Ravitch notes that state and district officials have no way of monitoring whether teachers are complying with any type of category split. Are we going to assign yet another administrative staffer to count the number of books in each category being used by each teacher to make sure there is compliance? Let's hope not. If we did, would that counting to be done by teacher or across an entire school, or district wide? Should teachers, principals, school boards be spending time deciding whether or not a written piece falls into one category or another? The literary category has been under debate for years. What constitutes quality literature? Do we really need to add, what is good informational text?
A few examples of the latter have been bandied about and debated about whether they would fit into this category. One is EPA guidelines which Coleman quickly, almost too quickly, dismissed. Stanley Kurtz of the National Review looked at what is actually given as examples in the Common Core documentation. One of the suggested texts is Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.You must read Kurtz's piece to understand why this is not nearly as propagandistic as it appears on first blush. The important thing is that CC actually cited environmental regulation as an appropriate informational text.
Stepping further into the weeds, we uncovered a presentation given by EPA Region 3 (mid-Atlantic states) that says EPA's goal is an increased understanding of how their Environmental Education
"integrates with common core standards," (p. 2) and how EE can "support common core." (p. 3) Does this not show an assumption on EPA's part that they will be producing materials for schools to use in Common Core? They also see a role for themselves in providing Formal and Non Formal Educator Professional Development (p. 6). [Sidebar: EPA will also be concerning themselves about the greenness of our schools p. 7]
Of greater concern is the assertion that EE will "integrate with emerging new science framework/ standards." If it will be so easy to integrate EPA's view of the environment into science standards, is there any doubt what those standards will look like? Put another way, which is more likely to change for the other - EPA to conform to peer reviewed scientific standards or classroom science standards to change to align with EPA's ideology?
The likes of Coleman, Duncan and Bennett can say that the specifics of what is actually used in the classroom are up to the individual teachers or districts. Technically this is true. But as Kurtz points out, in the real world many schools will simply adopt the recommended Common Core exemplars as the path of least resistance. The mere existence of a national set of standards, prepackaged and ready to go, is all that is needed for many schools to adopt them. Pushing them through RTTT just gave them a nudge under everyone's nose.
It is easy to get lost in the argument of whether the standards themselves are good or not. Are they too easy, too rigorous, to heavily weighted this way or that, better or worse than what schools use now? Once set in place, with everyone used to where their marching orders come from they will be hard to dislodge. The crafters knew this. Whether we like or dislike them now is not the point. If they change in the future because, say, more federal departments are having a say in how they are written, we will have lost the right to change them locally. The focus must remain on where the locus of control for our schools resides.