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Voting With the Teachers on the Standardized Curriculum

The Bellevue, Washington teachers have thankfully settled their strike and are back in their classrooms. At DreamBox we followed their issues with heightened interest, not only as parents of elementary kids and educators, but as citizens of a society that badly needs children who grow up to be smart, serious, and engaged problem-solvers.

A key issue for teachers was the curriculum instituted in the past decade. The district is considered one of the best in the state, as measured by test scores and a high level of college attendance, and four of its schools are in the top 100 high schools in the country according to Newsweek’s 2008 ranking.

So what’s the problem?

Teachers objected to the scripted curriculum mandated by the district — a top-down approach that required teachers to stick to the daily curriculum, which teachers claimed doesn’t take into account individual student needs.

Standardized Curriculum Ignores Individual Needs for Learning

In some districts, standardization is being taken to extremes. I know of engaged, creative teachers who are leaving the profession in frustration as individualization is being mandated out of their approach to teaching a diverse group of learners. One fantastic elementary teacher I know has successfully taught hundreds of young elementary kids of various skill levels to read, by working in small groups and giving lots of individual attention. But now she’s being told to stand in front of the room reading a book, while every child in the room sits in a chair and follows silently along.

I’m with the good teachers on this. There must be a balance between having consistent standards across the district, and across the country, based on curricula that are shown to improve student outcomes. But we must also train, motivate and hire smart, passionate teachers, support them with sufficient resources, and then let them do their creative best to educate our children.

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