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Engaging Common Core: Producing and Distributing Writing

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Following is a post (sixth in a series on breaking down the Common Core ) from guest blogger Susan Weston, a Kentucky education consultant who often works with the Prichard Committee:

In my ongoing sales pitch for engaging the public directly with Common Core's specific wording, here's a little thought on three more Standards.

Writing Standards 4, 5, and 6 target two familiar classics of learning to write effectively and then add one modern twist that will be classic soon:

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

At first glance, these might seem very close to the "three R's" or "back to the basics."

It's bigger than that. Remember No Child Left Behind has focused on reading and math alone. To commit to Common Core, a state has to value writing more deeply than that, and to test Common Core, a state has to use more than multiple-choice assessment.

And then, zoom in on Standard 4's concern for purpose and audience. Imagine that the audience is a set of colleagues with a major work project to complete or that the purpose is to convince one's fellow citizens to vote up or down on an important referendum. Common Core is framed to make writing a practical tool that will serve students well in multiple phases of adult life. Much as I love fiction and poetry and drama, I have to say the most important thrust of Common Core writing is more utilitarian than artistic.

To be frank, creative expression and personal narrative are definitely not the primary focus in the writing valued here. Some parents and citizens may think the pendulum needs to swing back the other way a bit. Others may think the work-a-day practicality of Common Core is the right focus for most work students do school and most preparation they need for adult success.

That's a sound subject for public debate--debate about the actual substance of Common Core and the actual needs of the students who will soon join us our communities and our workplaces as neighbors and colleagues. To me, that's where the Common Core discussion belongs: focused on the specifics of how to equip the next generation to create their individual futures and contribute to the future we will share together.

You can download the complete Common Core State Standards here . They were developed by organizations of governors and chief state school officers like Kentucky's Commissioner of Education, and they've been adopted by 47 states (46 for the mathematics Standards).

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