First Graders, Unite!

Common Core: Asking First Graders To Extract and Employ Evidence About Producers and Consumers 

New York City puts first graders at risk, and children in your community will be next. 

Have you ever been in a revival meeting? Well you’re in one now.’

–Nina Simone, “Children Go Where I Send Thee”

by Susan Ohanian
On Wednesday, December 04, 2013, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for READYGEN by Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458. The USPTO has given the READYGEN trademark serial number of 86134676.

Looking inside the covers of the ReadyGEN first grade curriculum gives one a glimpse of the Common Core Revival Meeting based on corporate faith-based imperatives. It should cause:

a) anger
b) tears
c) increase in homeschooling
d) application for relocation to Finland

let’s remember that Pearson is responding to the national call funded by Bill Gates and promoted by these acolytes:

Mission Statement

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

National Governors Association (the Collective Voice of the Nation’s Governors)Council of Chief State School Officers (Committed to the success of every child)


New York, the most populous city in the US, also has the largest school system. A tourism site offers “2,618 things to do in New York,” but hapless public school students are locked into doing just what Pearson says.  For background on how this happened, and a look at the key players, there’s lots of information provided at the end of this piece. Let’s take a look at what this means for first graders.

Den of Thieves: Plenty of Praise for Pearson (See notes at end): The [New York City]Department of Education believes that the selected programs represent the highest-quality Common Core-aligned curriculum materials currently available. They include brand new curriculum materials and materials that are being updated to fully reflect the shifts required by the Common Core standards.–New York City Department of Education

“New York City is paving the way for other major city school systems across the country by adhering to a rigorous and transparent process for procuring new instructional materials in a way that will ensure publishers deliver the texts we need and teachers realize the full promise of the Common Core State Standards,” said Mike Casserly, Executive Director of the Council For Great City Schools.”

Student Achievement Partners applauds the fact that New York City has put the Common Core State Standards Publishers’ Criteria at the center of their instructional materials selection process, and commends their ongoing work to provide students and teachers with materials that are aligned with the shifts required by the Common Core,” said Susan Pimental, Founding Principal of Student Achievement Partners and one of the authors of the Common Core standards.

So what are these folk so excited about?
Here’s the text based vocabulary first graders need to learn in their first unit of study:

cash register

Call me old-fashioned but here are a few of my favorite words from good books for first graders:Blah! (Frog and Toad are Friends, Arnold Lobel)biggest, reddest dog (Clifford, Norman Bridwell)OUCH! (Mouse Tales, Arnold Lobel)dinosaurs If the Dinosaurs Came Back, Bernard Most)Pooh-pooh! (Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans)”Don’t eat her.” (Little Beauty, Anthony Browne)Howdy! (Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Kevin Henkes)Could be worse (“Could Be Worse!” James Stevenson)gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days (Frederick, Leo Lionni)Hey, can I drive the bus? (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Mo Willems)

And so on and so on. Once I embark on such a list, I find it very difficult to stop. Hundreds more could be added.

Meanwhile, the Common Core imperative for what students are expected to learn. . . [so] our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy offers this:
Pearson ReadyGEN Lesson 1 Reading Focus

Readers understand that the details in the text
support the author’s main points.

Lesson 2 Reading Focus: Learners will understand that people make decisions about how to spend what they earn

Lesson 3 Reading Focus: Learners will understand that facts and details support main ideas.

This all comes from text about produce and consume, produce and consume.

After reading the Pearson text over and over, students choose one of the following texts and form discussion groups, called Text Clubs:

  • Market Day: A Story Told With Folk Art
    by Lois Ehlert
    Literary Text
    Lexile 50L
  • Needs and Wants by Gilla Olson
    Informational Text
    Lexile 280L
  • Do I Need it or Want It?: Making Budget Choices by Jennifer Larson
    Informational Text
    Lexile 510L
  • Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells
    Literary Text
    Lexile 540L

Plenty of us have known from the get-go that the Common Core is about training kids to be passive and obedient; convincing them they’re not good enough and that any failures their parents have in finding living wage jobs is their fault, not the fault of our system. As much as anyone, I want students to learn that the “More! More! More!” consumerism on which our society is based is destructive. But these first grde lessons on economics are certainly not the way to start–particularly for children whose families are very short on goods in the first place.

Here’s what ReadyGEN tells the teacher to do with these books:
Have children create a visual for an informational book, showing the main points and supporting details of the book.Have children use sticky notes to mark the main points in an independent reading book.Have children list the headings from an informational book they read during independent reading time. They write the main point and a few details under each heading.

