Call for National Standards for Poetry in Schools, K-8

Dear Colleagues,

As you may have seen and heard, State governors and education officials have proposed new national standards for K-12 education last week, a step President Obama believes is key to improving the quality of the nation’s schools. Here is the news story:

These proposed standards are to replace the current hodge-podge of state education standards, and have been written by Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) that developed the guidelines with the National Governors Association (NGA). You may view the proposed draft of the new revised standards here:

By clicking this link, you will be taken to a website that has a link: “the draft K-12 standards are now available for public comment.” in the first line of the web page.

This link will take you to a page that shows the link to: “Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science.” This .pdf file shows the draft text in its entirety. It is here:

With the .pdf draft standards file on your screen, you may search the entire document for any phrase or term, by pressing Control + F on your computer (Command + F on Mac). Type in the word poetry in the search box, press return, and see how many results for “poetry” you get.

You will find only SIX instances of the word poetry in this proposed draft text. It would appear that this draft text does not include a provision for the teaching of poetry or poetry writing in it for our nation’s children.

Further, the “Report of the National Council of Teachers of English Review Team on the November/December 2009 Draft of the Standards for English Language Arts: Grades K­8” is available for review here:

This review document by NCTE is also a .pdf file. You may perform the same Control + F search function on this document as well from your computer. If you search this document for the word “poetry” you will find, on page 6, this sentence:

“The sole illustration of students engaging in performance and recitation of poetry or other texts is incongruent to the development of the ability to communicate.”

Quoted out of context, this sentence seems outrageous, coming from the National Council of Teachers of English. The sentence is found in a paragraph regarding Oral Communication Skills. The paragraph allows that learners benefit from hearing language structures, but the authors consider this skill different than the intention of the actual standards for Oral Communication.

Different? Really, how different?

As poets and teachers of poetry, we have the opportunity to contribute to this discussion.

The National Council of Teachers of English has a discussion forum set up on this and other topics. It is here:

The Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). has a website where you may submit comments here:

I might begin by asking both of these groups, via their discussion forums, why there is no Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Richard Wright, Gary Soto, Jack Prelutsky, or Shel Silverstein included on the reading list.

I might also ask why there is no core curriculum for the teaching of the WRITING of poetry.

You may wish to raise a few questions of your own.


Scott Reid

1 Comment

  1. Cyndi  •  Mar 28, 2010 @10:30 am

    Thanks Scott, for making this available to us. I love having an opportunity to voice my opinion in a way that will be heard.

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