Friday, December 19, 2014

Common Core teacher uses Common Core writing.

Teacher of the Year. Literacy Specialist.  Such terms describe Phelton Cortez Moss.  Mr. Moss made the case for the Common Core curriculumn in a column published yesterday in the Clarion-Ledger.  It was a column that appeared to be written by someone who is not a "literacy specialist". 

Kamron is a junior at Greenwood High School. In fact, Kamron is an extremely gifted orator and writer. I taught Kamron Daniels ninth grade honors English. When Kamron returned to Greenwood from Memphis, he was further along than most of his peers.

He starts two sentences with  a prepositional phrase and an adverbial clause.  "In fact"?  Should that phrase even be used in the sentence?  When did he move to Memphis?  How much time passed before he returned to Greenwood?

It's only fair to let you know that Kamron's parents are both educators; one is now a school administrator. However, that does not negate the fact that Kamron was further along than his peers. That is not to say that the parents of his peers in Greenwood did not do a good job. Furthermore, that does not mean that teachers in Greenwood did not do a good job. What this means is the curriculum was different and the expectation was higher, even in Tennessee — our sister state.

"You"?  Using second-person in usually a no-no but we will forgive this mistake. What are these phrases "that does not mean" and "That is not to say"? Does he understand the difference between writing and talking? Then there is the use of "not".  This paragraph is makes to a level in Dante's double negative hell as the "literacy specialist" keeps using double negatives in sentences.  

Common Core was designed for two distinct purposes: make sure Kamron picks up where he left off and to prepare students for college and/or career readiness.

 How does one prepare for "career readiness"?  Shouldn't it be "prepare students for college or a career?  Wait a second? When did young Kamron move to Memphis?  The writer states he returned from Memphis but there is that little detail about moving.

Teachers and experts from the start have been and should continue to be a critical voice in regards to the Common Core Standards, not the government. I pray Kamron's academic fate does not rest in the hands of a legislative body that has failed for years to adequately fund the system that is responsible for educating him.

 As an educator, what I find most likable about the Common Core Standards is that for students like Kamron, the teacher and district decide methodology, materials and activities in the classroom to meet the standards. Neither the government nor anyone else decides what text will be read in every classroom. The teacher and district have the autonomy to decide how the standards will be met. This provides for a more culturally relevant learning environment. We've not had that in the past.

 Mr. Moss started sentences with prepositional phrases again.  Does he even know where to place the subject and the verb?  "Neither the government nor anyone else decides".  Does that mean no one decides what "text will be read in every classroom? The statements are mutually exclusive.  If "nor anyone else decides" is true, that means no one decides what is in the curriculum.  Wait a second.  There is the word "like".  Like really man, I'm so sure, V-v-v-Valley Girl.  Hint: Use "such as".  The phrase  "for students such as Kamron" works much better.  Then there is the entire phrase that starts "As an educator" and ends at "the teacher".  What is that? Dependent clause? Run-on sentence? Fragment? Inquiring minds want to know.   "What I find most likable"?  Why not use "What I like most about.." or "The best feature of the Common Core Standards is...".  Like, I'm so sure.

Kamron's classes will look different. In English, writing and reading across the curriculum is emphasized again. In 2009, Mississippi took writing out of its curriculum. Now, all subject areas will hold a shared responsibility for ensuring the development of Kamron's literacy and writing. Having the ability to express yourself in writing is a necessary skill for navigating through life.

Prepositional phrases again.  Writing in second person again. 

In math, there's a greater focus on conceptual understanding. Though there will be fewer topics. Kamron will focus on procedural skills and application of said skills. For example, we all know the old fashion FOIL (First, Outer, Inner and Last) method to multiply two binomials. But what happens when you try to multiply three binomials? It doesn't work. So why not give Kamron a conceptual understanding of the distributive property? It works, and it gives Kamron a conceptual understanding of the task rather than a strategy that only works in some cases.

 This column is now descending into literary chaos. Mr. Moss again starts sentences with prepositional phrases, like, really, you know what I mean?   Then there is the first appearance of a sentence fragment.  No subject or verb.  Starts a sentence with "But".  Is that clause even a sentence?

