My Speech about Common Core to MLA

by Diane Ravitch, 1/18/14, speech at the Modern Language Association convention

On January 11, I spoke to the annual meeting in Chicago of the Modern Language Association about the Common Core. My talk was titled “Common Core: Past, Present, Future.”

I think readers of this blog will find it of interest.

It is about 17 pages long, so sit down.

I explain the background of the standards and explain why they have become so controversial, with critics and supporters on all points of the political spectrum–right, left, and middle.

I recommend decoupling the standards from the testing. And I recommend that the standards be reviewed, corrected, and updated on a regular basis by panels of teachers and scholars. No set of standards should be considered so sacrosanct that they can never be revised. These arrived encased in concrete.

To open the speech, click herecommon-core-standards1


As an organization of teachers and scholars devoted to the study of language and literature, MLA should be deeply involved in the debate about the Common Core standards.

The Common Core standards were developed in 2009 and released in 2010. Within a matter of months, they had been endorsed by 45 states and the District of Columbia. At present, publishers are aligning their materials with the Common Core, technology companies are creating software and curriculum aligned with the Common Core, and two federally-funded consortia have created online tests of the Common Core.

What are the Common Core standards? Who produced them? Why are they controversial? How did their adoption happen so quickly?

As scholars of the humanities, you are well aware that every historical event is subject to interpretation. There are different ways to answer the questions I just posed. Originally, this session was designed to be a discussion between me and David Coleman, who is generally acknowledged as the architect of the Common Core standards. Some months ago, we both agreed on the date and format. But Mr. Coleman, now president of the College Board, discovered that he had a conflicting meeting and could not be here.

So, unfortunately, you will hear only my narrative, not his, which would be quite different. I have no doubt that you will have no difficulty getting access to his version of the narrative, which is the same as Secretary Arne Duncan’s.

He would tell you that the standards were created by the states, that they were widely and quickly embraced because so many educators wanted common standards for teaching language, literature, and mathematics. But he would not be able to explain why so many educators and parents are now opposed to the standards and are reacting angrily to the testing that accompanies them.

I will try to do that….

keep reading in the download, above


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