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Putting Common Standards to Work in an Election Year

We wrote recently of the slow pace at which many districts are putting the common standards into practice in classrooms. The divided pie charts in that report were what caught our attention; while slim majorities of districts were moving ahead, large minorities hadn't moved past the timeline-and-planning stage.

In that light, it was refreshing to come across this blog post by a New York City teacher. Hilary Lustick, who teaches at the Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School in Brooklyn, notes the common standards' emphasis on helping students learn to craft strong arguments, backed up by evidence from the text. Watching a recent debate among contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Lustick saw an opportunity: she could use that political theater—and rhetoric from President Barack Obama, as well—to help her students pick apart political arguments.

This kind of connection touches on the multiple literacies laid out in the new standards, including, as you might recall, speaking and listening, and literacies specific to disciplines such as science and social studies.

Lustick sees opportunity in the demand that she teach differently. What would happen, she asks, "if students at the top of their game in the Common Core Standards scratch beneath these simple layers of facts? Perhaps, over time, a new set of standards can truly create a more critical voter population. Perhaps it will produce people more of us want to vote for."

She's beginning the new school year, she says, "with a little more confidence in the value of my curriculum. If my students can distinguish facts from opinions, if they can build their own arguments based on hard evidence and refute those whose evidence is inappropriate to its thesis, they will be ahead of several presidential candidates."

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