And next:

Research and Technology Center: Have children research a particular food:
where it comes from, how it can be prepared,
and so on.Have children find out some basic nutrition
information, from books or the school nurse,
and prepare a poster on guidelines for a
healthy meal.Have children create a For Sale poster
advertising a real or fictional item they would
like to sell. Have them use photos, online
images, or an app, if available.

Remember: These children are six years old. At any age: How to kill a book? Smother it in projects.

For teacher imperatives, I suggest “have a kitten” –or “have a cow”–instead “have children,” an imperative I find exceedingly offensive. A teacher might ask a kid; she doesn’t have a kid.

That’s just the overview.

Here’s Lesson 2 in Goods and Services, using that Common Core buzzword Close Reading. For the teacher and children who find themselves at sea, the Pearson script provides not only what teacher is to say but also correct answers (which I put in parenthesis. Pearson uses a different color ink.)

During guided close reading, revisit key points from the entire text. For unfamiliar words, follow the Close reading Vocabulary routine

Use the following questions to lead the discussion.The title of this text selection is Goods and Services. What are goods and services? (They are things people buy and sell.)What do people use to buy goods and services?(They use money.)

Where do people get the money? (They earn it by doing jobs or selling goods.)Producers make and sell goods and services. Look at p. 12. What goods do the men produce? (They produce (grow) fruit and vegetables.) Look at p. 13. What service does the boy produce? (He delivers newspapers.Consumers buy and use goods and services. Find some pictures of people consuming, or buying, in the selection. (Let children point to illustrations.)How are producers and consumers connected? (Producers need consumers to buy their goods and services. Consumers need goods and services to buy, so they need the producers to make them.)

The money that people earn is called income. Look at p.16. What is the woman using her income for? (She is using it to buy meat.)
Look at p. 19. The boy behind the table is earning income. What is he doing to earn income? (He is selling his old toys.)Now turn to p. 20. This is the same boy who had a yard sale on p. 19.

Read the page aloud.

What does Joe do with the money he earned?(He saves some for camp, he uses some to buy school supplies, and he uses what’s left to buy a book.)What is the author’s main point in the text?
(People buy and sell goods and services.)
How does the author use details to support her main idea? (She gives examples of goods and services that people buy and sell. She shows pictures of people buying and selling.
NOTE: Pearson labels this
Integration of Knowledge and ideas.

Scaffolded instruction for small group
Reading Analysis
Turn to pp. 18–19 with children and guide them to understand what is happening in the photograph. Explain that Joe, the boy behind the table, is selling his old toys. He is the producer–he is providing goods for other people to buy. The other boy is buying some of Joe’s toys. He is giving Joe money and taking some of Joe’s goods, the toys. He is the consumer.

Help children think of another scenario they could draw that shows one person selling goods and another person buying the goods. You might
suggest a lemonade stand, a grocery store, a bake sale, a bookstore, etc.

When children have drawn their picture, help them label the producer, the consumer, and the goods

And on and on and on and on and on and on and on–about producers and consumers for six-year-olds. If you aren’t offended by the very idea of teaching this crap to any 6-year-old, never mind 6-year-olds in New York City, then what would it take?Anyone who buys and uses goods and services is a consumer.Consumers choose what goods and services they buy. Jenna is a consumer. She uses her money to buy a new bike.

Don’t forget grammar.
Teach and Model Explain to children that sometimes we use pronouns that do not take the place of a specific noun. Pronouns like anyone,everybody, some, or all are indefinite pronouns.

Apply Ask children to use one of these indefinite pronouns in their independent writing everybody, anyone, all, some.

For extra practice, have children do the Lesson 1 activity on p. 157 of their Reader’s and Writer’s Journal.

For Independent (sic) Writing Practice children are directed to write sentences that tell what the text is about. Have children share their retellings. Ask them to point out the indefinite pronoun they used.

There are 17 states in which at least half of public school students live in poverty. In many New York City schools this figure is over 95%. But, never mind, Consumers choose what goods and services they buy and Jenna uses her money to buy a new bike.


I admit that the term scaffolding is one bit of educationese flotsam that I dislike, but with Pearson it seems to sink to a new low, offering fill-in-the blank instruction for students with special needs.
Scaffolded Instruction
Provide sentence frames for children to complete for their retelling:
This text is about ___. Goods are ____.
Services are ___. ___ uses goods and
services. People who make and sell goods
are ___. People who use goods are ___

I get it that this is Pearson delivering what Bill Gates and nation’s governors want, but doesn’t this seem over the top in preparing young children for the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie?”

What will it take for a Revolution? If you don’t like Marx and Engels on the inevitability of the crash of the existing social order, then try Carlyle’s doomsday message.

