A common core curriculum is “an idea whose time has come,” argues the American Educator, which devotes its entire new issue to making the case. In the three decades since A Nation at Risk, education reform has been “nonstop and not very successful,” the editors note. The U.S. has been unable to improve its schools while nations like Finland, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, have surpassed us. Why?
“As a nation,” notes AE’s lead editorial, “we have neither asked nor answered questions of paramount importance: What is an education? What is fundamental to it? What is peripheral?”
“What is fundamental to an education is the specific body of knowledge and skill, and the best means of acquiring it; what is peripheral is everything else. The reason we have fallen behind so many of our international peers is that we have been pursuing the peripheral while they have been pursuing the fundamental. While we have been dabbling in pedagogical, management, and accountability fads, they have written common core curricula—and that has made all the difference.”
The entire issue is a ringing call for a common core curriculum, “not just a piece of paper that guides the teacher [but] a living document that guides and brings coherence to the whole educational endeavor.” AE then enumerates the benefits of such a curriculum:
• Teachers need not guess what will be on assessments; if they teach the curriculum, their students will be prepared.
• Students who change schools are not lost, so time is not wasted on review and remediation.
• Textbooks are slim, containing just the material to be learned in a given year (not hundreds of incoherent pages trying to “align” to different states’ vague standards and different notions of proficiency).
• Teacher preparation programs ensure that candidates have mastered the curriculum, and ways to teach it, before they become teachers.
• Teachers across the hall, across town, and (thanks to the Internet) across the country are able to collaborate on developing and refi ning lesson plans and other instructional materials.
The strongest argument in favor of a common core curriculum? Equity. Without it, notes the magazine, “there can be no educational equity. True equality of opportunity may not be possible, but striving for it is, and no goal is more worthy.”
Lots more to talk about this issue in the coming days. For many years, American Educator has been, without a doubt, the most prominent and enthusiastic (and too often sole) proponent of a coherent core curriculum. The new issue is the publication’s most comprehensive and definitive statement to date.