Common core, common assessments…common curriculum?

December 20th, 2010

Category: News

The Common Core has demonstrated the power of what a voluntary, state-driven initiative can accomplish:  more efficient use of resources, cross-state comparisons, and students who can compete worldwide.

The new frontier is student assessment, led by state-based assessment consortia (SBAC and PARCC) to develop systems and item banks that can be shared.

Is a shared curriculum next? Some national experts are recommending a cross-state collaboration on curriculum development related to the Common Core and, in Delaware, we may be moving toward one without that explicit intention.

Delaware teachers already volunteer to develop and share curriculum units around Delaware standards, which have become highly-valued resources by many. Corresponding assessments (end-of-unit tests) have been developed as benchmark tools to help teachers determine whether or not to go over a unit again, whether students have supplemental needs, and when proficiency has been achieved and the time is right to move on.

As teachers develop the multiple measures required by the DPAS II evaluation system for demonstrating a year’s worth of academic “growth,” they are turning to assessments used in Delaware that can be shared and administered inexpensively to improve teaching. These Delaware Recommended Curriculum  unit assessments have been proposed for use as statewide and cross-district measures for teacher effectiveness.

This kind of voluntary, teacher-developed system might just turn into something the state adopts and from which the country benefits.

If we are to learn from high-performing countries, OECD has found that the most successful ones have been “tight on ends” (what students should know and be able to do—standards and assessments) and “loose on means” (how funding is used, how teachers teach). Some countries have a common curriculum, others let teachers develop it—and they provide them the time and support to do so. Will the U.S. and Delaware continue to have it both ways and, if not, on which side will curriculum fall?

Madeleine Bayard



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