Or for a lighter indictment of capitalism, try Charles Dickens. Not just Oliver saying, “Please, sir, I want some more,” but the Ghost of Christmas past who appears to Scrooge perched on a “kind of throne” with heaps of
turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfthcakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.”

Dickens uses “radiant” grocers, poulterers, and fruit and vegetable dealers inviting Londoners into their shops to inspect “luscious pageants” of food and drink as an indictment, not a celebration.

My father, a Republican, read this tale aloud every Christmas Eve.

First graders of the nation, unite!

Background info on the people who wrought this horror.

Message to New York City teachers #1

1900 East Lake Avenue
Glenview, Illinois 60025

May 22, 2013

Dear New York City Educator,

The Pearson School English Language Arts Curriculum team is honoured (sic) to be partnering with the New York City Department of Education to develop Ready GEN. ReadyGEN is being designed from the ground up to address the ELA Common Core Standards, the Publisher’s Criteria and the City’s specific requirements.

To provide you with more insight into the availability of classroom materials for the 2013-2014 school year, we have developed the enclosed schedule. [Please note the primary student resources–text set trade books and novels–are not included as they are being supplied by companies other than Pearson.]

In an effort to ensure timely access to instructional resources for planning and implementation, Pearson will initially be delivering materials in a format that is less than final (e.g. covers, binding). This will give New York City teachers the opportunity to provide feedback on the instructional support which will be collected from September through December 2013. We will incorporate that feedback in advance of delivering in May 2014 brand new Teacher’s Guides and Scaffolded Strategies Handbooks for each ReadyGEN teacher.

To help ensure the successful implementation of ReadyGEN, Pearson along with the NYC DOE have developed a comprehensive learning pathway for all teachers implementing ReadyGEN. The professional development plan for ReadyGEN is designed to provide teachers with the ability to leverage Ready GEN curricula resources to affect instructional change in the classroom.

  • engages students with complex text and its academic language through the use of units of study designed around text sets at each grade level
  • asks students to extract and employ evidence from text, and use text sets to understand evidence within and across texts to support writing to sources
  • builds content knowledge through theme based units of study that balance literary and informational text
  • exposes students to narrative, informative, and opinion/argument writing so that they can successfullly cite evidence in all genres through Writing Workshop
We are privileged to have this opportunity to collaborate with the great city of New York, and look forward to working with you to set your students on the path to reading success.


The Pearson ReadyGEN Team

Message to New York City teachers #2
Greetings, fellow teachers!

I am very excited for you as you launch ReadyGEN in your classroom. Of all the interesting components represented in ReadyGEN, text-based approaches to comprehension are the ones that I am optimistic will bring a revitalized approach to reading instruction to your classroom. Based on the Common Core State Standards, we have designed instructional practices that will guide your students to more effective use of close reading of texts which in turn will lead them to a deeper understanding of text meaning, author’s intent, perspective, and related comprehension goals. I am interested in how your students advance through oral, written, and listening skills as you use ReadyGEN to scaffold their learning. I encourage you to enjoy the leap forward with your students as they progress in reading skills and understandings with ReadyGEN.

Sharon Vaughn
University of Texas\
Ohanian Reminder:
    •  The Texas Reading Initiative under then-Gov. George W. Bush became a model for Mr. Bush’s federal reading program once he became president. In 2003, Sharon Vaughn, Edward J. Kame’enui, and Joseph Torgesen were named directors of Reading First’s three regional technical-assistance centers. Vaughn was on the design team for Voyager, along with Kame’enui, Torgesen, and Roland H. Good III. In New York City, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein spent $31 million to implement their Voyager reading program in the city’s low-performing schools. In 2005, G. Reid Lyon, who was the chief of the NICHD’s reading-research branch and a key adviser to President Bush, former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, and Mike Moses, who was commissioner of education in Texas went to work for the teacher education part of Voyager.
    • May 9, 2007: In a report released by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee detailing the financial ties of the former directors three regional technical-assistance centers that provided advice to states on meeting Reading First’s strict guidelines, Sharon Vaughn was one of four named.
    • But this mini-scandal has in no way harmed Vaughn’s standing in the education community. Her recent Research Projects and Grants include:
Understanding Malleable Cognitive Processes and Integrated Comprehension Interventions for Grades 7–12, Institute of Education Sciences*
Texas Center for Learning Disabilities, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development*
Special Education Research and Development Center on School-Based Interventions for Secondary Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2012–2014, $8,000,000*
Scale-Up Evaluation of Reading Intervention for First-Grade English Learners, Institute of Education Sciences, 2011–2016, $1,470,182*
Postdoctoral Fellowship on Reading Disabilities and Response to Intervention, Institute of Education Sciences*

* Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk projects, where Vaughn is executive director.

