Letter: Common Core materials flawed

People protest at the Common Core Education Forum

People protest at the Common Core Education Forum at Ward Melville High School on Nov. 12, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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As a former high school English teacher, I see great value in the Common Core standards, especially in their emphasis on the close reading of rigorous texts [" 'Opt out' momentum," News, April 5]. I don't want to comment on the issue of testing, but as standards, I believe the Common Core gets it right.

However, when a teacher asked my advice about teaching "Romeo and Juliet" using the required Common Core-scripted lessons at EngageNY, the state Education Department website, I was appalled. The first lesson asks students to look at the 14-line prologue and instructs teachers to have students listen to "a masterful reading" of the prologue for fluency and comprehension.

So, I clicked the link, and guess what? It's not so masterful. There is a careless wording error, and the reading is flat and will certainly turn off students.

The rest of the 10-page lesson on these 14 lines is also complicated and misguided and sucks the energy and beauty out of the language. Nowhere in the lesson does it have students speaking those words, nor does it point out that these opening lines form a perfect sonnet.

I pity those teachers whose English departments require them to use these scripts instead of their own experience and learning to create their own "masterful" ways of teaching.

Michael LoMonico, Stony Brook

Editor's note: The writer is a senior consultant on national education for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.

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