I’ve been following Mr. Coleman for a while. Many English teachers are leery of him because of his emphasis on teaching nonfiction over fiction. They also don’t like that he believes in New Criticism, or close reading, over Reader Response. Finally, Coleman is controversial because he claims not to tell teachers what to do but has spent the last year traveling across the country and offering a way to teach Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
Now he will lead the College Board, the behemoth organization that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement tests.
In the New York Times article that I read, Coleman said he is interested in building solid curriculum that will prepare students for the high-stakes tests. It also sounds like he wants to level the playing field for students taking advanced placement courses. “The College Board should consider any student in an AP class a student in our care,” he said. “We need to find better ways to support their success.”
But some educators, including reading expert Stephen Krashen, are not having any of it. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“There’s no reason on earth for common core standards and these tests that we’re wasting billions of dollars on,” said Stephen Krashen, an emeritus education professor at the University of Southern California. “The problem is poverty, poverty, poverty. Middle-class children who go to well-funded schools do very well, but even the best tests, the most inspiring teachers, won’t mean anything if the kids don’t have enough to eat.”
It’s weird. I still don’t have a good read on David Coleman. I mean, I think he means well, but he seems out of touch with teachers and students. On the other hand, I want to like Stephen Krashen, and I do — at least on the subject of reading. But his emphasis that poverty is the reason for all educational ills cannot be the answer, either.