Yes, Kamron's test will look different and will be timed. Though I recall being frustrated both as a teacher and student with the MS SATP English II Exam. Some of my students took 8 hours to finish the test. In fact, some did not finish the test. Just as problematic, you'd have several two-page passages with two to three confusing questions. Kamron did not have to show mastery of grade-level comprehension, or command of language and conventions through writing. If Kamron knew strategies, he wouldn't have to read the passages. Now Kamron will have four passages. For two of the passages, six questions and a writing prompt. For the last two, six shared questions and a writing prompt.

The chaos worsens. Winter is coming.  This single paragraph makes one wonder (notice how I used "one" instead of "you".) if Mr. Moss even knows how to write complete sentences on a regular basis. There are at least three sentence fragments in this paragraph. One fragment is actually a dependent clause but like is cut off from a sentence as someone who loses his health insurance due to Obamacare.  Mr. Moss is apparently addicted to starting sentences with prepositional phrases and probably thinks it is good writing.  Is this how Mark Twain felt when he read Last of the Mohicans?  Then there is the little improper use of a comma but we will forgive that minor transgression.

The Common Core Standards is the first step in giving Kamron an equal footing in the world. Kamron needs to be prepared for success at every grade level and after graduation from high school such that he can compete with his peers in Massachusetts and then China.

The word "standards" is plural.  That means one should use a plural verb such as "are".  The second sentence is wordy as hell but at this point, the column is a lost cause.

When Kamron graduates — and is career-ready — he's more apt to complete college or postsecondary training and land a higher paying job.

Unfortunately, Kamron doesn't represent every child in Mississippi — he reads and writes on grade level. I fear for kids who do not necessarily have the same narrative as Kamron. If not having rigorous, across the board academic standards offered a challenge for Kamron, what does it mean for kids who are two to three school years behind should their parents decide to move them elsewhere?

Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and Speaker Phillip Gunn, will you do what seems politically correct or will you do what's right for the "least of these?" I pray you choose the latter.

 Phelton Cortez Moss serves as a literacy and data specialist with the Clarksdale Municipal School District supporting Kirkpatrick Health and Medical Science Magnet School. He taught at Greenwood High School through the Teach for America program for two years. Both years he was Teacher of the Year. He is a native of Calhoun City.

The addiction to sentence-starting prepositional phrases continues.  Mr. Moss uses the word "narrative".  Did Kamron tell a story? Should Mr. Moss have used "history" or "background"?   Mr. Moss again uses the word "you" but those statements are a direct address to our leaders and are permissable. 

Keep in mind this column appeared yesterday on the editorial pages of the Clarion-Ledger.  It is a formal essay.   A "literacy specialist" penned these words.  He is a graduate of Teach for America.  He is one of the best and brightest among our young people.  He is a graduate of Ole Miss.  Young Mr. Moss preaches the needs for improving standards in our schools.  Mr. Moss should perhaps look at improving his own standards before he preaches to use through barely readable columns.  Mr. Moss might even want to participate in one of the Common Core-based writing classes- as a student

Kingfish note: Here are the Facebook comments:

Very proud of you, Moss. Well written.

 Thanks Phelton. Well said.

 Preach, Mr. Moss!


Anonymous said...

I'm not a literary expert, so I was wondering--is it always wrong to start a sentence with a prepositional phrase? I'd be interested to know the rules on that for my own benefit. Also, I took the phrase "neither the government nor anyone else" to mean that no single entity decides what's specifically in the curriculum in every single classroom. That point made sense to me. Finally, on the use of the word "like," I'm glad to know that word is unfashionable, but the dictionary does define it as being appropriate for comparisons and actually it saves more space than phrases including "such as." I do realize that I need to brush up on my own knowledge of grammar, so the analysis here was helpful in that regard. I found it a little harsh however.

thusbloggedanderson said...

(1) There is nothing wrong with starting a sentence with a prepositional phrase.

(2) KF's second example in the 1st paragraph is not a prepositional phrase ("when" is not a preposition, for one thing), but an adverbial clause.

(3) There is nothing wrong with using the second person in an essay, particularly in something as light as an op-ed. It's to be avoided in the most formal writing.

Haven't time to grade the grader further, but I agree that the column isn't well written. Still, if this teacher's students could leave his classroom writing even this well, that would be a considerable improvement over the average.

Anonymous said...

African Americans, by and large, do not write or communicate as Caucasians communicate.

