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A call for curricular support as Common Core standards take hold


Many education experts are hoping for curriculum support as common standards take hold.

A diverse group of educators and stakeholders is calling for clear curricular guidance to complement the new Common Core State Standards that most states have adopted, including support for practical designs and examples of curriculum strategies that educators can use in their own classrooms.

The statement, released by the nonpartisan Albert Shanker Institute and signed by dozens of educators, advocates, policy makers, researchers, and scholars from across the educational and political spectrum, highlights the creation of voluntary model curricula that can be taught in the nation’s classrooms.

“It’s really a travesty … what many of our children are receiving in terms of instruction today,” said Susan B. Neuman, a professor in the University of Michigan’s School of Education and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education.

For more on the Common Core standards, see:

Common Core standards call for uncommon shifts in practices

Viewpoint: School leaders need more help, and not red tape, to transform education

States having problems with Common Core standards

“Standards are merely road maps—but they don’t tell us much about what kids really need. So many of our children are in test-driven situations … and are really not getting the depth of instruction that they so clearly need. This is a complement to the standards,” Neuman said.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, urged broad support and dissemination for the statement, titled “A Call for Common Content.”

“We are arguing for the tools and materials that teachers need,” she said. “With rich, sequential common curricula, amplified by state and local content—and with teacher preparation, classroom materials, student assessments, teacher development, and teacher evaluation all aimed at the mastery of that content—we can finally build the kind of coherent system that supports the achievement of all learners; the kind of system enjoyed by the world’s highest performing nations.”

“The curriculum is a necessary bridge between standards and assessments,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University. “We need to be thinking systemically—we can’t leave out the whole notion of curriculum support again, as we have in past years of curriculum reform. … Good curriculum is built with an understanding of learning in mind.”

For more on the Common Core standards, see:

Common Core standards call for uncommon shifts in practices

Viewpoint: School leaders need more help, and not red tape, to transform education

States having problems with Common Core standards

The statement reads:

We, the undersigned, representing viewpoints from across the political and educational spectrum, believe that whether children live in Mississippi or Minnesota, Berkeley, or the Bronx, our expectations for their achievement should be equally high.

We therefore applaud the goals of the recently released Common Core State Standards, already adopted in most states, which articulate a much clearer vision of what students should learn and be able to do as they progress through school. For our nation, this represents a major advance toward declaring that “equal educational opportunity” is a top priority — not empty rhetoric.

We also caution that attaining the goals provided by these standards requires a clear road map in the form of rich, common curriculum content, along with resources to support successfully teaching all students to mastery. Shared curriculum in the core academic subjects would give shape and substance to the standards, and provide common ground for the creation of coherent, high-quality instructional supports — especially texts and other materials, assessments, and teacher training.

To accomplish this, our nation must finally answer questions it has avoided for generations: What is it, precisely, that we expect all educated citizens to have learned? What explicit knowledge, skills, and understanding of content will help define the day-to-day work of teaching and learning?

Its release comes at a time when, after decades of debate, the nation is on its way to having common, voluntary standards in mathematics and English/language arts.

Although this recent state-led effort is an important first step, Common Core supporters say it is not sufficient to achieve a well-functioning education system that offers both excellence and opportunity—proper curriculum and support must accompany the effort.

“The implementation doesn’t get translated often to the people who are doing the work in the classroom,” said Barbara Byrd Bennett, chief academic and accountability officer in the Detroit Public Schools. “They need the resources, directions, development guides, materials, and sample lessons.”

For more on the Common Core standards, see:

Common Core standards call for uncommon shifts in practices

Viewpoint: School leaders need more help, and not red tape, to transform education

States having problems with Common Core standards

The statement makes clear that its signers are not urging states to use a single or a national curriculum. Rather, a number of curricula could be developed—all aligned to the common standards and all of high quality. States could choose among curricula created by others, create their own, or work with other states to develop shared curriculum. States and districts then could fit additional content they might choose into their overall educational program.

The statement says that states also must develop, or have access to, curricula that:

  • Lay out a clear and practical design for learning the disciplines that teachers can use to help students acquire the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn in core academic subjects;
  • Illuminate grade-level expectations and learning progressions for teaching and learning in a coherent and substantive manner;
  • Involve teachers and other learning experts in their development;
  • Fit available instructional time, as well as leave adequate time for the inclusion of local content; and
  • Include sample lessons, examples of student work, and assessments that help teachers focus instruction and measure student outcomes.

With help from the U.S. Department of Education, many states already have begun to work together to design new assessment systems aligned with the new standards, said Eugenia Kemble, executive director of the Albert Shanker Institute.

“But the assessments they end up using should measure domains of knowledge recommended to them by professional content experts and practitioners through some publicly accountable process,” she said. And the statement notes: “In nations with core curriculum … this systemic approach—coupled with equitable resources and strong teacher training—has resulted in both very high average achievement and a diminishing gap between high- and low-achieving students.”

Given the many, competing definitions that exist, the statement also offers a clear definition of curricula.

A sidebar to the statement says: “To be clear, by ‘curriculum’ we mean a coherent, sequential set of guidelines in the core academic disciplines, specifying the content knowledge and skills that all students are expected to learn, over time, in a thoughtful progression across the grades. We do not mean performance standards, textbook offerings, daily lesson plans, or rigid pedagogical prescriptions.”

“The common standards give us a much clearer vision of what all students should learn and be able to do at every level of schooling,” Weingarten said. “But in order for teachers to teach, and for us to measure our progress towards achieving these lofty goals, we need to provide educators, schools, districts, and states with the missing pieces—specific curricula, materials they can use, and the training to get it done.”

For more on the Common Core standards, see:

Common Core standards call for uncommon shifts in practices

Viewpoint: School leaders need more help, and not red tape, to transform education

States having problems with Common Core standards

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