Debunking the myth that good teachers shouldn’t use curriculum aids

Expecting teachers to go it alone hurts school improvement. It’s time to reframe the debate

curriculum-teachersThe myth that good teachers have the Midas touch and therefore don’t need curriculum programs has been around for decades. This myth paints teachers as curricular experts who are best positioned to create instructional plans tailored to particular students. It also reflects the prevalence of low-quality and uninspired textbook series that have dominated the market throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Some packages simply did not have much to offer, while others talked down to teachers, as the oft-used phrase “teacher-proof curriculum” suggests.

The perception that good teachers reject textbooks and design their own curriculum has been a persistent belief of educators over the years. Researchers have long noted unease about using teacher’s guides among many teachers, regardless of whether the curriculum in question was a traditional textbook from the 1980s1, 2 or a more innovative program reflecting the vision outlined in the widely adopted National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards of the 1990s.3, 4

Under the current era of the Common Core State Standards, this myth is playing out in some districts and schools in a different way. Teachers are encouraged to use the new standards as their guide for what to teach and are expected to gather and develop instructional resources to determine how. Curriculum resources of any kind are viewed as unnecessary, redundant to what teachers already do or should be doing.…Read More

What will the classroom and curriculum of the future look like?

One educator highlights future classrooms and curriculum during ISTE 2014

classroom-curriculumIt’s an interesting question: What will something look like or be able to do 5, 10, or 20 years down the road? Classrooms and curriculum are no different. With education stakeholders calling for reform and a stronger focus on measuring 21st-century skills, classrooms and curriculum must change.

During an ISTE 2014 session, Douglas Kiang, a computer science educator in Hawaii and instructor for EdTechTeacher, sought to identify some of education’s future hallmarks, which, he said, are starting to appear in classrooms today.

One of the most important things to remember is that today’s kids “are part of the Maker generation, the do-it-yourself (DIY) generation, and this is really driving informal learning,” Kiang said.…Read More

Joel Klein says curriculum is his legacy’s lone dark spot

The further away Joel Klein gets from the New York City school system, the firmer he is about the changes he brought during his tenure, Gotham Schools reports. But there is one blemish on a generally positive self-assessment, which Klein disclosed Thursday night as part of a 60-minute conversation with CUNY Institute for Education Policy Director David Steiner. A lone regret, he said, was an early decision to push schools to adopt a uniform curriculum that embraced philosophies of progressive education over more traditional instruction. “This was, in candor, not my background,” said Klein, a former U.S. Attorney General who taught math for a year in the late 1960s…

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Computer Science Education Week: How will you participate?

Participate in computer science events, which run from Dec. 9-15

computer-science-education-weekComputer Science Education Week begins today, and the week is full of resources and events to help curriculum directors and educators integrate and implement computer science lessons.

As of Dec. 6, 167 countries had planned 33,247 events for 4.5 million students–and those numbers definitely increased over the weekend.

Educators and stakeholders can take a number of steps to support Computer Science Education Week and broader nationwide initiatives.…Read More

Many states embracing Common Core standards

Less than two months after the nation’s governors and state school chiefs released their final recommendations for national education standards, 27 states have adopted them and about a dozen more are expected to do so in the next two weeks, reports the New York Times. Their support has surprised many in education circles, given states’ long tradition of insisting on retaining local control over curriculum. The quick adoption of common standards for what students should learn in English and math each year from kindergarten through high school is attributable in part to the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition. States that adopt the standards by Aug. 2 win points in the competition for a share of the $3.4 billion to be awarded in September. “I’m ecstatic,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “This has been the third rail of education, and the fact that you’re now seeing half the nation decide that it’s the right thing to do is a game-changer.” Even Massachusetts, which many regard as having the nation’s best education system–and where the proposed standards have been a subject of bitter debate–is expected to adopt the standards on July 21. But some supporters of the standards, like Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, worry that the rush of states to sign up–what Weingarten calls the “Race to Adopt”–could backfire if states do not have the money to put the standards in effect. “I’m already watching the ravages of the recession cutting the muscle out of efforts to implement standards,” she said. “If states adopt these thoughtful new standards and don’t implement them, teachers won’t know how to meet them, yet they will be the basis on which kids are judged.”

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Health education gets a federal boost

Schools step up to the plate and take an active role in Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative.
Schools are encouraged to take an active role in Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative.

Roughly a third of American children are overweight, researchers say, and 17 percent are obese—a condition that increases their risk of getting diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other illnesses.

Many health experts point to the amount of “screen time” that today’s students are logging as a key contributing factor in the child obesity epidemic. Now, backed by a campaign launched by First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year, some schools are using the same technologies that have many kids glued to their cell phones and iPods for hours at a time as useful instructional tools in their health-education programs.

To encourage students to adopt a healthier lifestyle, one recent lesson at Aaron Academy, a private special-education school in New York, had students research the nutritional content of popular food items online, then download this information to their mobile computers.…Read More

Texas debates how history should be taught

Rewriting the history curriculum has become an ideological battleground in Texas.
Rewriting the history curriculum has become an ideological battleground in Texas.

The latest ideological battle over what gets taught in U.S. public schools is being waged in Texas, where the state board of education is considering new classroom standards that will determine how history is taught for the next decade.

Several students, parents, and lawmakers lobbied Jan. 13 for more diversity in Texas’s social studies curriculum, while religious activists are pressing for more emphasis on the role of Christianity in how the nation was formed. The debate could have implications for schools outside the state as well, because Texas is one of the largest textbook markets in the nation.

In more than six hours of public testimony, dozens of people took their chance to help shape the way millions of Texas school children learn topics from the Roman Empire to the entrepreneurial success of billionaire Bill Gates.…Read More