Vaughn is a Fellow at the George W. Bush Institute, which is listed as a partner of the Meadows Center. She leads the Pact project (Promoting Adolescents’ Comprehension of Text), funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), a part of the US Department of Education which “reflects the intent of the President and Congress to advance the field of education research.”
July 2010-June 2015

Put Sharon Vaughn into a ‘search’ at IES, and you will see lots of grant descriptions. In 2010, under Vaughn’s leadership the Meadows Center secured the largest grant the College of Education has ever received — $20 million from the Institute of Education Sciences — and what is thought to be the largest grant ever awarded to any college or school of education. [This information comes from College of Education University of Texas at Austin]

In education research, a little scandal doesn’t seem to hurt.
    • And by the way, Vaughn is author of Pearson’s Mountain Reading; Scott Foresman My Sidewalks on Reading Street; presenter in Pearson Get Ready to Go Webinar Series “Tips and Strategies for Implementing the English Language Arts Common Core into Classrooms”; author 

Teaching Students Who are Exceptional, Diverse, and at Risk in the General Education Classroom: International Edition, publisher: Pearson; The American Experience (Prentice Hall Literature) Penguin Edition Grade 11. And so on and so on.

Others offering enthusiastic endorsement of ReadyGEN include (in order of appearance): 

Pam Allyn, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, and P. David Pearson

    • This is called rallying the people already in the employ of Pearson to shout out praise for Pearson products:

Be Core Ready: Powerful, Effective Steps to Implementing and Achieving the Common Core State Standards by Pam Allyn. Publisher: Pearson

The Common Core State Standards are a Bill of Rights for all children.”–Pam Allyn

Elfrieda H. Hiebert is author of Pearson’s QuickReads Professional Development and participates in Pearson Common Core webinars.

P. David Pearson is an author of Pearson’s Reading Street Common Core 2013

Susan Ohanian
March 07, 2014


It’s Third and Five and What On Earth Should a 12-Year-Old Do?
by Susan Ohanian

Recently, I heard from a New York City friend, an experienced teacher who has been longterm subbing in 7th grade English Language Arts, where the New York City Department of Education-approved Code X, Course II is the text. (More about the new York City Department of Education approval below.)

When my friend arrived, the 12-year-olds had already been “struggling for more than a week with this New Yorker piece–even though it barely runs three pages with graphics. This is what they mean by a text that is complex enough for 12-year olds.”

Three pages with graphics: 533 words. About as long as a newspaper editorial.

By the way, this same essay appears in Scholastic 180, billed as Stretch 2 Reading is a collection of grade-level complex, nonfiction texts for READ 180 Next Generation. We’re told that in this essay readers learn what it sometimes takes to succeed.

Oct. 12, 2010

What Could Be Better Than a Touchdown?

By Kelefa Sanneh

It’s third and five, with less than two minutes left in the game. The Minnesota Vikings have the ball at their own twenty-one yard line, down by two, with no time-outs. Brett Favre rolls out to his right and throws to his tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe. But one of the New York Jets safeties, Dwight Lowery, has been watching the play unfold. He breaks toward the ball, intercepts it, and dashes twenty-six yards into the end zone. Touchdown!

And also, perhaps, a mistake? There are a few situations in football where scoring an easy touchdown is the wrong thing to do. Might this have been one of them?

As it happened, Jets fans had nothing to worry about. Nick Folk kicked the extra point, putting the Jets ahead by nine. After a modest kickoff return, the Vikings got the ball at their own twenty-three yard line with a minute and a half left; after a pair of completed passes and a smattering of incomplete ones, the game was over.

But if Folk had missed the extra point, then the Jets would have been ahead by only eight points, and the Vikings would have been able to tie the game with a touchdown drive and a two-point conversion. (Unlikely, but certainly not impossible.) If the Vikings had scored a quick touchdown–on the kickoff return, say, or on a bomb to Randy Moss–then they would have been able to try an onside kick, giving them a small but real chance of getting the ball back. And, of course, if Lowery had fumbled during his interception return, then Favre and the Vikings offense would have got the ball back immediately, still down by only two.

On the other hand, if Lowery had forsworn the end zone and dropped to one knee as soon as he caught Favre’s pass, the game would have been over: the Jets could have run out the clock with three pro-forma snaps.

