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Standards

  • Share My Lesson: The Imperative Of Our Profession

    Written on July 5, 2012

    Leo Casey, UFT vice president for academic high schools, will succeed Eugenia Kemble as executive director of the Albert Shanker Institute, effective this fall.

    "You want me to teach this stuff, but I don't have the stuff to teach." So opens "Lost at Sea: New Teachers' Experiences with Curriculum and Assessment," a 2002 paper by Harvard University researchers about the plight of new teachers trying to learn the craft of teaching in the face of insubstantial curriculum frameworks and inadequate instructional materials.

    David Kauffman, Susan Moore Johnson and colleagues interviewed a diverse collection of first- and second-year teachers in Massachusetts who reported that, despite state academic standards widely acknowledged to be some of the best in the country, they received “little or no guidance about what to teach or how to teach it. Left to their own devices they struggled day to day to prepare content and materials. The standards and accountability environment created a sense of urgency for these teachers but did not provide them with the support they needed."

    I found myself thinking about this recently when I realized that, with the advent of the Common Core State Standards, new teachers won’t be the only ones in this boat. Much of the country is on a fast-track toward implementation, but with little thought about how to provide teachers with the “stuff” – aligned professional development, curriculum frameworks, model lesson plans, quality student materials, formative assessments, and so on – that they will need to implement the standards well.

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  • Getting Ready For The Common Core

    Written on January 30, 2012

    Our guest author today, Susan B. Neuman, is a professor in Educational Studies at the University of Michigan specializing in early literacy development and a former U.S. Secretary of Education for Elementary and Secondary Education. She and her colleagues at the University of Michigan have also partnered with the Albert Shanker Institute in sponsoring a summer institute for early childhood educators, focusing specifically on oral language development and the ways it can support and help build strong content knowledge. For more information, see here.

    States are now working intently on developing plans that will make new, common standards a reality. A recent report from Education First and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center concludes that that all but one of the 47 states adopting the Common Core State Standards is now in the implementation phase. Seven states have fully upgraded professional development, curriculum materials, and evaluation systems in preparation for the 2014-2015 school year.

    Nary a word has been spoken about how to prepare teachers to implement common standards appropriately in the early childhood years. Although the emphasis on content-rich instruction in ways that builds knowledge is an important one, standards groups have virtually ignored the early years when these critical skills first begin to develop.

    Young children are eager to learn about the sciences, arts, and the world around them. And, as many early childhood teachers recognize, we need to provide content-rich instruction that is both developmentally appropriate and highly engaging to support students' learning.

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  • Predicaments Of Reform

    Written on August 31, 2011

    Our guest author today is David K. Cohen, John Dewey Collegiate Professor of Education and professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, and a member of the Shanker Institute’s board of directors. This is a response to Michael Petrilli, who recently published a post on the Fordham Institute’s blog that referred to Cohen’s new book.

    Dear Mike:

    Thank you for considering my book Teaching And Its Predicaments (Harvard University Press, 2011), and for your intelligent discussion of the issues. I write to continue the conversation. 

    You are right to say that I see the incoherence of U.S. public education as a barrier to more quality and less inequality, but I do not "look longingly" at Asia or Finland, let alone take them as models for what Americans should do to improve schools. 

    In my 2009 book (The Ordeal Of Equality: Did Federal Regulation Fix The Schools?), Susan L. Moffitt and I recounted the great difficulties that the "top-down" approach to coherence, with which you associate my work, encountered as Title I of the 1965 ESEA was refashioned to leverage much greater central influence on schooling. Susan and I concluded that increased federal regulation had not fixed the schools, and had caused some real damage along with some important constructive effects. We did not see central coherence as The Answer.

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  • First, Know-What; Then, Know-How

    Written on July 25, 2011

    It is satisfying to read a book that examines education without claiming to be an education book. Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered feels fresh and inspiring, despite having been around since the early 1970s. In it, British economist E.F. Schumacher attempts to address fundamental questions, as opposed to dwelling on the politics around nonessential issues, even the politics around the politics.