I have noticed a much more colloquial tendency as is seen in Mr. Moss' writings.

African Americans also have their own lexicon. "Educators" are teachers. When people die he/she is "funeralized." When a discussion is had concerning 2 or more people talking the people are said to be "conversating."

During the course of hundreds of depositions of African Americans I have noticed that the English they have learned is far different from what I learned.

Kingfish said...

Anderson, I will disagree with you about starting sentences with prepositional phrases. There was no need to use "you" until the final paragraph.

You just support relaxed standards. You're part of the problem.

As for the 11:00 AM comment. That's a cop out although probably true. Its all how they are taught. British blacks don't write or talk as you suggest American blacks do. Then there are the French. Mrs. Rosia Crisler taught me French and English at Hinds. She would have crucified me if I turned in this column to her. My ninth grade honors English teacher was black, a Notre Dame grad, young, and tough. She did barbecue my writing when it was sloppy- as was this column. She could also teach some Shakespeare.

thusbloggedanderson said...

KF, if you have some sort of authority re: prepositional phrases at the beginnings of sentences, bring it. The only issue I'm aware of is whether to set off the introductory phrase with a comma. See:

I suspect that if there were any such rule, the folks at the Chicago Manual of Style would say so.

As for "you" in an op-ed, I feel fairly confident that Thomas Friedman & co. do that often, but I must admit that I seldom read op-eds these days (they're like blogs but less interesting). I suppose we can disagree about whether an op-ed counts as formal writing. I wouldn't do it in a brief.

Your conclusion that I am "part of the problem" is surely correct, though for different reasons well known to readers of my blog.

Anonymous said...

KF, notice the phrase "by and large" in the 11:00's opening sentence.

That phrase was inserted to avoid your entire second paragraph and I almost put it in parentheses.

Anonymous said...

Great Christmas gift suggestion:

Anonymous said...

This shit makes my head hurt.

NMissC said...

All this from someone who publishes this:

"A gentleman than emerged from the car, and began swinging a "club" at the Audi. Dr. Davis identified the gentleman as Dr. Molleston. the windshield and two passenger windows were damaged. "

And just how much information is conveyed by this opening?

"The problems at Singing River Health System (Jackson County) continue to mount. The Sun-Herald has been breaking stories left and right about the troubled hospital system. It is important to start from the beginning so JJ is going to post stories starting from several weeks ago and bring readers up to speed on this crisis down on the coast. Make no mistake, it is a crisis as several hundred employees paid into a pension system only to find they were um, misled and that is putting it mildly. "

Brush away cliches and unneeded verbal spew and you have: "The Sun Herald has been publishing original reporting about a crisis involving the pension at Singing River Health System in Jackson County. Employees have been misled. I'll summarize these stories from the beginning."

Maybe we're all part of the problem.

There's also this: Chopping up the op ed piece makes it read really choppy. Is that your point?

Anonymous said...

I sentenced myself to teaching high school English for eight-and-a-half years, teaching six sessions of summer school during those years. While I was an educator, I dissected, corrected, and evaluated thousands of compositions.

Firstly, this column represents the decomposition - the slow and INTENTIONAL decay - of our education system - a system that is broken and will never be fixed. Ever. Pass 'em all. Embrace quantity over quality. Let diversity reign over what is right. Who qualified Mr. Moss to teach high school English - to teach high school ANYTHING? Who allowed this man to slip through the cracks and earn a title of "expert" or "specialist" in LITERACY? THAT - the laziness of the system - is what astounds me. I can't blame him - all he did was profit from the system that gave him a poor education, and he will in turn proliferate the same low-level education given to him. What is most disturbing is Mr. Moss's lack of shame in voluntarily submitting this piece to a publication such as THE CLARION LEDGER. What is disheartening is that he is not embarrassed, and he will probably be lauded by his current and former employer/s and students. I think that is more a statement about community rather than Mr. Moss himself.

Secondly - absolutely nothing is wrong with beginning a sentence with a prepositional phrase or phrases. The REPETITION of it sentence after sentence may be tedious and detrimental to a reader's comprehension, but it is squarely a matter of taste. If an introductory prepositional phrase is of four or more words, a comma is required. If it is fewer than four words, comma use is discretionary, so there's no problem with his mechanics in regard to those phrases.

