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.

 

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