We’ll never get ed policy right as long as we continue to conflate standards and curriculum, notes the Shanker Institute’s Eugenia Kemble. Discussing the rapid adoption of Common Core State Standards on the Institute’s blog, Kemble notes “the creation, promotion and acceptance of the Common Core Standards…represent[s] a sea change in the way this country is coming to think about its education system.”
“But, aside from a few enlightened souls, most of education’s brains trust still fail to recognize that curriculum is where the rubber hits the road. The road is about implementation and implementation requires curriculum – that is, the selection and sequencing of essential content knowledge so that teachers can produce a sensible year’s worth of expected learning in the core domains of math, literature, science, history, civics, the arts, foreign languages, and health and physical education.
Kemble notes that calls for a common curriculum have been made by Shanker, E.D. Hirsch, Diane Ravitch and many others, but the idea has never gained traction, probably because of preoccupations about local control of curriculum. “Aligning education around a common core curriculum the way most developed nations do,” Kemble writes, ”means a virtual overhaul of the way American education operates.”
“But think about what doing this might actually mean for all the pop solutions currently on the table – good teacher preparation (education schools might have to acknowledge that student curriculum actually matters), good teacher evaluation (we might even consider the fairness of having a consistent set of expectations for what students should know), good research (imagine research not plagued by an inability to truly control for the variation in what students are expected to learn), performance pay, targeting low performing schools, assessments to measure defined accomplishment rather than to differentiate students, and on and on.