The word CURRICULUM confuses most people, which is why the current morass in education was easy to create. MY 40 year experience with using and writing genuine CURRICULA offers readers here an authentic look at what a curricula should do, and what it did for me.
Diane explains that she (like me and all genuine classroom professionals) has "always preferred a balanced approach that includes both skills and knowledge." Diane Ravitch, was not only Under-secretary of State (for 2 administrations) she was a member of the board of the Core Knowledge Foundation for many years.
She states:" I don't think that the Common Core standards will unleash a fervor for knowledge because it is really just more of the skill-based approach that Wexler decries. Presumably she wants states and districts to adopt the Hirsch Core Knowledge curriculum, as the "EngageNY" modules do. I think she would be wise to read those modules. Teachers and parents have complained about the overload of information in them.
Diane includes a selection from the first-grade module. YOU should read it and consider that some first-graders are just learning to read. Few, if any, have a context into which these facts can be assimilated.
Look, folks, this ain't valid curricula, but it is what teachers have to use. Let me explain what curricula looks like.
The classroom professional PRACTITIONERS must be the ones to choose appropriate and interesting materials that are familiar to them, and thus, be able to match the materials to the needs of those kids who sit before them by writing the curricula. The children are the 'patients' who will benefit from the practice, but it will be the teacher who will be blamed for the failure
Knowing the emergent learners who sit before them, knowing the developmental learning tasks, and knowing what materials can work best, is why the PRINCIPAL HIRED this practitioner in the first place.
Choosing the classroom curriculum for that group is what I always did, and what I did so successfully, that my kids were always at the top of citywide tests-- back then in the nineties... before the tests were manipulated so that schools would appear to be failing, and teachers could be demonized.
Treating teachers like trained monkeys, demanding they use the crap that the local school board has purchased at great cost, and following mandates by legislators and school boards with not a whiff of knowledge of educational practice -- is at the CORE of the Curricula crap foisted on teachers.
What is germane, however, today, is that this Core Curricula promoted by Duncan and clones, enabled the CONSTANT MANDATES FROM people at the top, often people with no classroom experience, who tell the classroom practitioner what to use, and evaluate them by subjective rubrics like kids scores on tests, or anything that pops into their heads.
Documenting teacher incompetence is the task of to many school administrators today, and they are very creative at it, using and misusing core curricula mandates to demonstrate teacher incompetence or insubordination.
Yes, physicians who are experienced professionals, too, are expected to use certain practices and medicines and to know what works and what is a magic elixir,* but they are also tasked with KNOWING WHAT WORKS, and that is why the BEST doctors are experienced . * You might want to read my essay on Magic Elixirs, which is based on Daniel Willingham's work
The public schools today are starved for funds, and by firing the experienced professional and hiring novices who do not know how to write curricula and will follow bogus learning modules, they keep the budgets low. Failing schools are the results, and the same would happen of hospitals if this was the practice there.
I do believe that the problem lies, also in the college preparation of teachers. Ed courses are often terrible. I know. My own were a devastation, at it was only through practice and study on my own, that I came to know what worked.
Thus, novice teachers need curricula guidance and a choice of materials to meet the learning tasks for each age. Critical thinking skills are not hard FOR PROFESSIONALS to teach.
Engaging our current American youngsters to DO WORK...is quite another thing, which is why the TEACHER needs to choose and write the curricula for the class that sits before her!
But then what do I know... I was only the cohort in NYC for the REAL, GENUINE AUTHENTIC, National Standards Research on THE PRINCIPLES OF LEARNING, out of Harvard, funded by Pew, studying tens of thousands of teachers... to learn WHAT THE HECK WORKED.
Oh, you never heard of it? But you have heard of the NCLB act, from which the testing mania was developed along with the core 'curricula' that powers it.