Friday, July 3, 2009

Curriculum Alignment

The District is moving forward aggressively with curriculum alignment. Too aggressively.

Curriculum alignment is a good thing and we all want it. It means that the same core set of knowledge and skills is being taught (at a minimum) in every school in the same class or grade level. That's as it should be. Every third grader, regardless of their school or teacher, should be taught the same core curriculum. We expect there will be more but at least this.

Moreover, when curriculum is aligned every student will be held to the same high academic expectations (at a minimum). So a paper that gets a "B" at any school would also get a "B" at any other school. When people speak of a "quality school" or talk about which schools are good schools or bad schools, the real measure of quality is often whether the school sets and maintains high expectations for students.

At a quality school, students who are struggling to meet the expectations get the support they need to get over the bar, but the bar is not lowered for them. Similarly, curricular alignment is supposed to be a floor, not a ceiling. Students who are ready and able to succeed with greater challenge should get it. Support for stuggling students and additional challenge for advanced students is another measure of a quality school.

These elements of curriculum alignment are welcome and needed. When they are in place we will take great strides towards making every one of our schools a quality school.

Curricular alignment, however, does not require standardized texts. High school students can learn about allegory from any number of books; they don't have to all read the same one. So why is the District Central Staff pushing for standardized texts? They say that the texts need to be standardized because they cannot script lessons for a wide variety of books.

WHAT!?! Why are they scripting lessons? That is not warranted, wanted or welcome. Our teachers do not need lessons scripted for them, thank you very much.

We have also heard that the District needs to standardize texts so they can conduct the same professional development for all teachers. But why is the professional development material specific? Shouldn't the continuing education for the teachers be more versitile than that?

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