Not surprising, there is much debate about the idea of creating a ‘common’ or ‘shared’ curriculum to support the Common Core State Standards. An Education Week article captures the discussion well, highlighting that at the root of the issue is the various definitions of ‘curriculum’. Experts and thought leaders are quoted in the article describing how they interpret ‘curriculum’ – whether that be the ‘macro’ or ‘micro’ curriculum or the ‘operational curriculum’ or daily lesson plans or a textbook. Funny – it seems we need a ‘common’ definition of ‘curriculum’ to have a productive discussion about ‘common curriculum’.
The debate gets even more heated as mandates from the top down get closer to impacting actual classroom practice. Research has shown that the most critical piece in determining student achievement is the teacher. I’m reading an interesting piece, “Teacher and Leader Effectiveness in High-Performing Education Systems” published by the Alliance for Excellent Education and SCOPE (Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education), that describes the highly effective education systems of Finland, Ontario, and Singapore. Several key components are identified as critical to the success of such systems. What struck me was the way each system valued teachers – investing in recruiting the best, training and building their expertise in pedagogy and content, and then trusting them to make decisions about curriculum and assessment for their students. They are viewed as professionals and treated as such. Check out this interview with Bill Gates. He discusses his work on improving teacher effectiveness. It’s all quite fascinating – trying to determine the best path(s) to reform.