Monday, August 10, 2009

National Curriculum and School Achievement

Dispatches from the American Sociological Association meeting.

Stephanie Arnett, a fine young sociologist at Tulane (and a Centre graduate) reported that tracking in school increases the difference in achievement between richer and poorer kids. This is not a surprise. But she also found, in her massive 29-country comparison of school policy and students' achievement, that having a national curriculum significantly closes the gap in achievement between richer and poorer kids.

The idea of a national curriculum is so foreign to Americans that we don't even test for what it might do. We do, however, have the bases for a state curriculum in some states, such as Kentucky. We have been working in Kentucky to lift everyone's achievement on the core curriculum. We have also been working to close the gap between richer and poorer kids. Using the former as a tool to achieve the latter is a structural force I had not fully appreciated before.

9 comments:

Mrs. G said...

The Common Core standards project will resemble a national curriculum in important ways. Of the 46 states who have agreed to cooperate voluntarily on those standards, some are sure to go wobbly when it's time to change their existing expectations, but many will go forward with a shared approach to reading and mathematics, backed up with shared testing and a new market for aligned textbooks and other teaching resources. For details, check out prichblog.blogspot.com/search?q=Common+Core

winston said...

National curriculum, national health care, national car companies. I think the tide is turning against these ideas.Independents who voted Democrat are starting to regret their choice. The polls are starting show it.

Gruntled said...

National car companies are temporary. A national curriculum is the choice of each state. What is your objection to a national health care safety net? Do you object to a national old age security net? National old age medical care? National food inspection? Clean air? Clean water? Mail delivery? Military security?

winston said...

Let's nationalize everything and tax ourselves into prosperity.

War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.

How far would you go gruntled?

As Rahm Emanuel said "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste".

Anonymous said...

"consider the possibility that the State might declare "two plus two makes five" as a fact; he ponders that if everybody believes in it, does that make it true?"

Anonymous said...

I can not speak for other systems, but I'm related to a KY teacher who is so incredibly frustrated by the new shared state mandated curriculum that he now seems eager for retirement. As he has described it to me, the point seems to be that the shared curriculum results in mediocrity, it keeps the bad teachers from messing up for the kids, but it seriously hampers the good teachers. As an experienced teacher, don't you think that your teaching would be negatively affected if you had to follow fairly strict guides of what exactly you had to teach to the point that every teacher in the same type of class in the department needs to give the exact same test?
And I am extrememly skeptical about the news that these efforts "close the gap". In my experience as a student, when much emphasis has been placed on these "standards" it means that teachers teach the tests and I'd go from loving learning to dreading my classes. It seems very possible to me that this gap is being closed...but does it actually help these students?

Gruntled said...

I think the first question to ask about any standard is "is the content good?" If you agree that the content is indeed stuff that everyone should know, then our conversation turns to the best way to be sure that all students learn that good content, especially the worst off students. A core content is meant to be a minimum - that is why it is called "core." It could only be a recipe for mediocrity if it were a maximum, if teachers were forbidden to do more.

Now if we agree on all that - the content of the core, the need to find a way to help the least prepared students learn it, the freedom of teachers to go beyond the core - I don't really see what is scary about a core curriculum and some way of assessing how well students have learned it.

Anonymous said...

The rub is, we can't all agree.

karim said...
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