I don’t know if this is happening in your school district, but around here we’ve been talking a lot about our Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum (GVC) project. Teachers have been working very hard under the tutelage of curriculum specialists to develop a GVC that spans all grade levels in our district using a common format. We’ve been told that without GVC teachers don’t know what to teach and students can end up with big gaps in their knowledge when they move between teachers, grade levels, or schools. Sounds great! But…
First, let’s agree on some definitions (lifted from http://www.thefreedictionary.com):Guaranteed 1. Something that assures a particular outcome or condition: Lack of interest is a guarantee of failure. 2. a. A promise or an assurance, especially one given in writing, that attests to the quality or durability of a product or service. b. A pledge that something will be performed in a specified manner. Viable
If we explain what GVC means to parents using these definitions we might get the following statement:
“We, the staff of (insert your school district name here), pledge to deliver an effective educational course of study, (insert curriculum project/vendor name here), to your children. These curriculum documents will be followed by your child’s teacher in order to guarantee that your child (insert the purpose of education here). You will be able to view these curriculum documents at (insert hyperlink here) to see exactly what your child is currently learning about.”
Perfect! We’ve just created something to put on the district’s webpage that will tell parents all about what their students will be learning. Or have we?
We can easily fill in most of the blanks in this statement, district name, fancy curriculum project name, and website where all the goodies are posted, but how about that one in the middle: insert the purpose of education here. How are we going to express that?
Let me throw out some options for what to write there:
“These curriculum documents will be followed by your child’s teacher in order to guarantee that your child
…can help America compete in the global economy.”
…can score proficient or advanced on the state exam.”
…gains entry into the college of their choice.”
…becomes a productive member of society.”
…gets the same education as everyone else.”
…learns critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”
Discuss among yourselves (or add a comment to this post): Which option (and I’m sure there are others) appeals to you? Why do we send kids to school? What is the purpose of our curriculum documents in light of this goal? Which of the above choices would the leadership of your district emphasize?
I recently saw this email from our curriculum consultant about the timing and placement of our curriculum units:
“I noticed in the 8th Grade Science Curriculum Map that all of the Earth Systems Science standards are located in 4th Quarter. Please note that on the Colorado 8th Grade Science Assessment Frameworks, 34% of the total score points will be awarded from the Earth Systems Science Standards (see attached frameworks).
Please have your science teachers take another look at the La Junta 8th Grade Science Curriculum Map. It appears, from what I can gather from the timing of the assessment, that all of the 8th Grade Science Standards will need to be taught by the end-of-third-quarter in order to be fully prepared for the 8th Grade Science Assessment. That will leave 4th quarter available for more extensive application or cross-content integration and/or preparation for 9th grade science.
There is a similar concern with mapping the 7th Grade Social Studies Standards in order to be prepared for the Colorado 7th Grade Social Studies Assessment.”
Just in case you missed it, the email says that our 7th and 8th grade teachers, and by extension everyone else in the district, have to cover all their required course content in the first three quarters of the school year. The fourth quarter can be used for “more extensive application or cross-content integration” or preparation for the next level. An extreme interpretation of this email would be that 4th quarter curriculum doesn’t matter, since its after the test. The unavoidable conclusion from this email is that the curriculum should be designed to create the greatest possible chance of success on the state test.
Thanks to this set of instructions about my department’s curriculum, I can now accurately craft the message that our curriculum sends to parents. Here we go:
“We, the staff of East Otero School District, pledge to deliver an effective educational course of study, the La Junta Public Schools Curriculum, to your children. These curriculum documents will be followed by your child’s teacher in order to guarantee that your child can score proficient or advanced on the state exam. You will be able to view these curriculum documents at lajuntaschools.org to see exactly what your child is currently learning about.”
Bummer. Talk about a missed opportunity. We could have made our curriculum about teaching kids skills that they’ll need when they leave our classrooms. We could have focused on making sure that we teach kids how to think for themselves and make informed decisions later in life.
Maybe we’ll work on that during 4th quarter.