Thirdly - Kingfish, thank you for highlighting this ironic column; however, your corrective language is incorrect. For example, what you call a double negative is not a double negative. It is poor writing (phrasing), but it is not a double negative.

There are a few other issues with your correcting, but what you do well is identify poor written communication. That identification

This man - Mr. Moss - should be ashamed to call himself an English teacher and to call himself an expert in anything other than ignorance.

Imagine the ignorance this man - and the thousands and thousands of people just like him - has induced and preserved in his exposure to students. Mississippi is 50th in everything for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I can only chuckle at the thought of what comments the late Richard Mitchell, aka "The Underground Grammarian", would make about this poorly written tract. He specialized in taking the mickey out of academics and administrators who wrote poorly and incoherently. There may be YouTube clips of his several appearances on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.

Kingfish said...

NMC, you can do a better job than that comment.

The first passage you quoted was a quote from a police report. You damn well know it. You have a problem with that passage, take it up with the police officer who wrote it.

The second passage was a service to the readers. I could have simply written "The Sun Herald has been covering this story". However, I am starting at the beginning and publishing stories. That note was called a disclaimer. If I don't post that or something similar, then someone starts wanting to know why I'm not posting something that was covered last week. In other words, I am bring the readers up to speed on Singing River as most people in the Jackson area don't know much about that particular story.

You know all this, of course. You've made better use of snarkiness in the past.

Kingfish said...

No one denies the repeated use of sentence fragments or stand-alone dependent clauses. Then there is the matching of a plural subject and singular verb. I disagree on the heavy use of starting sentences with phrases. It shows poor writing skills. This was a formal column for the whole world to see.

My pet peeve is seeing sentence fragments that start with "And". They appear all the time in newspapers today, yea, even the Wall Street Journal.

Anonymous said...

Should have titled this one 'Grammar Nazis Open Thread'.

Anonymous said...

KF, I appreciate your blog, but I certainly don't come here because I think you're a good writer.

Anon at 11:00: Poor written and oral communication skills persist among all Americans.

thusbloggedanderson said...

Btw, I taught English comp for two years at Miss. State when I was in grad school.

Anyone who imagines that white Miss. students are better writers than black Miss. students would be enlightened by the themes I had to grade. Few of them, of either ethnic persuasion, could write their way out of a wet paper bag with a ball-point pen.

Kingfish said...

I know. Mrs. Crisler used to let me read them. Ouch. Some were so bad you couldn't help but die laughing.

Anonymous said...

I do not support Common Core in any form or fashion! This is just another form of the "hope and change" concept. Common Core was brought about by individuals who sit in a room all day that has no windows and have nothing better to do than to come up with new ideas. In addition, they have no common sense! It is strictly an idea supported by Democrats and people with the mind set of Mississippi's current Director of the State Department of Education.

Anonymous said...

2:44 - What is wrong with new ideas when you are dead last in educating students? You sound ignorant. I'd bet my left thumb you have no actual knowledge about anything that is Common Core. I'd advise you to go do some research on the development of the Common Core Standards by the National Governor's Association (Republicans and Democrats) and the organization of state school superintendents (don't know the name). Not that it should matter when developing educational standards, but there representation from the left, right and center during the development of these standards. The standards were great until Rush Limbaugh or whoever's teat of knowledge you suck from fed you the idea that this was all some liberal plan to make your kids read better. How dreadful. By the way, forty-four states and DC adopted the Common Core Standards, not just Democrats and Mississippi's Superintendent. Sometimes, it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. You've removed all doubt.

Grammar Nazi, and a vicious one at that said...

"This was a formal column for the whole world to see. "

Well, kinda sorta maybe - after all, it was for the Clarion-Ledger.

In journalism that's kind of like the Special Olympics compared to the Olympics.

Anonymous said...

If Sam Hall (the acting next gen impotent David Hampton) chooses to print it who are we laymen to quibble?

Anonymous said...

I hate to jump into this conversation at all, but blaming Common Core for terrible grammar is inaccurate at best; it has been prevalent far longer than that.

KaptKangaroo said...

Where oh where art thou Shadowfax?

Anonymous said...

I'm longing for another tea party-establishment slug fest. Reading English critiques just isn't getting it done for me. What a waste of pixels.

Anonymous said...

4:04 PM

"...'there' representation"?

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