Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Standards, Objectives, Curriculum, etc.

First a quick technical note to my friends at the Shanker Institute: your Click to expand/hide the full statement » button on the Call for Common Content page is not only too easy to miss, especially since there doesn't seem to be a pdf download of the whole document, but the expanded part is invisible to Google.

Anyhow, now that we know the rest of the document is there, here's and interesting passage:

Currently, there are efforts under way to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. But, as the past 30 years of the standards movement has shown, without attention to curriculum, standards are not specific enough to guide the development of valid measures of student progress. Simple logic suggests that it is impossible to assess student learning accurately when there has been no decision about what it is students are expected to learn. In order to create a rational system, we must begin with standards, then adopt curriculum and curriculum materials, and then develop assessments — in that order.

First off, I see no evidence whatsoever that Finland follows this system. They have a curriculum which includes for each course "objectives," "core contents" and at the basic level, performance standards. If they started with "standards," they aren't evident any more. For that matter, I don't think there is a meaninful distinction between "objectives" and "standards." Further, there are no national assessments in Finland. It would be most accurate to say that Finland's national system is just a curriculum. No standards. No assessments.

The problem is we've got these standards now, which presumably we can build a curriculum on top of. This may work in math. In fact, the Common Core "standards" in this case may be nearly as complete as a "curriculum" as it is being used here. I suspect it is very close.

On the other hand, the ELA standards are completely inappropriate for constructing a Finland-style curriculum on top. Your additional "objectives" and "core contents" would at least double the scope of the standards, and the redundancy and disorganization of the Common Core ELA would make the task a nightmare. At least, a nightmare if you actually tried to follow the logic of the Common Core ELA, rather than just fit it into whatever you wanted to do in the first place.

Anyhow, I count this as the beginning of a long, passive aggressive takedown of Common Core ELA. The only problem is that you can see here what happens if you don't have Gates behind you. You're just a bunch of jackasses with a website trying to tell people what to do.


Anonymous said...

I don't know that this could be a curriculum in mathematics. It could create a list of tested items, but that's a curriculum?

I don't think so. How do the pieces fit together?

Otherwise we have a blueprint for test prep, not a blueprint for teaching.


Tom Hoffman said...

I should probably just keep my mouth shut about math.

Anonymous said...


It's worth investigating what happened when "standards" first came to math... There were some efforts to write curricula around them... Didn't do so well... the assessments were impossible - to write, because what goes on them? - and to take, because what do we study?

The informal agreement was that a list of tasks would be developed. and curricula never were. So we have far purer teaching to the test in math across this land now than ever in the past, unencumbered by curricula. Just lists of skills (if we are lucky) or lists of tasks.

Newer assessments do not even pretend to have any coherence. Just a list of tasks.

That's not a curriculum.