Hello! Welcome back to another crash course in education brought to you by ED100. This week I will be dissecting the important facts and ideas from Module 6 which covers issues centering around the curriculum of schools. Module 6 is very long and dense (17 lessons, in fact) so I encourage you to click on the link above and go through it yourself if you would like a deeper and more specific understanding. Without further ado, here is Module 6 “The Right Stuff” broken down:
Common core standards essentially standardize the language arts and math courses taught at schools. Prior to 2010, each state had its own standards which may or may not have been strictly enforced. For those interested, here is a National PTA created summary of the Common Core Curriculum. Obviously standards are important, they influence which textbooks teachers choose and what learning materials are used to supplement the classroom. One issue with standards is knowing whether they’re actually being implemented in schools. Districts try to solve this by supplying teachers with scripts that detail what to teach and how to teach it. A problem with this solution is that teachers, especially experienced ones, often ignore them and implement their own strategies. Also, it’s easy for scripts to reinforce dry learning tactics, decreasing student engagement and passion for the class. Another curriculum based problem is that UC/CSU schools require specific prereqs (a-g) for admission. However, not all high schools offer these courses. The LA schools district is trying to enforce the a-g course load as a minimum to graduate high school; unfortunately, not all students can handle this type of course load (Graduation Requirement Change.
California is also facing a lack of literacy skill development in grade school students. In CA, more than 40% of public school children speak a language other than English as their first language. A common pattern that is being seen is that schools tend to place inexperienced teachers in classrooms with high numbers of non-native English speaking students. This mismatch can further impede the growth of literacy skills in these young students.
In line with the gloomy theme of falling beyond in literacy development, success in universal STEM education isn’t looking so good either. Ironically, given the tremendous success of silicon valley companies, CA falls in the bottom five states when it comes to science education. Education professionals believe schools need to direct more focus on early math instruction so that more students can qualify for 8th grade algebra. The Harvard Graduate School of Education described how families should get their kids involved in math at a young age: “Making Math A Family Thing”. Studies have shown that math class placement may even be socioeconomically influenced, as large numbers of students of color and of poverty are being incorrectly placed in a 9th grade math class that they should have passed out of.
A large portion of Module 6 talks about making the classroom interesting and engaging to all students, an idea that follows parallel to our own mission statement. A 2012 survey asked kids what got them interested in learning. The most popular responses were:
Working with their peers and with technology
Connecting school work to the real world
Giving students choices and variety of learning experiences
Having a teacher who is excited about the work and easily approachable
In accordance with student request, project based learning is becoming increasingly popular. Educators believe connecting material to the real world in a project based scenario not only reinforces academic knowledge, but encourages “habits of the mind” that are essential for success after school. Another study found that an astonishingly low 10% of elementary students regularly engaged in practices of hands on scientific learning through labs, analysis, and writing. As Project SCIFI has been advocating since our beginnings, there’s a monumental difference between reading about elemental spectroscopy and actually firing up a Bunsen burner to sleuth the element at hand.
A few lessons discuss the importance of classes that aren’t explicitly listed in the Common Core Standards. For example, topics on personal finance are obscurely described as being “woven” into the curriculum although naturally tieing in financial independence in a language arts or science class is sure to feel awkward. Rather than leaving such an important factor in succeeding after school to chance, it might be a good idea to have a dedicated high school class to the subject. Additionally, obscure, but priceless topics such as character building and values can easily be forgotten in the classroom. ED100 reminds us that although parents have the most important role in instilling good values in young students, teachers as well as peers are a close second as they spend countless hours with students in the classroom.
As you can see, determining what to explicitly teach students and how to actually do it can be a daunting task. Unfortunately I couldn’t get into too much detail in this blog as I wanted to cover the majority of topics without making this a twenty page paper (you’re welcome). However, if you are interested and want more facts I urge you to check out the ED100 link above and keep checking in with Project SCIFI to see what we’ve been up to. Thanks for reading!