This morning, David Coleman, of CCSS ELA Standards fame, was named the president of the College Board.
According to their website, the work of the College Board falls into the categories of college readiness (initiatives like AP classes and PSAT that “promote curricula, assessment tools, district and guidance resources that help K-12 students prepare for the academic rigors of higher education”), college connection and success (resources like the SAT, college and scholarship searches that aid “students, parents, colleges and universities in the areas of college planning, recruitment and admissions, financial aid, and retention), and advocacy work (“promoting high academic standards; supporting educators; and building critical connections between policy, research and real-world experience to drive systemic reform in education”).
Coleman has positioned himself to now be an integral player in reforming the SAT to be a key transitional piece as students move from high school coursework to college. It seems like the intent might be to use assessments such as PARCC (SB, in those states) and SAT scores to be a better indicator of expected college performance and perhaps a tool for testing out of certain college courses. I recently held a Twitter conversation with Melissa Cardenas, of the Ohio Board of Regents about a PARCC meeting she attended and current discussions to this effect:
Regardless of what you may or may not think about Coleman and his role in changing education, I am simply in awe. I’m not sure how it is that one individual can have such a dramatic role in shifting the tides of education, but I am, admittedly, an admirer of his work. There are some truly great things happening in education right now, and I am still optimistic (I’d even go so far as to say positive) about the direction in which we are headed.
Update (5/21): Over the weekend, Diane Ravitch posted a blog with a differing perspective on David Coleman in which she detailed his work with Students First (Michelle Rhee’s organization). She also commented on his seeming lack of appreciation/acceptance for literature. Before I continue, I want to address his role with Students First–who cares? Maybe I am naive….actually, no, I know I am naive about many things, especially when it comes to political and financial influence on institutional change, but when I look at the CCSS, I don’t see David Coleman’s role as treasurer in Students First. Nor do I see a lack of appreciation for literature–both the standards and David Coleman’s response in the comments to Ravitch’s post stress the 70/30 split of nonfiction/fiction at the 12th grade level is across the contents, which means there does not need to (and should not) be a significant impact on the amount of literature read in the ELA classroom. I thought Coleman did such a fantastic job of clarifying his perspective that I want to make sure you have access to it because teachers need to know the intent of the standards:
I saw your e-mail about this yesterday afternoon, and I was composing my response to you when you published your post. Please let me try to clarify several points:
1) Regarding literature and the common core, I think there is a very clear picture, and one that is very consistent with your recent work and writing, as well as the face to face discussion we had.
To clarify, when we say there is an increased focus on “informational text” which I agree is not the most beautiful word, we mean that in elementary there is more time for history, science and the arts – along with a rich exploration of literature in those grades. In later grades, a great deal of informational text is explored in classrooms in history, social studies, science and technical subjects. In 6-12 grade ELA, the only change is that there is more room for literary non-fiction, although the classroom remains focused on literature. A little more detail:
a) Elementary School (K-5): The Core Standards ask for a 50/50 balance between reading, writing, listening and speaking about literature and texts in science, history and the arts.
Perhaps the most striking evidence is that in elementary school it is critical that students read and write about books in history, social studies, science, and the arts to build their knowledge of the world. A strong general knowledge and vocabulary gained through reading, writing, speaking, and listening is essential for later reading growth and achievement. However, today students read overwhelmingly stories in elementary school; students do not read nearly enough rich nonfiction. The Standards require that all students equally read rich literature in elementary school as well as rich nonfiction. Literature plays an essential role in cultivating students’ reading skills and developing their love of reading, and the Standards celebrates the role literature plays in building student knowledge and creativity. However, the Standards also require that in these early years students build rich knowledge of history, science, and the arts to deepen and widen their vocabulary and prepare them for success in every academic subject.
Before the Common Core Standards, in elementary school the curriculum has been narrowed by leaving little time for texts in science, history, and the arts. The Common Core Standards in this way restore elementary teachers to their rightful role as guides to the world. I must say I was surprised by this criticism because I believe you, as well as the non-profit Common Core, have argued strongly that the elementary school curriculum must change to include rich experience of texts in history, science and the arts.
b) Middle and High School (6-12): Literature remains the core of the ELA classroom in 6-12. What is new are two things. First, the Core Standards require that students in history and social studies can analyze primary and secondary documents, as well as reference documents and experimental results in science/technical subjects. The main reason the reading of informational text expands is that there is a requirement for the analysis of content rich non-fiction in history/social studies, science and technical subjects. The only change in the ELA classroom is some increased attention to literary non-fiction, such as the founding documents of this country and the “Great Conversation” that emerges from them. The Common Core Standards make these monuments of American thought and writing proper objects of study within ELA as well as history/social studies. Students can now encounter these texts to explore their rhetoric, reasoning and ideas in richer ways. Once again, I thought you were delighted by this.
To clarify, when we say there is an increased focus on “informational text” which I agree is not the most beautiful word, we mean that in elementary there is more time for history, science and the arts – along with a rich exploration of literature in those grades. In later grades, a great deal of informational text is explored in classrooms in history, social studies, science and technical subjects. In ELA, the only change is that there is more room for literary non-fiction, although the classroom remains focused on literature.
I am sorry if my rhetoric has obscured the vibrant role literature plays in the Common Core and in learning. But the Standards do require content rich non-fiction to play a more central role in student reading, writing, listening and speaking than it has in the past. The evidence of this need is very clear, which is what led states to adopt the Standards so widely.
2) Regarding Students First, our service during the formation of the organization was always understood to be temporary, and Students First told us long ago that a new board would be named in June. I have clarified this in a Tweet today. We told Students First months ago our service would end, before any news or public comment on our involvement.