Within minutes, Jets fans were debating Lowery’s touchdown at, in a chat thread called, “Dwight Lowery–TAKE A KNEE!” One argued that the risk of fumbling was low–“there were no Vikings in the area.” (But then, aren’t fumbles often caused by the player you don’t see?) Another said, “Dude, you’re arguing scenarios that have less than a 1% chance of happening.” (It’s true that Folk had never, in a hundred and forty-three attempts, missed an extra point. But what about a botched snap?) There was a sentimental argument: “Let the kid have his moment.” And, more convincing, a financial one: “Gotta cover the Jets spread I bet on!!!” (Many oddsmakers had the Jets favored by four.) But how do you calculate the odds of a Jets defender getting injured on a Vikings drive that never would have happened if Lowery had refused to score? The debate was still roiling the next day, and one commentator claimed to have the latest update, straight from Rex Ryan, the Jets head coach: “rex just said ‘no biggie’ (paraphrasing). he said, once you go up 2 scores, it’s over. edit: he also said you guys are nerds.” It’s probably impossible to contest the first part without confirming the second part.

What?! Of course the football jargon makes this text impossible for anyone who doesn’t know the game. My husband, Ph.D. physics, couldn’t decipher the first sentence. My teacher friend reports that “One of the teachers had made a display on a green football-field background at the front of the room to help translate some of it.”

As hard as it is to imagine, Scholastic’s  Code X book presented this writing as a persuasive essay. My friend notes, “I thought I could see from a quick read that the writer’s points were facetious and that his purpose was comical. However, when I mentioned this, several vocal students in the room protested.”

Students had already learned their Common Core lessons well. “Outside” knowledge didn’t matter. They were doing what they were supposed to do–analyzing the piece earnestly as though it were a model of good argument.

And not understanding it.

Another unit from the Scholastic Code X has an excerpt from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the E. B. White Essay “Here is New York,” and an excerpt from Azav Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran. The novel unit presents Tuck Everlasting and  Dear America by Joyce Hansen.

I found a teacher Power Point presentation on the New Yorker essay. It starts with the writer’s “hook,” instructing students to turn to page 89 in their Scholastic Code Xtext. Here’s a Florida teacher’s lesson plan based on this essay:

Continue with Code X Unit 2 Writing Performance Task
Objective: Practice a prewriting strategy by using a 3 box graphic organizer to synthesize information from “Why We Run” and “What Could Be Better Than a Touchdown?”
*students will identify the topic of the essay: mental vs. physical abilities in sports
*students will identify what the text says
* students will record what they are thinking about the topic
* students will make a claim based on details from the text
* students will acknowledge the opposing claim
* Continue with Code X Unit 2 Writing Performance Task
Objective: Use prewriting strategies
* students will build an argument using a graphic organizer that requires the identification of three arguments
in favor of their claim, counter arguments, and rebuttals.
In Georgia, apprently they think this is a story:
Monday, September 29
No homework today…prepare for a comprehension test on the story “What Could Be Better than a Touchdown?”
This teacher provides a link to the 

Parent Roadmaps to the Common Core Standards- English Language Arts

    •  prepared by the Council of Great City Schools, recipient of the following from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

2013 $2,000,000
Purpose: to help member school districts to align implementation of the Common Core State Standards with their reform efforts in teacher effectiveness and prepare for new PARCC and SBAC online assessments

2013 $614,954
Purpose: to develop benchmarking of instructional-related expenditures to enable strategic resource alignment in K-12

2011 $5,511,184
Purpose: to promote and coordinate successful implementation of the new common core standards in major urban public school systems nationwide

2010 $100,000
Purpose: to support the development of a cross-sector proposal to pilot test the new common core standards in a set of selected cities

2009 and earlier $3,735,866
Purpose: to improve student outcomes by understanding the gaps between standards and instruction in urban contexts and by leveraging student data to improve instruction and support
So you see how Gates money buys placement in a Georgia 7th grader’s homework assignment.

Another lesson plan directs the student to explicate the text, following these rules:

Essay Writing DO NOT-S! Phrases NOT to include in your essay
Introduction phrases to avoid:
*In this essay I will tell you…
*In this essay I will show you/ explain/write about
*In this essay you will read about…
Showing thorough indoctrination with Common Core impresario David Coleman’s “don’t give a shit” credo, this teacher instructs students:
Take the “I out of your writing:
* I think…
* I feel…
* I believe…
* In my opinion…
This might be funny if it weren’t so sad. Such instructions should be hidden in a barrel. Instead, they are put up online. The real question is how on earth most 12-year-olds can be expected to do a Close Reading of the New Yorke text–and what do they do with such a reading?
Someone made a Jeopardy game, assigning points to correct answers about the text.
Flashcards are available.
There is no end to the effort teachers will make to follow orders.

