Recommended Changes to 2016 AZ Draft English/Language Arts Standards K-5: Lisa Fink

The following recommendations were submitted by Ms. Lisa Fink to the Standards Review committee of the Arizona State Board of Education.  Ms. Fink is the mother of six children.  She also serves as Board president of Choice Academies, Inc.  Ms. Fink has provided an explanation for every standard that she recommends be removed.  

She has also made recommendations for ELA (English/Language Arts) Standards Additions to Oral Presentations and Persuasive Writing, including several suggested readings.  Some of this information was based on Dr. Sandra Stotsky's An English Language Arts Curriculum Framework for American Public Schools: A Modelwhich Dr. Stotsky has offered "For use by any state or school district without charge."  Ms. Fink has noted that Arizona's Standards show a glaring lack of emphasis on the basics of grammar, and on how to read and spell.  She has also noted a disturbing absence of poetry, rhymes, fables, myths, stories, and other forms of literature.  She states, "I read the The Red Scarf Girl, which was a woman's account as a child living during Mao's Cultural Revolution.  Mao called on the nation’s youth to purge the “impure” elements of Chinese society, identified as the "Four Olds:" old customs, ideas, culture, and habits.   This was done in order to reshape China after the image of Mao and the Communist party.  In the schools, they took out all of the books that had been the foundation of China and replaced them with modern books. What is happening now looks similar. It's another example of the adage that "those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it."  For a more indepth understanding of the situation in America, see "Story-Killers: How the Common Core Destroys Minds and Souls" by Terrence O. Moore.   

Please note that the Comment period closed on October 3, 2016.

Educational Tools vs Content

Education in America has shifted over the past several decades from the importance of content to providing “tools” for learning.  E.D. Hirsch points out the flaws in this approach.

“American educational theory has held that the child needs to be given all-purpose tools that are needed for him or her to continue learning and adapting...but when this tool metaphor has been taken apart and examined for its literal content, its highly exaggerated claims have been powerfully contradicted by research, and after six decades, it has shown itself to be ineffective.”[1]

The shift in approach from content to “tools” has created “…vague, gap-ridden “conceptual” curricula that have been developed as a reaction to earlier, content-oriented approaches to forming a curriculum. …The first inherent weakness is the arbitrariness of the large-scale conceptual schemes and classifications that make up all such curricular “strands” or “objectives.”[2]

Why are students today not as well educated as the students of the past?  E.D. Hirsch explains, “There is another inherent shortcoming in the overreliance on large-scale abstract objectives as a means of determining a curriculum.  These general objectives do not compel either a definite or coherent sequence of instruction.   The main source of their repetitions and gaps continues to be their lack of content specificity.”[3]

“To stress critical thinking while de-emphasizing knowledge reduces a student’s capacity to think critically.” E.D. Hirsch

The emphasis has been to teach a child to think critically.  The proposed new standards are flawed to achieve this objective.  Why?

“Without background knowledge and rote memorization it is a fallacy that: 1. it is possible to teach abstract reading ability; 2. it is possible to teach abstract problem-solving ability; and that 3. once provided with these abstract abilities, students would be able to pursue a “lifetime of learning.”[4]

Children’s readiness for secondary processes such as reading and arithmetic is not simply a matter of natural development but also one of prior relevant learning.[5]

“The first years of schooling are called the “grammar stage,” not because you spend four years doing English, but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid, just as grammar is the foundation for language.  In the elementary-school years—grades 1 through 4--the mind is ready to absorb information.  Since children at this age actually find memorization fun, education involves not self-expression and self-discovery, but rather, learning facts:  rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, …vocabulary…the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics—the list goes on.  This information makes up the “grammar” for the second stage of education.

A classical education assumes that knowledge of the world past and present takes priority over self-expression.  Intensive study of facts equips the student for fluent and articulate self-expression later on.  Too close a focus on self-expression at an early age can actually cripple a child later on.  A student who has always been encouraged to look inside himself may not develop a frame of reference, a sense of how his ideas measure up against the thoughts and beliefs of others.

