Members of the Curriculum Council realize that responding positively to the Communication SAC’s proposal could have serious and far-reaching ramifications.
Most evident will be pushback from multiple sources: parents of students, taxpaying patrons of the district, accreditation organizations, the state’s department of education, politicians, special interest groups, post-secondary education institutions, and other members of the education profession.
It is exciting to be trailblazers. But many people are not inclined to step into that role.
Trailblazers accept the certainty they will be challenged, questioned, doubted, and even vilified. They must be ready to respond with appropriate vigor, accepting the certainty of setbacks, frustrations, even occasional missteps and failures.
Predicting the challenges ahead is difficult. Shoring up preparedness requires intrepidness many people lack.
Most of us admire Thomas Paine’s “If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately” remark which he wrote about the colonies’ need for independence from Britain.
The colonies were successful in gaining that independence, but Paine never let up. His ideologies continued to make him controversial. However, today many of his ideas are accepted as fundamental to our democracy.
Countless other stories have been told about intrepid trailblazers who saw things differently and acted on their beliefs. While greatly admired today, many suffered as Paine did.
While that level of sacrifice is not expected in the district’s implementation of the new learning infrastructure, it may occasionally seem that way. We live in an era filled with a strange amalgam of social pressures, virus-related uncertainties, political divisiveness, economic concerns, loneliness, and media intrusiveness.
Our children feel the intensity as much or more than we do. Which makes it imperative that we figure out how to make schools better serve their needs now and in the future.
Which perspectives are associated with the new learning infrastructure that will likely get pushback?
- CURRICULAR SOURCE The source of the district’s curriculum is local mastery statements. Many in the academic world and public distrust local educators to make curriculum decisions not officially tethered to approved standards, textbooks, or other materials sanctioned by fully qualified academicians. Local teachers and administrators are not viewed with that status. The new learning infrastructure is designed to change that perspective.
- INDUCTIVE LEARNING Mastery statements used by the district are broader in both content and purpose than traditional curriculum, standards, and most textbooks. Local mastery statements are behavioral. They focus on demeanors depicting interactive competence, intellectual depth, investigative mindset, engaging collaboration, and creative experimentation. They operate in the upper categories of Bloom’s Taxonomy (applying, analyzing, evaluating, creating), yet they recognize the essential building blocks of remembering and comprehending. This approach reverses traditional strategies by emphasizing the importance of inductive teaching and learning —a key element in the new learning infrastructure.
- FORMATIVE TESTING Assessment processes are more significantly based on formative, not local summative or high stakes tests. Teachers measure student learning frequently as part of the instructional process. Results are recorded but might be anecdotal and dependent on teacher opinion. In some cases, empirical evidence may be present based on the structure of tests and objectivity of content. Most classroom tests do not qualify as being valid and reliable. They usually focus on student skills in the categories of remembering and comprehending. Parents and patrons often believe that current classroom testing is objective and worthwhile. But much of the time it measures incidental material. It does not promote ongoing retention of key skills and concepts.
- SCHOOL REPORT CARD One of the biggest problems for those advocating the new learning infrastructure is the current school improvement culture based on standardized test scores and other data. Standardized tests, whether high stakes subject-focused or college readiness aptitude, play a less significant role than they once did. But they still exist and remain important in the opinion of the public. As do graduation percentages, college acceptance levels, and grade point averages. Supporters of the new learning infrastructure believe in the real effectiveness of students and graduates. “Real” in both vocational and scholarly pursuits that go beyond statistical indicators. Descriptors such as: researcher, innovator, inventor, problem solver, builder, leader, and social entrepreneur. Those more meaningful, richer, and revealing data do not translate well in a superficial weighting system in which numerical scores are dominant.
Difficult Conditions Add to Challenging Ramifications
Unlike many other American institutions in the last 50 years, public education looks and feels remarkably as in the middle of the 20th Century. In terms of basic organizational and management strategies. In what students are taught.
The COVID pandemic modified how students are taught. But that change only involved distance media and methods to retard the spread of the virus.
A few superficial differences emerged over the years. Modern buildings and equipment, casual clothing for teachers and administrators, relaxed dress codes for students, security measures that include entrance scanning and uniformed guards, and a profusion of electronic devices. Students own cell phones, computers, and other devices to communicate and entertain them.
The pandemic introduced distance teaching and confusion. A major disruption in the flow of learning, socialization, and sense of educational purpose.
Getting students back in the buildings as the pandemic wanes is challenging. Teachers are resigning in frustration. Applications are down in teacher education programs, and principals feel even more pressure than before.
Teachers’ satisfaction with their profession, always an issue, has significantly dropped. While the pandemic exacerbated the problem significantly, it was already a major issue. Teacher exclusion in decision-making made them feel demeaned and undervalued.
As this story continues, members of the curriculum council begin to realize the significance of their task ahead.
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