I tried to buy a copy of a teacher’s edition of the Common Core-aligned Scholastic texts used in Grades 7-8. Nobody answered my request. But here’s the sales pitch for the text that is “designed to engage students in Close Reading and daily writing about complex nonfiction and contemporary literature”:

A New Comprehensive English Language Arts Curriculum for Grades 6-8

Common Core Code X is the first new, authentic English Language Arts Curriculum that challenges students to read, think, analyze, question, cite evidence, debate, and write every day. Code X was built specifically to address the rigorous demands of the Common Core State Standards and to ensure students become deep readers and measured writers who can translate these skills into success on the Next Generation Assessments.

Scholastic provides a link to the New York City Department of Education website, where there’s an announcement from New York Chancellor Walcott:

Chancellor Walcott Announces New Curriculum Selected For City Schools To Prepare Students For More Rigorous State Standards


New high-quality curriculum options align with the Common Core and will be available for grades K-8 this fall

New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott today announced the selection of new high-quality Core Curriculum options for grades K through 8 that are aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards. New York City is among the first large urban school districts in the nation to select curricula aligned to the new standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and Washington, D.C. and provide a clear picture of what students need to learn each year in order to graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and careers. Building on its work over the past three school years to support teachers and school staff with the transition to the Common Core, the Department is recommending a set of math and English curriculum options for grades K-8 and will spend the coming months supporting principals and teachers in becoming familiar with these new materials. Schools will have the opportunity to order materials later this spring and begin using them in classrooms in the fall.

“Over the last few years, thanks to the work our schools have been doing to transition to the Common Core standards, we have made significant progress toward our goal of ensuring that all of our students are ready to take on the challenges of college and careers,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott.

“After a rigorous review of dozens of materials, we are ready to recommend a strong set of first-generation curricula that will support our educators in continuing this most important work.”

“The Common Core standards represent an opportunity to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools across the City,” said Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky. “The curricular supports we are recommending are another addition to the important tools schools are equipping themselves with to help improve outcomes for students.”

The process of selecting the new curricula began last June when the authors of the Common Core standards released a set of rigorous guidelines called the “Publishers’ Criteria,” designed to guide curriculum vendors in aligning their instructional materials to the Common Core in elementary and middle school. NYC was one of 30 urban school districts across the country to commit to using these criteria to evaluate curriculum materials. That same month, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) shared sample test questions and information about how State tests for grades 3-8 would begin to change in the spring of 2013 to reflect the Common Core. With this critical guidance in place, NYC began conducting an intensive research process to find the highest-quality Common Core-aligned curriculum materials for elementary and middle schools in both English and math. Teacher-leaders from across NYC worked with national experts, districts across the country and network and central staff to evaluate a wide array of curriculum resources.

“New York City is paving the way for other major city school systems across the country by adhering to a rigorous and transparent process for procuring new instructional materials in a way that will ensure publishers deliver the texts we need and teachers realize the full promise of the Common Core State Standards,” said Mike Casserly, Executive Director of the Council For Great City Schools.

“Student Achievement Partners applauds the fact that New York City has put the Common Core State Standards Publishers’ Criteria at the center of their instructional materials selection process, and commends their ongoing work to provide students and teachers with materials that are aligned with the shifts required by the Common Core,” said Susan Pimental, Founding Principal of Student Achievement Partners and one of the authors of the Common Core standards.

For math, the Department is recommending Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Go Math for grades K-5, and Pearson’s Connected Math Program 3 for grades 6-8. Both sets of materials are strongly aligned to the instructional shifts required by the Common Core standards: they focus deeply on a narrower set of key topics for each grade, clearly connect students’ learning across grade levels, and ensure students have the opportunity to both practice skills and apply their thinking to real-world problems.

For English Language Arts, the Department is recommending that schools select either NYSED’s Core Knowledge or Pearson’s ReadyGen for grades K-2, either of which could be used by a school as a stand-alone curriculum or paired with the Fundations phonics program. For grades 3-5, the DOE is recommending that schools either continue with ReadyGen or select NYSED’s Expeditionary Learning curriculum. Expeditionary Learning is also recommended for grades 6-8, along with Scholastic’s Codex. While varying in style and structure, these programs–like those the DOE is recommending in math–hew tightly to the Common Core’s instructional shifts: they include a balance of rigorous fiction and non-fiction texts, build students’ academic vocabulary and knowledge across content areas, and engage students in using evidence from texts to make oral and written arguments.

The Department of Education believes that the selected programs represent the highest-quality Common Core-aligned curriculum materials currently available. They include brand new curriculum materials and materials that are being updated to fully reflect the shifts required by the Common Core standards.

Common Core-aligned State tests for high school students will be phased in on a rolling basis starting next school year. The Department of Education is partnering with NYSED to develop curricular options for high schools; these resources will begin to be available this summer. In addition, the State is in the process of releasing strong curricular materials in mathematics. Materials are still under development and will become available online this summer and will be complete by December.