So the key to the first stage of the trivium (K-4) is content, content, content.[6]

 “Basic processes need to be made unconscious and automatic as early as possible in order to free the mind for critical thinking and problem solving…the human mind has a limited sphere of mental activity “short-term memory” or “working memory.”  This refers to the absolute amount of time that items can be functionally active in the mind at one time.  The child has more room in conscious working memory to think critically and creatively about comprehension and problem solving.”[7]

“The development of real-world language skill results then in functional masteries which are extremely complex in their interactions but which can be schematized for convenience into three aspects:  1. Mastery of the continually repeated formal elements of language to the point of automaticity, 2. The gaining of a content-rich knowledge base represented by particular word meanings and cultural conventions, and 3. The successful active deployment of these elements in comprehension and problem solving.  The same.pattern holds for penmanship and composition…so that level-one letter formation becomes sufficiently automatic so as not to interfere with the conscious deployment of written words to convey meaning.  Because of the limitations of working memory, the more these formal and foundational processes are automatic, the more effectively the comprehension, expression, and problem solving aspects of any intellectual skill can be deployed.  Higher-level skills critically depend upon the automatic mastery of repeated lower-level activities.”[8]  

“Studies converge on the conclusion that, once basic underlying skills have been automated, the almost universal feature of reliable higher-order thinking about any subject or problem is the possession of a broad, well-integrated base of background knowledge relevant to the subject. [9]

“Teaching higher order thinking skills without the total mastery of lower level skills and the acquisition of specific background knowledge is totally misleading.  In fact, it is backwards.”[10]

Age-appropriate standards match children’s mental development

Standards that are “developmentally appropriate” are written with an understanding of how children’s minds mature, so that the content and material presented correspond to the appropriate stage of mental development.  “Age- appropriate” standards adhere to a sequencing that advances a child’s academic progress. 

Understanding how children’s minds develop and then matching how the teacher presents the information to them, based on their stage of development, provides for “developmentally appropriate” standards.  Research in cognitive science proves that there are stark differences in the learning abilities of children age 5 (Kindergarten) and age 8 (Grade 3) and even more so when the child turns 11 (Grade 5).  In fact, their brains continue to develop and change until adulthood.

The famous child psychologist Jean Piaget determined that those entering school in Kindergarten were on the verge of entering into the Concrete-operational Phase, where their minds best understand things with concrete examples.  What distinguishes this phase from the next, which begins around age 11 or 12, is that they can't yet think abstractly.[11]  (Emphasis added.)

“By fifth grade, a child’s mind begins to think more analytically.  The second phase of the classical education, the logic stage, is a time when the child begins to pay attention to cause and effect, to the relationships among different fields of knowledge, to the way facts fit together into a logical framework.

“A student is ready for the logic stage when the capacity for abstract thought begins to mature.  During these years, the student learns algebra and logic, and begins to apply logic to all academic subjects.  The logic of writing, …includes paragraph construction and support of a thesis; the logic of reading involves the criticism and analysis of texts;…the logic of history demands that the student find out why the War of 1812 was fought...the logic of science requires the child to learn the scientific method.[12]  

The whole structure of the trivium recognizes that there is an ideal time and place for each part of learning:  memorization, argumentation, and self-expression.  The elementary years are ideal for soaking up knowledge.[13]

Inappropriate Standards Result in Negative Consequences

What happens to children when they are being taught developmentally inappropriate standards?

In speeches at Notre Dame and before the Ohio House Education Committee, child clinical psychologist Dr. Megan Koschnick explained that standards that young children are expected to meet, e.g., to “collaborate” “engage in multiple discussions,”  “express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly,” etc., might be appropriate for training a “global workforce,” but they are not appropriate learning standards for young children.  Dr. Koschnick warned:  “Kids who are subjected to inappropriate standards will be more stressed.  This is shown to be true in research.  This is just one of the research studies that have been done.  They looked at Kindergarteners in a developmentally-appropriate classroom, compared to one that wasn’t.  And in the one that wasn’t, kids were biting their nails, twirling their hair, doing some of these other things:  exhibiting tremors and tics, and looking nervous.[14]

Dr. Koschnick further explains that:

“Five and six year olds:

* Believe that other people see the world much the same as they do (ego-centrism)
* Cannot understand another’s perspective
* Cannot reflect upon their thinking
* Are Semi-logical
* Confuse reality and fantasy

Instead of proposing something that would be more aligned with a Kindergartener’s goal of exploring, being creative, demonstrating independence, the Common Core Standards writers suggested a social-emotional goal of being dependent on other people. 

