A diverse group of influential education and other leaders today announced support for clear curricular guidance to complement the new Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by most states.
A statement released by the nonpartisan Albert Shanker Institute and signed by dozens of educators, advocates, policymakers, researchers and scholars from across the educational and political spectrum, highlights one largely ignored factor needed to enable American students to achieve to high levels and become internationally competitive—the creation of voluntary model curricula that can be taught in the nation’s classrooms.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, urged broad support and dissemination for the statement, "A Call for Common Content". “We are arguing for the tools and materials that teachers need," she said. “With rich, sequential common curricula, amplified by state and local content—and with teacher preparation, classroom materials, student assessments, teacher development, and teacher evaluation all aimed at the mastery of that content—we can finally build the kind of coherent system that supports the achievement of all learners; the kind of system enjoyed by the world’s highest performing nations."
The release of “A Call for Common Content” comes at a special time. After decades of debate, the nation is finally on its way to having common, voluntary standards in mathematics and English language arts. Although this recent state-led effort is an important and positive first step, notes the statement, it is not sufficient to achieve a well-functioning education system that offers both excellence and opportunity.
The statement makes clear that its signers are not urging states to use a single or a national curriculum. Rather, a number could be developed – all aligned to the common standards and all of high quality. States could choose among curricula created by others, create their own, or work with other states to develop shared curriculum. Both states and districts could then fit additional content they might choose into their overall educational program.
States must also develop, or have access to, curricula that:
- lay out a clear and practical design for learning the disciplines that teachers can use to help students acquire the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn in core academic subjects;
- illuminate grade-level expectations and learning progressions for teaching and learning in a coherent and substantive manner;
- involve teachers and other learning experts in their development;
- fit available instructional time as well as leave adequate time for the inclusion of local content, and
- include sample lessons, examples of student work, and assessments that help teachers focus instruction and measure student outcomes.
With help from the Department of Education, many states have already begun to work together to design new assessment systems aligned with the new standards, notes Eugenia Kemble, Executive Director of the Albert Shanker Institute. “But," she said, “the assessments they end up using should measure domains of knowledge recommended to them by professional content experts and practitioners through some publicly accountable process. As the statement notes, “In nations with core curriculum …, this systemic approach—coupled with equitable resources and strong teacher training—has resulted in both very high average achievement and a diminishing gap between high- and low-achieving students."
Still, given the many, competing definitions that exist, the statement also makes clear that curricula does not mean “performance standards, textbook offerings, daily lesson plans, or rigid pedagogical prescriptions."
“The common standards give us a much clearer vision of what all students should learn and be able to do at every level of schooling," said Randi Weingarten.”But in order for teachers to teach, and for us to measure our progress towards achieving these lofty goals, we need to provide educators, schools, districts and states with the missing pieces—specific curricula, materials they can use, and the training to get it done."
For the complete statement and list of signatories, visit the http://shankerinstitute.org/curriculum.html