Saturday, March 8, 2014

At Least Use the Correct Terminology

Warning...Political rant to follow:

Appalling and sad. That's all I can manage to think right now after reading Sen. Scott Beason's bill, SB443. I take issue with many things in the bill, but will only tackle one in this post. The terms 'curriculum' and 'standards' are not interchangeable. In my opinion, this incorrect use of terminology is meant to confuse the issue. In SB443 he proposes local school systems be able to "...opt out of the Common Core curriculum..." (emphasis added) Common Core is not curriculum. Common Core is a set of standards. Here is the difference:

Standards-- goals that students are supposed to meet. Things that students should be able to do and understand.
  • Example: Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm. [5-NBT5] This is a fifth grade math standard. It and any other Alabama standards are available to the public here
Curriculum-- the method and resources used to help students achieve required standards. Curriculum refers to teaching materials such as text books, the sequence of instruction, and the delivery of instruction. 
  • Local school districts already have control over the curriculum. With input from teachers, parents, and other stakeholders, the districts review curriculum materials and decide together on which ones to purchase. 
Think of the standards as the finish line of a run and curriculum as the actual running route. I may set a goal (my standard) to run five miles. There are multiple starting points and routes that I could take to reach my goal. My running buddies and I usually decide together which route we will take, and sometimes we even change our minds mid-run. The route I take may be different from someone else's route. We may even run at different speeds or stop to walk. That's okay as long as we reach our standard (goal) of five miles. 

These terms are two completely different things. If we are to have a conversation about a subject, we need to have a shared vocabulary and understand what the terms we speak and write mean. Common standards ensure that Alabama's children will be prepared to compete  locally, nationally, and globally for jobs. Our graduates will be as ready for college and a career as students from any other state. 

Senator Beason, I'm asking you to please use the educational terminology correctly. I invite you to visit classrooms and see what our students are doing (curriculum) each day. Our local systems are already deciding how best to educate our students to meet the goals (standards) our state has set.

Readers, currently this bill is still pending committee action. I'm asking you to contact your senators and ask them to stop this bill while it is still in committee before it gets to the floor. We can't allow this for our students. 

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