Children are also going to get frustrated, because the child is internally motivated to be independent, and you’re asking them to be dependent on other people

The results of developmentally inappropriate standards are:

* Loss of creativity
* Frustration
* Possible conflict

* Lots of tears”[15] 

How do developmentally inappropriate standards affect the classroom?

Inappropriate standards are going to affect the classroom as a whole, “because the curriculum is going to include lessons and strategies that aren’t appropriate, and the teachers are going to have to go over and over and over them to nail those down.  It’s going to leave less time for grade-appropriate materials, and no time for repetition of those. Teachers are going to perceive typically developing children as “delayed” parents may be informed that their children are behind, and kids are going to get measured against inappropriate standards and might be held back or tracked into remedial classes that they don’t really need.”[16]

Therefore, standards that are not developmentally appropriate force the curriculum to include strategies and lessons that aren’t understandable to students.  When this happens, teachers must spend an excessive amount of time trying to teach a concept that children aren’t capable of mastering, thus crowding out grade-level, appropriate materials that would truly advance the child’s progress.  This effort creates frustration on the part of the teacher.  This frustration, in part, explains the exodus of teachers in Arizona.  Another unintended consequence in the classroom is a lack of qualified teachers.

The proposed 2016 Arizona Draft ELA Standards fail to give careful consideration for what is “developmentally appropriate.”   The negative consequences to children, by implementing these standards, compel us as concerned citizens to not accept the proposed Arizona Draft ELA Standards and to eliminate the current standards (which are basically the same).

The lack of input by child development experts during the review of the Arizona Standards[17] is obvious in the approach the writers chose to determine the standards.  Instead of considering what is “developmentally appropriate” for each grade, the proposed standards backtracks the end goals of college and career readiness down to the Kindergarten level.  The set of skills and expectations that define a “college and career ready” high school graduate, such as critical thinking, begin in Kindergarten.

The current and proposed AZ Standards, which are still Common Core standards, fail to honor the widely held understanding of childhood development and require children who are in the middle of the concrete operation period to explain, justify, and apply principles that are abstract in nature.

As Mary Calamia, clinical social worker in New York State, who has provided psychotherapy services to parents, teachers, and students from all socio-economic backgrounds since 1995, explains, “We cannot regulate biology. Young children are simply not wired to engage in the type of critical thinking that the Common Core calls for. That would require a fully developed prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is not fully functional until early adulthood. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for critical thinking, rational decision-making, and abstract thinking—all things the Common Core demands prematurely.”[18]

Writing of the standards

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the premier ELA standards authority in the United States[19] and a member of the Common Core Validation Committee, has stated that the Common Core standards are “murky, badly written standards” with multiple activities written into one standard.[20]  

The proposed and current AZ ELA standards suffer from this defect. Early childhood educators and child development experts were not involved in the development of the standards.  AZ has repeated that mistake with the current revisions.

Click on the Grade Level below to read the corresponding Draft Standards.

Kindergarten

The following standards should not be used for one or more of the following reasons:

* Considered developmentally inappropriate,

* Have multiple standards within a standard,

* Are unclear

* Teach “all-purpose tools” vs needed content 

K.RL.1-4, 6-10

K.RI.1-5, 6 (name the author and illustrator only), 7-10

K.RF.2e, 4

K.W.1-8

K.WF. 2c, 3e

K.SL.1, 2 (remove “through other media”), 3-5

K.L.1b, d, e, 4-6

First Grade

The following standards should not be used for one or more of the following reasons:

* Considered developmentally inappropriate,

* Have multiple standards within a standard,

* Are unclear

* Teach “all-purpose tools” vs needed content 

1.RL.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10

1.RI.1-10

1.RF.1 (capitalization of first word and ending punctuation is good), 2 (phonograms listed are inaccurate according to some phonics programs), 3 (remove a-f and let districts decide the phonics and word analysis program), 4 (read on level text orally is the only sentence that is appropriate),

