authentic learning. One minute the teacher is sharing her own writing by thinking aloud as she writes on chart paper, the next she is with a small group, then she is roving, and finally she is conferencing with individual students. The children are fluid – they move from space to space – they have command of their work, their resources - and they know what they need to do to in order to meet their own personal writing goals.
Those were the days…
Please see the following screen shots from SpringBoard, a new college and career ready curriculum that is followed lockstep by teachers. Students at home can log in and print out assignments and get their questions addressed online. Needless to say, this is unlike any Writer's Workshop I have ever seen. Best practices, such as Writer's Workshop, will be destroyed at the hands of Common Core because it simply will not fit into the mold needed to create measurable data.
In this first screen shot the children are asked to create a graphic of the writing process. I am unsure why this is necessary, if they are indeed engaged in their own authentic writing process, which - call me crazy - would indeed be its own graphic, now wouldn't it? I am sure that struggling readers will be hell bent on addressing the "recursive" nature.
Here, the student is asked to explore his/her topic further. Notice the language such as "persona." Notice the word "mode." I am wondering how second language learners and struggling readers might do on this assignment - let alone the typical 7th grader?!!? I am wondering how this graphic will create scripted writing as students fill it out, plugging in strong verbs as demanded, simply to be done with this as quickly as possible. In addition, children plan differently as they consider their writing. Often a child has a killer writing idea and the format comes later. Writing is messy. It cannot be contained in a worksheet. The "role of the writer" is really beyond me - should they take on a new identity or something in order to "establish a connection with your readers?" And "establish a connection" - talk about a buzz kill if you even fathomed having a good writing idea.
Now see the fill in the blank - I can promise you that my students never filled in a blank in their draftbooks let alone on a god forsaken worksheet like this one. Throwing plates yet?
Don Murray would cringe to see his name on this. Of course he is correct - often writing does bounce along - fast - and there is nothing better than a scripted worksheet such as this to shut down that momentum. Note the last line - "Write a draft to develop points in the preliminary organizational structure?" What??? What is this language? Do they know who their audience is? These are seventh grade students!! Not business men planning a power point for a board meeting!
And last but not least, directions for meeting in writing groups - I simply can't imagine being able to speak a coherent sentence on my own after being given this lockstep process for participating in a group. But you see, that is the goal here - teacher proof curriculum with all teachers on the same page every day, complete with a lockstep process for students to follow rather than think. Follow, don't think.
As I said earlier, Writer's Workshop is a messy yet highly organized teaching process. It cannot be jammed into a curriculum nor can it be force fed to children. The results of this assignment are easy to anticipate - children will treat this like any other good worksheet. They will do what they need to do in order to get the grade and they will not engage (how could they?) and then they will run as quickly as they can from any mention of future writing experiences.
This, you see, is the new world of the Common Core. We must oppose it, refuse it, deny it, defy it, f$#@ing expose it for what it is whenever we can by educating parents and teachers about the profit to be made through the creation of nonthinking, soul destroying worksheets such as these. This is not simply a set of standards - it is a set of standards designed to allow corporations the ability to create common children via common curriculum and common assessments which will be used to drain our public schools of money as they attempt to abide by the guidelines of Race to the Top. There will be more tests - many more tests - as Common Core infiltrates our schools and profits billionaires while privatizing public education. The expense will be immense and will assist in the profiteers' plans to starve the public schools while using our tax dollars to dismantle what is left. Their goal is to move as quickly as they can, take as much as they can, before we wake up and realize we've been screwed. SpringBoard is simply one example of many more to follow.