"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Monday, March 7, 2011

How Does the "Aligning of Curriculum" in the State Create More Parental Choice in Education? What Kind of "Reform" is Really Being Offered Taxpayers?

I've been intrigued with the debate raging in the educational circles about the Federal government insisting the common core standards are state led, voluntary and the development of a national curriculum would not occur as a nationalized curriculum is illegal. Let's look at the plan for Missouri on the state level for curriculum today and then move tomorrow to the national level.

This website from the Missouri Department of Higher Education describes the P20 pipeline (that channel of educational/social/family information collected in educational institutions from your student) that ultimately will supply the workforce with human capital and its relationship with aligned curriculum. Here's a snippet from "P20 Initiatives in Higher Education":

P-20 Curriculum Alignment Steering Committee

Phase 3: The Steering Committee will be charged with: overseeing the work of the Discipline workgroups; promoting curriculum competencies in Missouri public institutions; working together with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to align curriculum across the K-12/postsecondary boundary; and compiling and presenting recommendations to the Commissioner of Higher Education for policy development.

What does "align" mean? According to Webster's: "to get or to fall into line". Constructing a syllogism with the information from the Missouri Department of Higher Education might look like this:

  • Major Premise: MDHE is aligning curriculum with DESE along the K-12/postsecondary boundary.
  • Minor Premise: The aligned curriculum will be presented to the Commissioner of Higher Education for policy development.
  • Conclusion: The aligned curriculum will result in policy development of adoption of a common curriculum from K-12/postsecondary boundary.
Maybe I don't even have to present a syllogism to believe this is the plan. Just look at the name of the committee again: P-20 Curriculum Alignment Steering Committee. The name says it all.

Here is a description of how DESE addresses curriculum decisions:

Particular emphasis is placed on assisting schools in aligning curriculum with the Show-Me Standards and the development of written curriculum guides required by the Missouri School Improvement Program and the Outstanding Schools Act.

Here's another syllogism:

  • Major Premise:DESE assists schools in aligning curriculum with the Show-Me Standards
  • Minor Premise: The State Board has signed onto the common core standards which will replace the Show-Me Standards
  • Conclusion: DESE will assist schools in aligning curriculum with common core standards.
If the syllogisms are valid, local control is non-existent. How is adopting state-wide curriculum considered giving local districts more control in what their students learn? Are the reforms making their way through the Legislature (school choice, trigger options, charter schools, etc) addressing the issue of common core standards and the takeover of curriculum? I've searched the pending Missouri bills and can't find one mention of rescinding common core standards which will presumably lead into common curriculum.

If you can tell us how the state aligning district curriculum into a common state curriculum creates more local control, we'd like to hear your reasoning. The reforms for this legislative session are supposed to be about parental choice. Are we missing something from reading this MDHE document? Aligning curriculum along a K-12/postsecondary boundary seems to be more centralization of control to the state, not to the local districts.

Tomorrow: part II will address the national takeover of curriculum.

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