1.W.1-8

1.L.1 (simplify to appropriate developmental stage), 4-6

1.WF.8 (simplify to 100 most often words in English), 9

Second Grade

The following standards should not be used for one or more of the following reasons:

* Considered developmentally inappropriate,

* Have multiple standards within a standard,

* Are unclear

* Teach “all-purpose tools” vs needed content 

2.RL.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10

2.RI.1-10

2.RF.4 (only read on level text orally with accuracy is appropriate)

2.W.1-8

2.SL.1-6

2.L.1 (remove assistance), 2 (remove e), 3-6

2.WF.2,7 (remove a and b-state only 200 most common words in English)          

Third Grade

The following standards should not be used for one or more of the following reasons:

* Considered developmentally inappropriate,

* Have multiple standards within a standard,

* Are unclear

* Teach “all-purpose tools” vs needed content 

3.RL.1,2,3,4,5,7,9,10

3.RI.1-10

3.RF.3 (d is unclear and dependent on what phonics program a school may use.) 4a (remove purpose and understanding) 4c (all purpose tool)

3.W.1-7 (only one project) 8,10

3.SL.1-6

3.L.1 (c-do not think abstractly, g is wordy and unclear), 2 (f-very successful reading programs do not use the listed patterns and generalizations, so remove the examples), 3-6

Fourth Grade

The following standards should not be used for one or more of the following reasons:

* Considered developmentally inappropriate,

* Have multiple standards within a standard,

* Are unclear

* Teach “all-purpose tools” vs needed content 

4.RL.1-7,9,10

4.RI.1, 2 (remove summarize the text) 3-10

4.RF.4a. (remove purpose and understanding), 4c

4.W.1-7 (only one project) 8,10

4.SL.1-5 (remove when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes), 6

4.L.1 (g-frequently confused words should read homonyms), 3, 4a, 6

4.WF. 4, 5

Fifth Grade

The following standards should not be used for one or more of the following reasons:

* Considered developmentally inappropriate,

* Have multiple standards within a standard,

* Are unclear

* Teach “all-purpose tools” vs needed content 

5.RL.1,2.5,7,9 (remove on their approaches to similar themes and topics),10 (Just state read and comprehend literature appropriate to grade 5)

5.RI.1, 2 (remove summarize the text) 3-10 (Just state read and comprehend informational text appropriate to grade 5)

5.RF.4a. (remove purpose and understanding), 4c

5.W.1-4, 5 (just state writing through planning, revising, editing and rewriting), 7 (only one project) 8,10

5.SL.1-5 (remove when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes), 6

5.L.3a, 6

ELA standards addition

Please note that the coding below represents the Grade Level; the Type of standard; the Number associated with the standard.  Thus, 2.OP.2 is Second Grade; Oral Presentation; Standard #2. 

2: Oral Presentation

2.OP.2  Orally recite poems, facing the audience and speaking clearly, with adequate volume and keeping eye contact with the audience.

3.OP.2  Orally recite poems, famous speeches or founding documents, facing the audience and speaking clearly, with adequate volume and keeping eye contact with the audience.

4.OP.2  Orally recite poems, famous speeches or founding documents, facing the audience and speaking clearly, with adequate volume and keeping eye contact with the audience.

5.OP.2  Orally recite poems, famous speeches or founding documents, facing the audience and speaking clearly, with adequate volume and keeping eye contact with the audience.

6.OP.2  Orally recite poems, famous speeches or founding documents, facing the audience and speaking clearly, with adequate volume and keeping eye contact with the audience.

7.OP.2  Orally recite poems, famous speeches or founding documents, facing the audience and speaking clearly, with adequate volume and keeping eye contact with the audience.

8.OP.3  Orally recite poems, famous speeches or founding documents, facing the audience and speaking clearly, with adequate volume and keeping eye contact with the audience.

9.OP.2  Orally present recitations such as sonnets and soliloquies from Shakespeare and other famous literary works, facing the audience and speaking clearly.

