Monthly Archives: May 2016

Curriculum V. Standards

Two more Mondays left for the school year!!!

I’ve spent the past week or so reading Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System to add onto my understanding of ed-reform in the US. In general it was a detailed glance into a world that I hadn’t been exposed to before but made so much sense as I read it. As she wraps up, she once again re-affirms my belief that my district needs to prioritize curriculum or we continue to fight an impossible battle.

However, in her final chapter – a cry to reform schools differently – she advocates for a national curriculum, not national standards. With the headache of our current standards being attacked every six minutes, that isn’t a reality that is in the near future. But, I think more importantly Ravitch doesn’t distinguish clearly between standards and curriculum. If she, an ed history expert isn’t clear about the two (possibly intentionally) then how are parents supposed to be? Does this explain why the Common Core is vehemently opposed? Because of a lack of understanding about what it is and why we need it?

It reminds me of an article an old boss shared via Facebook on a decision in Michigan to choose different standards. In it, the author describes one student that testified:  “Cody Prested, 7, spoke alongside his mother about the Common Core testing regime, He said its so-called ‘rigor’ has confounded him and made him lose faith in his ability” And the article goes on….and on with the same misconception that legislators apparently also have – Common Core makes the tests hard. They clearly conflate these two issues. Our lack of a national understanding of the different pieces is alarming.

So to summarize the big ideas:
Standards are not curriculum. Curriculum is decided at the district/school/teacher level. Some suck. Some suck less. Some are great.
Standards are not tests. Tests are decided at the state level. Some of them suck. Some suck less. Some are okay.
Common Core has more benefits than harms, if we do it well.

 

Two days out…

Two days from now is the AP Calculus Exam. My school offered the course for the first time this year, for our first class of seniors. Almost all of our seniors were enrolled, regardless of readiness which has not been best for our students. We’re adjusting for next year though by adding another senior level course.

Looking this year, of our 24 kiddos, 5 are sitting for the exam. I picked up the course in January so students have had a piecemeal experience in terms of curriculum and class culture. We’ve been going slow because of our a big skill difference and filling in holes from the fall (related rates was the last thing we covered…..a week ago). When students aren’t taking AP Exams this week, we’re working together through the 2008 Exam.  I know it isn’t the best review strategy ever, but I’m hoping that individual attention over these 3 days will help students feel more confident and brush up on skills.

I’m hoping for 2 or 3 passing scores, so between 40 and 60% of test takers. Heck I’d wager we have a good shot earning one or two of our schools first fives depending upon how the test shakes out. While I’m excited for students with a great chance of passing, I’m also intrigued by information from the other students taking the test – they represent a decent sample of what the “average” student in my class is capable of doing right now so I hope I can gain insights into improving the course for the average student.

Next year with a more targeted enrollment and kicking butt in the fall instead of January we’ll be in a better place. And a curriculum with a rearrangement of topics….and one teacher for the entire year…and an actual review strategy….

I’ve obviously got my work cut out for me to prepare Calculus for 16-17, but I’ll be looping up with some of my PreCalculus kids and can have a solid plan from day 1.