"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, June 02, 2011

National Curriculum and National Testing

The Gates, Walton, and Broad Foundations have bought up all the time and energy they can from academics, teachers, and policy people whose time and energies can be bought to pursue the one best curriculum and one best test for the nation's schoolchildren.  One nation, under Gates, with liberty and justice for corporations. 

In various parts of the country, checks are being distributed to state governments to fund special classes this summer to get administrators and teachers trained in the latest corporate scam to come along:  national standards, national curriculum, and a national test.  Begun from a Business Roundtable effort called the American Diploma Project to shape the American high school curriculum state by state, the new effort at nationalizing K-12 schooling (paid for by ED, Gates, and Broad) makes the ADP seem like child's play in comparison. 

Today the corporate sell-out Randi Weingarten, the academic mercenary, Susan Neuman, and the once-upon-a-time Republican Tom Kean (who by today's GOP standards is a socialist), have a guest column in the Star-Ledger to accompany the roll-out of the Common Core that has come to Jersey to replace state and local curriculum and assessment.  It is appropriate that Neuman would be chosen as the mouthpiece for the Gates and Obama folks now, since it was Neuman who was so enthused in 2002 by the new NCLB promise to bring an end to experimental and creative teaching methods that she said this:
"It will stifle, and hopefully it will kill (them)," said Neuman, U.S. assistant secretary of education. "Our children are not laboratory rats."

Susan's latest enthusiasm promises to finish what NCLB started, for now the Gates folks are busily canning a national curriculum, while spending tens of millions to produce DVDs of "exemplary lessons" that essentially will offer a replacement for teacher preparation for the de-skilled temp workers that the corporations plan to put in urban classrooms to replace professional teachers, until such time that schools for the poor can be put entirely online (hi Bill!) for distance schooling of those for whom the lily-white and postivized Gates folks would like to keep the most distance from.

Notice in the following clip how Susan, Randi, and Tom acknowledge that national curriculum, instruction, and testing provide “guidelines in the core academic disciplines, specifying the content knowledge and skills that all students are expected to learn, over time, in a thoughtful progression across the grades.”  Also note the denial that these specifications of content, skills, and pacing, or the entire scope and sequence process of curriculum, do not impose "rigid pedagogical formulas."  If we mean by "pedagogical" the art and science of teaching, then their denial is simply a bald-faced lie:
. . . some commentators have claimed that we are calling for what they describe as one “national curriculum,” “national standards” and even “national tests.” This completely mischaracterizes what our statement says and what we want to achieve.

By “curricula,” we do not mean any of these, nor are we calling for lesson scripts or rigid pedagogical formulas. We do mean “guidelines in the core academic disciplines, specifying the content knowledge and skills that all students are expected to learn, over time, in a thoughtful progression across the grades.” We also argue that curricula should provide a practical design for achieving the standards in the limited instructional time available to teachers, and an understanding of how children learn at various stages in their development.

We are very clear these model curricula should be voluntary and that educators should have access to multiple sets of them. Some of this is beginning to unfold with states and school districts, teachers, publishers and foundations combining their resources to craft their own guides and teaching materials. Especially during a time of tight education budgets, these are generally welcome additions that will prevent teachers from being forced to make up designs for teaching all of this content as they go. Of course, good curricula must be developed with strong input from teachers, curriculum specialists and content experts [the ones on the Gates payroll--see above].

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