10.OP.2  Select and orally present a well-known speech from the “Golden Age” of American oratory, facing the audience and speaking clearly.

14:  Persuasive writing

5.WP.2  Present a brief analysis of a text, film, or video, using appropriate gestures, vocabulary, pacing, and evidence from the text, film, or video.

7.WP.2  Orally explain the logic or lack of logic in a persuasive argument about a local issue in a local newspaper, supplying evidence from the text and using appropriate techniques of delivery for effect.

9.WP.2  Know all basic fallacies.  For example:  red herring, ad hominem attack, straw man, circular reasoning, etc.

9.WP.3  Analyze a recorded, filmed, or videotaped speech (and transcript, if available) to determine how the speaker organized the speech, reinforced main points, and used details, examples, particular vocabulary, pacing, repetition, and vocal expression to keep the audience's attention and present a convincing position.

10.WP.3  Identify and perform the basics of debate including  parliamentary procedures, grammar, diction  For example: Robert Rules of Order and Simplified Rules of Order

10.WP.4  Analyze the rhetorical features of well-known speeches from the "Golden Age" of American oratory (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, Frederick Douglass, Henry Clay, Edward Everett, William Jennings Bryan)  Oral presentation will also include debate performance.

11.WP.3  Apply principles of debate and logic

12.WP.3  Apply principles of debate and logic

Suggested logic, rhetoric and debate texts: 1) Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning, 2) The Art of Argument has a good break down of fallacies.  The book has 28 fallacies divided into three categories: Fallacies of Relevance, Fallacies of Presumption, and Fallacies of Clarity.  Relevance includes ad fontem (ad hominem abusive, ad hominem circumstantial, tu quoque, and genetic fallacy), appeals to emotion, red herrings.  Fallacies of Presumption includes begging the question, false dilemma, moderation, composition, division, is-ought fallacy, fallacies of induction (sweeping generalizations, hasty generalization, false analogy, false cause, fake recision).  Fallacies of Clarity includes equivocation, accent, and distinction without a difference.  3) Hillsdale  Rhetorical Tradition:  Readings from Classical Times to the Present  (Bizzell and Hertzberg), 4) Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times (George Kennedy); 5)  Rule Book for Arguments (Anthony Weston); 6)  The Art and Practice of Argumentation and Debate (Bill Hill).

Bibliography

Note:  It is important to utilize the original version and not the revised works.  Many revised editions contain revisions that substantially undermine the literature’s pedagogical value.

Religious Literature:  Add New Testament, Torah, Proverbs, Psalms

Essayists:  Montesquieu, Bastiat, John Locke, George Orwell

Major Writers early to mid-1900s:  G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis (British)

World Literature Grades 5-8:  Ray Bradbury, Anne of Green Gables

Grades 9-12: Robert Heinlein, Miracle of Philadelphia (Catherine Drinker Bowen)

References

[1] The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them.  E. D. Hirsch. Page 21. 

[2] Ibid.  Page 30.

[3] Ibid.  Page 30. 

[4] Ibid.  Page 68

[5] Ibid.  Page 89

[6] The Well Trained Mind.  Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, p. 53.  

[7] The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, E.D. Hirsch p.150. 

[8] Ibid. Page 150

[9] Ibid. Page 152

[10] Ibid. Page 156

[11] Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development.  

[12] The Well Trained Mind.  Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, pp. 43, 44.  

[13] Ibid. Page 44.

[14] Dr. Megan Koschnick presents on Common Core at APP Conference

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Common Core State Standards Development Work Group and Feedback Group Announced

[18] Statement for New York State Assembly Education Forum Brentwood, New York October 10, 2013.  Mary Calamia, LCSW, CASAC.   

[19] Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D.     

[20] Flaws in Common Core’s English Language Arts and Literacy Standards Presented at National Principals Leadership Institute (NPLI) Sandra Stotsky 

See Also

An English Language Arts Curriculum Framework for American Public Schools: A Model

Recommended Modifications to 2016 AZ Draft English/Language Arts Standards: Richard W Hawkins

Developmentally Inappropriate Standards for K-3 Should be Removed