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Engaging Common Core: Writing to Build and Share Knowledge

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Following is a post (seventh and final post 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.   Thanks go out to Susan for her work on this series.

Wrapping up my about direct engagement with Common Core Writing, here are the remaining Anchor Standards:

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Ultimately, writing is a skill for adult life, growing steadily more important in an information age. These last Common Core writing Standards calls for writing to become a reliable, flexible habit for all students by the time they complete high school, so that they are ready for college and career success.

On the public engagement agenda, I think the crucial case for sharing these words early and often is clear. When you are looking directly at these expectations. I don't know what argument there can be. Students shouldn't research? They shouldn't support their thinking with evidence? They shouldn't learn to think carefully about the soundness of sources they find on the Internet? They shouldn't write often and well?

Most of the current Common Core objections are absurdly divorced from what the Standards actually say.

One set of critics thinks the constitutional balance is endangered by the federal incentives to focus on college and career readiness. There is a federalism issue to be considered, but suppose the federal government abandoned education completely. I think the Standards above would still be sound expectations for students who finish high school and need to be ready for college and career.

Another set is deeply about excessive testing and unsound use of test results. Again, misuse of assessment is a concern worthy of attention, but what if all assessments and all accountability regimes vanished overnight? I think the Standards above would be sound then, too.

Of course, in a real discussion of the real substance of Common Core, my fellow citizens may indeed find some genuine weaknesses that I, too, will want to address. They may spot points where Common Core leaves out things students really should know and be able to do, or point out how aspects of Common Core ask for more than students can reasonably be expected to achieve.

The thing is, that kind of meaningful critique, will not happen until the discussion is actually about the specifics of Common Core. So, once again, I submit that getting to the specifics, sharing the actual language of the Standards now in use in most states, is one of the most important moves available in today's efforts to engage the public in the work of strengthening our schools and students.

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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