|King Arthur's Knights|
Was Arthur a true, historical figure or only a hero of legend? This is truly up to each and every one of us to decide for ourselves. Arthur represents a man who was the epitome of good against evil, light against darkness, and that eternal, never-ending struggle between what is right and that which is wrong.
Students at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Indiana could have answered the question above in years past as this was part of their reading curriculum, but this year's class won't be studying King Arthur. From Why One English Teacher Is Dropping The Legends Of King Arthur For The Life Of JFK at stateimpact.npr.org (note that this teacher teaches in a private school):
Melinda Bundy has taught at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis for 39 years. Students in her ninth grade English class usually spend February immersed in King Arthur, studying legend and learning to write research papers.How does Ms. Bundy feel about this move to informational text vs reading King Arthur?
Last week her ninth graders learned to take research notes and cite bibliographical information. But this year they aren’t studying Arthurian legend — they’re learning about John F. Kennedy’s America. Bundy sent this note home to parents explaining why she made the switch:
We are beginning the research paper for English 9H. I have changed the scope of the project because when I looked at the Core Standards, I saw that one of the standards was to analyze a historical document. I have chose President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech as the basis of the paper. The students have watched the video of the inauguration, read the speech, analyzed the content, and discussed it in class. Now they are going to research the ’60s and find out what was actually going on in the U.S. as well as the world during Kennedy’s administration. Then they will chose one event/issue/problem and relate it to President Kennedy.
Bundy loved teaching Arthurian legend. But she says with Indiana’s transition to the Common Core, a set of new academic standards adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, she’s had to incorporate more nonfiction into her curriculum to prepare students for state tests.
The new standards require 70 percent of everything high school students read be nonfiction. Common Core architects say teachers in all subjects should incorporate more informational texts. But in practice, Bundy says that burden falls on English teachers preparing students for end-of-course assessments.
“The ECA is all nonfiction. They’re given an essay to read. If we don’t cover it in English, and it’s on the English part of the ECA, our kids are going to fail,” says Bundy. “We can’t totally disavow that we’re responsible. We are.”
Bundy likes teaching Kennedy’s inauguration speech. There’s an endless number of topics students can explore in 1960s America — the civil rights movement, the Cuban missile crisis, the space race, the Cold War, among others — and the library keeps sending down more resources for students to use. Yet Bundy still feels a pang for some of the subjects she used to teach.
“I don’t teach short stories anymore. I love short stories. But we read biographies and autobiographies now,” she says.
If your student attends a private Indiana school that accepts public school vouchers, then your private school student (even if you are paying tuition for your student), will see a shift to common core standards as well. Private schools don't have as much autonomy as before. Why are parents privately paying for the same standards, assessments and curriculum mapping present in the public school? What now differentiates private school educational delivery/content from public schools?
As a department, the English teachers at Cathedral have been working to develop common assessment tools like final exams. All students are on a college prep track and take the same finals. Teachers with honors or AP sections can add additional questions.
Bundy and Keyes (sophomore English teacher) both say people are surprised to hear Cathedral, a private school, has to align with the Common Core. The school participates in Indiana’s voucher program — a little less than 4 percent of the school’s 1,252 students receive state money — and students take the same standardized tests they would at public school.
Ah well. Let parents explain to their children as they watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade what the Holy Grail is and represents. They really need to know why a monk would stand guard over it for a few hundred years and why it garnered intense interest from the Nazis. They might have learned about The Holy Grail from Ms. Bundy, but not now thanks to Common Core.