New York City began its work on the Common Core standards in 2010, when the State first adopted the new standards. Beginning with a Common Core pilot program in 100 schools in the 2010-11 school year, the DOE went on to develop extensive resources to support schools with the complex transition. In the spring of 2011, the DOE launched the Common Core Library, an online resource for principals, teachers, and parents that now includes dozens of training modules in addition to units of curriculum and assessment tasks aligned to the Common Core at every grade level in English and math—more than 60 in total. Since its launch, the Common Core Library has received nearly 200,000 unique users from NYC and across the country, with some individual resources being downloaded many thousands of times. Over the past two school years teachers have been using these units in their classrooms and learning from them to adapt their existing lesson plans to align with the Common Core. Last school year, every student in NYC had the opportunity to engage in a Common Core-aligned unit of curriculum in both literacy and math. This year, every student is taking part in at least two Common Core-aligned units of curriculum across all core subject areas.

The Department plans to support interested schools in purchasing and training teachers to use these materials. In addition to sharing these recommended options the DOE plans to share its learnings about alternative curriculum programs to inform principals’ decisions when selecting the best options for their schools. Schools will have the opportunity to learn more about available options at the Curriculum Showcase this spring.
In early 2014, New York City Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, second in command in the New York City Department of Education, and an alumnus of the 2008 Broad Superintendent’s Academy, became president of Bank Street College, I’m guessing this means I won’t be invited back to give any talks there. In 2010 I gave the Sixteenth Annual Barbara Biber Lecture
    •  at Bank Street. Before the lecture,I was visiting the Metropolitan Museum in New York and a silk scarf jumped out at me. The design on the scarf is based on a 13th century scroll at the Met. Yelu Chucai, a prominent statesman under the Mongol Khans. “Poem of Farewell to Liu Man,” 1240, pleads for humanitarian rule and ends with these words: 

“Despotic officials and shyster underofficials, may they feel ashamed.”

Of course, I bought it and wore it to my lecture.

    • Barbara Biber said we should care about the emotional development children as well as their intellectual development. Bank Street College used to exemplify this precept. I mean, imagine asking me to give a speech that, in the words of the college dean, “would set the tone for the year.”

More notes on What New York City Expects

New York City decrees Rigorous fiction  for Grade 7-8. Curious as to what  rigorous fiction is, I tried to find it in the New York City Common Core library of resources for use in classrooms. Not only does “rigorous fiction” for grades 7-8 not exist there, they don’t even have any fiction. Or poetry. They don’t list fiction or poetry for any K-12 grade. It doesn’t look like the site has much of anything, but what they do have is rigorous (sic) nonfiction.

A lot of the units on nonfiction and persuasive writing originate at the Teachers College Reading Writing Project, acting as collaborators for the Common Core.

Michelle Fine was invited to give the tone-setting Barbara Biber Lecture at Bank Street in the fall of 2014. So maybe there’s still hope.

— Susan Ohanian
November 27, 2014




Take This Test and Shove It

Should a Miami Teenager Have to Deconstruct a Poetic Account of Tracking Moose in Alaska to Get a High School Diploma?  By Susan Ohanian  Parents of kids facing graduation tests should take a close look at the questions being asked–and then ask a few questions of their own.Don’t miss the author’s reaction to what Florida has done with his work. See below.

Reading test – grade 10 This story [sic] is a sample Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test reading exam for the 10th grade. After reading the story [sic], answer the six questions that follow.


By John Haines

To one who lives in the snow and watches it day by day, it is a book to be read. The pages turn as the wind blows; the characters shift and the images formed by their combinations change in meaning, but the language remains the same. It is a shadow language, spoken by things that have gone by and will come again. The same text has been written there for thousands of years, though I was not here, and will not be here in winters to come, to read it. These seemingly random ways, these paths, these beds, these footprints, these hard, round pellets in the snow: they all have meaning. Dark things may be written there, news of other lives, their sorties and excursions, their terrors and deaths.

I was walking home from Redmond Creek one morning late in January. On a divide between two watersheds, I came upon the scene of a battle between a moose and three wolves. The story was written plainly in the snow at my feet. The wolves had come in from the west, following an old trail from the Salcha River, and had found the moose feeding in an open stretch of the overgrown road I was walking.

The sign was fresh, it must have happened the night before.

The snow was torn up, with chunks of frozen moss and broken sticks scattered about; here and there, swatches of moose hair. A confusion of tracks in the trampled snow — the splayed, stabbing feet of the moose, the big, furred pads and spread toenails of the wolves.

