Ohio

Eye on Education

No, the Common Core Does Not Ban The Catcher in the Rye

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Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, the new Common Core standards coming to Ohio and most other states by 2014 does not mandate that schools toss books like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird from what they teach.

Christina Hank, a curriculum director for the Medina schools, puts it like this:

Alarmist articles decrying the replacement of classic literature, such as The Catcher in the Rye, with instruction manuals are far off base from the language and intent of the Standards, which is, simply: read better texts.

The Common Core isn’t a set of assigned books and readings: Schools can generally pick and choose what readings to assign students.

But the Common Core (and the new standardized tests that will replace existing state tests) does expect students to be able to do a better job of analyzing “texts” — both fiction and nonfiction. And the Common Core expects teachers in all classes — not just English — to help students be better readers and writers.

Here’s an official Common Core explanation for one of the reasons behind that shift:

Most of the required reading in college and workforce training programs is informational in structure and challenging in content; postsecondary education programs typically provide students with both a higher volume of such reading than is generally required in K–12 schools and comparatively little scaffolding.

So it is true that the Common Core will change which texts students read, Hank says:

They do encourage us to move from selecting texts based on student interest alone to selecting texts, both classic and contemporary, that will appropriately challenge students and build strong reading skills.

That means schools may stop assigning some books that grab students’ imaginations but don’t help teach students about how to read or think critically about what they read.

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