    Schumacher argues that education will only help society if it helps that society become wiser. And we get wiser by thinking first about where we want to go (i.e., know-what), not how to get there. Today, the education world seems focused on the latter. Science, technology, engineering, all teach know-how. But who is concerned with the know-what? In my view, efforts like the Albert Shanker Institute’s "Call for Common Content" are a step in this direction.

    Schumacher points out that we often look at education as the answer to all kinds of problems. "[A]ll history – as well as all current experience – points to the fact that it is man, not nature, who provides the primary resource: that the key factor of all economic development comes out of the mind of man." If our civilization is in a state of crisis "it is not far-fetched to suggest that there may be something wrong with its education." We believe that for every new challenge ahead there ought to be a scientific and technological solution: more and better education will solve all problems to come. Yet, with all of our scientific and technological advances, our social problems still seem intractable. Why is that?

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  • Straight Up, Between The Lines

    Written on April 12, 2011

    Read carefully between the lines in Rick Hess’ recent blog post, “Can the Common Core Coalition Keeps [sic] Its Finlandophiles in Check?"

    Predicting a “fifty-fifty chance that the Common Core effort will dissolve into an ideological clash," Hess writes that in “one short document, the Shankerites managed to do much to undermine the loose confederation that had supported the Common Core." He also lumps a broad spectrum of signatories into one supposedly errant educational faction. People such as former U.S. Surgeon General M. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, Reagan appointee Checker Finn, George H.W. Bush appointee Charlie Kolb, George W. Bush appointee Susan B. Neuman, former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, and the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Kate Walsh — all are labeled as being “a slew of left-leaning academics and consultants, dotted with my pal Checker Finn and a few long-retired Republican governors”—and the whole crew is charged with being “Finlandophiles." God forbid.

    What’s going on here? What have we wrought with the Albert Shanker Institute’s "A Call for Common Content?"

    I think Hess is doing more than cooking up a soup of crocodile tears and polemics. He’s clearly uncomfortable with the direction that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will take education in this country, but he's not willing to take a clear position either way. Given his dilemma, attacking a sound strategy for implementing the standards seems like little more than undermining them without the political risk of having to register a truly “straight up” objection. And this is not the first time he has attempted to evoke tensions among potential supporters of the Common Core standards. I cannot help but suspect that he has made up his mind, but can't quite bring himself to say so.

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  • Extra Curricula

    Written on August 9, 2010

    In a recent post on Jay P. Greene’s blog, Greg Forster admonishes the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for running my piece on the importance of common curriculum in Gadfly, its weekly education publication (here). My ideas were never addressed. He simply uses the piece (and the fact of my position with the Albert Shanker Institute) to inform Checker Finn, Fordham's president, of his and Greene’s continuing worry "that the national standards machine Fordham has helped to create will be hijacked by the teacher unions." Forster goes on to issue a diatribe about the dangers of "national standards," "national curriculum," and "federal control of schools." He warns of this conspiracy leading to "a benevolent dictator who will make sure that everyone will do everything in the one best way." He also implies that the advocates of standards/curriculum-based education reform (an impressive bipartisan list), are really collaborators in a misguided plot to federalize education.

    Mr. Forster could not have read what I wrote very carefully to come up with such a distorted account.

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  • Curriculum: The Missing Link

    Written on July 27, 2010

    In a July 21 New York Times cover story, reporter Tamar Lewin rightfully noted "the surprise of many in education circles..." that 27 states had already committed to adopting the new Common Core academic standards developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

    Lewin goes on to attribute this surprise to "states' long tradition of insisting on retaining local control over curriculum" (emphasis added). With this simple statement - the equating of standards with curriculum - the author perpetuates an egregious error in the understanding of education policy. Though the politics of local control touches both standards and curriculum, educators and the public will never get policy right as long as too many conflate the two.

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