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Thompson: Core Core's Mistaken Notions About Urban HS Teaching

MacbethBeing a former inner city high school teacher, I have not had more than an academic interest in the Common Core debates. If Fordham's Kathleen Porter-Magee is right, that is all I will ever need, because those standards will not really be taught in my old schools. According to Porter-Magee's "Are 'Just Right" Books Right for Common Core," today's prevailing wisdom is the “Just Right” or “Goldilocks” books approach, where "teachers should assign (or students should select) books that are pitched at their instructional reading level—not too easy so that they don’t stretch themselves but not too hard so that they don’t get turned off to learning." Especially in high school classes where the majority of students read on 5th grade levels, it is tough enough for teachers to take the next steps, to frequently assess student comprehension and "gently push them up levels with incrementally more difficult texts."  Even if done right, Porter-Macgee concludes, those students are not likely to get to Macbeth. So, Common Core requires the "Grade Appropriate Approach" to selecting reading material. The first step in teaching students to read academic texts that are five years or so above their reading levels is providing remediation and scafffolding for struggling readers. It would be tough enough, however, to devise those systems so that the "Goldilocks" method works for all. If history repeats itself, urban schools will have more than enough of a challenge providing the background information required for grade level books, and that will become the real objective.  Reading for comprehension will be pushed back to someday over the rainbow when inner city kids are ready for F. Scott Fitzgerald.-JT (@drjohnthompson) image via.  

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I had a friend growing up from a troubled neighborhood who was always frustrated with English class... it was a little too easy for him, he complained about feeling like he was being handed “easy books on purpose, because they assume I’m not willing to be challenged”. He never got much out of that class as a result.

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