That seems a bit backwards to me.
The Common Core State Standards stresses that students be immersed in expository reading and writing in order to prepare them for both college and a career.
Now, the disclaimer is that the 70% / 30% is for the students' ENTIRE school day. Therefore, much of the nonfiction will be read in science, history, and math classes. Unfortunately, the push for nonfiction selections has settled into English curriculum. District approved units of study, District assessment tests, and state test prep all pretty much focuses on nonfiction. Literature is getting the squeeze.
For the past few years, English teachers have been asked to go back and adjust their curriculum to include a variety of nonfiction texts. My department has gone through the pieces of literature we cover and found database articles, newspaper articles, primary source materials, etc. to supplement students' understanding. For example, "from The Noble Experiment" (the autobiographical piece about Jackie Robinson) in the 7th grade is paired with newspaper articles and videos of interviews with Branch Rickey, the Dodger's GM. And "from Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad" from the 8th grade is paired with multiple databases on the abolitionist movement.
We have also begun to include more "mini-research" units throughout the year. It doesn't seem like much, but with all the days for testing, the prep for testing, the district units, and such, TIME to devote to teaching an entire novel seems to be slipping from our grasp. In our meetings we bemoan the fact that years ago, we each taught two or more novels a year, and now we are lucky to get one in.
When I attend any district-wide trainings, the grumblings I hear are much louder. My administration really values the teachers and gives us some latitude (as long as our test scores don't drop). But I've heard horror stories from other schools where everyone MUST follow the district's lead lockstep. It's very disheartening.
[Independent work, Photo by Tiffiny Federico]
The teachers at my school and the teachers in my district are not the only ones discussing how the CC is changing our curriculum.
The conversation and concern over this
has been loud and long.
has been loud and long.
Here are a few samples:
In 2013, the article "Common Core vs. Great Literature" by Mark Bauerlein was published in the New York Daily News. It takes a look at how the CC is being implemented in NY's high schools. It takes note of the titles of texts given to students in particular units of study. There is a trend moving away from traditional titles such as Jane Eyre and The Red Badge of Courage and replacing them with articles from the NY Times, NPR, Fox Business News, etc. The comment that stood out to me was, "This is not what the architects and contributors had in mind when they crafted the ELA standards. (Disclosure: I served on the English Language Arts 'Feedback committee' for the Council of Chief State School Officers.) The push for informational texts was not supposed to displace outstanding literary texts." Read article here.
There are many videos related to literature and the common core. I watched several debates with "experts" (Huffington Post Live), and there were multiple videos that were promoting the common core (I'm guessing those were used in teacher PDs). Then I chanced upon a series of YouTube videos by two teachers, Noah and Janet. They have created uncommoned.com, a website in which they share lessons and ideas. They have taken control of the CCSS and made it their own. Until the politicians decide to suspend or replace the common core, we are stuck with it animist find ways to make it our own. I appreciated how Janet chose to work within the confines of the CC, but keep English English. A bit of common sense to the common core.
I wish my administrators, and those in my district, would take a look at this particular video: A Common Teacher Talks About Common Core: Informational versus Literary Texts.
My take on this?
I have been teaching English for 22 years.
There will ALWAYS BE A PLACE FOR LITERATURE IN AN ENGLISH CLASSROOM.
No questions asked.
To fail to teach lit. is to fail to teach English.
I have experience. I have the respect of my peers and my administrators. I know that when I shut the door to my classroom, I'm in charge. Yes, I will cover nonfiction as it supplements the literature, but I will NEVER cut literature out of the curriculum. I fear for those who are just joining the ranks of the profession. Those who will fear for their jobs and follow every district sponsored unit to the jot and tiddle. They will need the passion and the courage to maintain control of their curriculum.
"A Common Core Teacher Talks About Common Core: Informational versus Literary Texts." YouTube. UnCommonEd.com. 5 Feb. 2013. Web. 3 May 2016.
Bauerlein, Mark. "Common Core vs. Great Literature." Daily News. NYDailyNews.com. 10 July 2013. Web. 3 May 2016.
"Bye Bye Gatsby: Can New Requirements Destroy a Love of Reading?" HuffPost Live. The Huffington Post, 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 3 May 2016.
"Common Core Nonfiction Reading Standards mark the End of Literture, English Teachers Say." Huffpost Education. The Huffington Post, 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 3 May 2016.