I walked on, watching the snow. The moose was large and alone, almost certainly a bull. In one place he backed himself into a low, brush-hung bank to protect his rear. The wolves moved away from him — those moose feet are dangerous. The moose turned, ran on for fifty yards, and the fight began again. It became a running, broken flight that went on for nearly half a mile in the changing, rutted terrain, the red morning light coming across the hills from the sun low in the south. A pattern shifting and uncertain; the wolves relenting, running out into the brush in a wide circle, and closing again: another patch of moose hair in the trodden snow.

I felt that I knew those wolves. I had seen their tracks several times before during that winter, and once they had taken a marten from one of my traps.

I believed them to be a female and two nearly grown pups. If I was right, she may have been teaching them how to hunt, and all that turmoil in the snow may have been the serious play of things that must kill to live. But I saw no blood sign that morning, and the moose seemed to have gotten the better of the fight.

At the end of it he plunged away into thick alder brush. I saw his tracks, moving more slowly now, as he climbed through a low saddle, going north in the shallow, unbroken snow. The three wolves trotted east toward Banner Creek.

What might have been silence, an unwritten page, an absence, spoke to me as clearly as if I had been there to see it. I have imagined a man who might live as the coldest scholar on earth, who followed each clue in the snow, writing a book as he went. It would be the history of snow, the book of winter. A thousand-year text to be read by a people hunting these hills in a distant time. Who was here, and who has gone? What were their names? What did they kill and eat? Whom did they leave behind?

Adaption of “Snow” is from The Stars, The Snow, The Fire: Twenty-Five Years in the Alaska Wilderness by John Haines.

Questions. Base your answers on “Snow.”

1. What does the author mean by this sentence from the essay?

These seemingly random ways, these paths, these beds, these footprints, these hard, round pellets in the snow: they all have meaning.

a) Signs in the snow lead to different interpretations of the truth

b) Signs in the snow lead to different directions in the wilderness

c) Patterns in the snow can be connected to form a story of nature

d) Patterns in the snow can be connected to lead the observer to safety

Objective: Student selects and uses strategies to understand words and text, and to make and confirm inferences from what is read.

2. According to the author, which word best describes the story of snow?

a) Frightening
b) Random
c) Timeless
d) Violent

Student determines the main idea and identifies relevant details, methods of development, and their effectiveness in a variety of types of written material.

3. Which writing strategy does the author employ to express his views about snow?

a) Use of complex plot
b) Use of descriptive language
c) Development of varied structure
d) Development of believable characters

Objective:Student determines the main idea and identifies relevant details, method of development, and their effectiveness in a variety of types of written material.

4. After examining the moose’s tracks, the author concluded that the moose was

a) Cold
b) Confused
c) Large
d) Weak

Objective: Student recognizes cause-and-effect relationships in literary texts.

5. How does the author create suspense in relating the story about the animals in the snow?

a) By holding back information
b) By constantly updating the plot
c) Through detailed description
d) Through frequent use of adjectives

Objective: Student analyzes the effectiveness of complex elements of plot, such as setting, major events, problems, conflicts, and resolutions.

Ohanian Comment: Pardon me, but does the Florida State Department of Education really decree that essays have “plots,” which include such “complex elements” as “setting, major events, problems, conflicts, and resolutions?” Is E. B. White rolling over in his grave?

6. What is the mood of the opening and closing paragraphs?

a) Chaotic
b) Curious
c) Forlorn
d) Thoughtful

Objective: Student analyzes the effectiveness of complex elements of plot, such as setting, major events, problems, conflicts, and resolutions.

Note: This is what is known as a ‘sample’ item; it does not mean that the actual item has ever been used on a test. It does mean that this is the type of loony item found on Florida tests. Florida test writers turn a respectable piece of prose into something bizarre. For starters, they can’t decide whether it’s a story or an essay, and things go downhill from there. This type of questioning goes against everything we know about why people read or what they hope to get out of what they read.

I sent the questions to the author of the passage (who was a professor at the University of Alaska as well as Alaska’s poet laureate). Here is his response:

Dear Susan,

Thank you for the very weird pages from Florida education. I could hardly believe what I read, and then simply laughed. I gave copies to my students, and they laughed too! What is going on here? Education? I don’t think so.

My regards,

John Haines     

How Do I Love Thee, Data?







But mostly Tossed

On ribs
With steak

On corn
In quarts
On the side
Medium rare
Deep fried
Over pasta
spread on bread
au gratin
stir fried
On ice
Au jus
By the dozen
En casserole
Over eggs
Over easy
Over and over

Data interruptus

Data mph

Data upchuck

Data dumpster