Sunday, December 16, 2012

David Coleman's beautiful fantasy: that students will read 7000 pages a year!

In a Boston Globe column cheering on the Common Core standards and their infamous call for 70% of student reading in high school to be non-fiction, David Coleman is quoted as saying that "non-fiction will mostly be read in science, history, and social studies classes, where students ought to be using primary sources and learning to decipher scientific research."

This is pretty interesting. I'd be happy if students read as much fiction as they are supposed to do now but read twice as much nonfiction, but that is very obviously not going to happen. The problem with reading a lot is that it takes time, and if student reading is really split 70-30, then Leafstrewn students who are now assigned 8 novels a year (2000+ pages) would then have to read the equivalent of close to 7000 pages--which would probably be great, but would not leave a lot of time to work on all the other stuff that's mentioned in the standards--let alone leave time for students to do a lot of independent reading--another thing Coleman has on occasion called for. 

Another possibility is that the CC people envision much more independent reading, and much less whole-class reading than is currently assigned, perhaps because they realize that a lot of students don't do the reading.  That's a vision I could respect, but I don't think David Coleman and his collaborators have thought it through that deeply. Instead, my sense is that, notwithstanding the Oxford degree the Globe columnist admiringly cites, Coleman has little idea what it's like in an actual school and little sense of how the document he was paid to prepare might actually be put into effect.


  1. "Coleman has little idea what it's like in an actual school"

    Now hop over to Coleman's Collegeboard bio:

    "Coleman grew up in a family of educators and has followed them into the field. He went to public school in New York City before enrolling at Yale University. At Yale, he taught reading to secondary school students from low-income families in New Haven and started Branch, an innovative community service program that worked with students at an inner-city New Haven high school..."

    1. It's amazing, isn't it, how people can be students and tutors and consultants and administrators (and even, sometimes, teachers), and still end up so relatively clueless. Perhaps I should be more measured in my criticism. I think it's hard for teachers to avoid being annoyed by people like Coleman who set themselves up as experts in teaching without ever having done it themselves. I am still learning humility, but I have a lot more of it now than when I started teaching high school ten years ago.

      In any case, Coleman's personal and family history (are there ANY schoolteachers in his family?) is not the main point--what do you think about the CC and reading?