Rethinking Standardizing as a “Dirty Word”

As Common Core begins to roll out, I have been really dissecting these standards, particularly for high school. I’ll be honest, I have been looking and reading with a skeptical eye.

My skepticism is really not about whether the standards are good, bad, or other. My skepticism comes from the mere notion of standardizing anything. As a critical race theorists, I instantly raise the question of: Whose knowledge has power? The idea that we can simply standardize knowledge and become small factories across the country churning out readers is scary and goes against what I truly believe about school. I must be clear–I am against the reproductive nature of schooling. I am opposed to an idea of a curriculum that marginalizes certain truths and validates others as fact. So Common Core, standardization, and factory style learning makes me cringe. It is with this skeptical eye that I have been reading anything related to Common Core.

As one who doesn’t like to admit mistakes, I am finding that I might have a misconception of what Common Core is standardizing for literacy. As I dig deeper, I am finding that the standards are based pretty heavily in Critical Literacy tenets. I know that Critical Literacy and the concept of a “standardized curriculum” seem to be polar opposites, but they aren’t at all. What I am finding is that Common Core is not actually standardizing what students should read. Okay–teachers are focusing on book lists and matching what novels they used to teach to new rigorous grade level requirements and Lexiles, but that is not what they focus is really one. Common Core is about standardizing how we look at literature. Instead of telling teachers to teach inferring or cause and effect in isolation, the Common Core Standards ask student to critically determine what the author leaves uncertain or to examine a text from multiple perspectives and view points. That is reflective of Critical Literacy at its best. As we begin to decode the standards and get over the idea of increased text complexity (its not going away) and start to look at the curriculum from a Critical Literacy lens, I think that we will have many more Ah-ha moments that help up reposition our own views of Common Core and exactly what it is asking us to do.

I am seeing standards that ask students to think. That is a shift. Teaching students to look criticaly at written and visual text? Hum…maybe it is time to reframe my own stance on standardization. This doesn’t read like the standardization of knowledge. It reads like the standardization of critical thinking skills that all thinkers need.

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Article written by Dr. Rozlyn Linder

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