Curriculum & Instruction

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” ― André Gide

As we’ve said numerous times before, for the vast majority of states, adoption of the Common Core standards was an enormous improvement. (Click for Fordham’s review of each state’s standards and the Common Core.) It’s equally clear that we have an enormous challenge on our hands to ensure that the Common Core is implemented in a way that makes the most of these stronger and more rigorous standards. Change is hard but Common Core, correctly implemented, has the potential to amp up expectations and instruction across American classrooms. 

I’ve already posted about the danger of curriculum publishers co-opting the Common Core to promote their own (relatively unchanged) materials. But there’s a second, and potentially even more troubling challenge that lies ahead: a resistance among teachers to changing their instruction.

As the time comes to start implementing Common Core some teachers are starting to dig in their heels.

Of course, for teachers, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. There has been no shortage of curriculum fads and reforms that have demanded instructional changes and promised improvements,...

In January, with the release of our analysis of state K-12 science standards, we reported that the state of state science standards was very poor—the overall national average was a very low C, and 26 states earned a D or F. This news was unwelcome, if also unsurprising.

But, as many people already know, a group of 26 states have teamed up with Achieve to do for science what the NGA and CCSSO did for ELA and math—to create a rigorous set of common standards that states would have the option to adopt as their own.

Whether those standards will be worth adoption remains an open question, but insiders tell us that we can expect the first public draft to be released for comment later this spring.

Our advice to the drafters of these “Next Generation Science Standards” (NGSS) was to look to the model state standards—to places like D.C., California, and Massachusetts—to inform their work. But what about the most commonly used national international benchmarks for science achievement—the NAEP, PISA, TIMSS, and ACT? The results from these assessments are often used to describe how well (or how poorly) states and nations are doing in science education. But are...

March (ESEA) Madness?

Mike and the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke step outside to debate the place of climate science in standards and whether John Kline’s ESEA proposals stand a chance, while Amber looks at the relative merits of a four-day school week.

Amber's Research Minute

Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week - Download the PDF

“Planting healthy content seeds will lead to a bumper crop of good readers,” noted Fordham’s Peter Meyer eight moons ago in reference to second-year results from New York City’s Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) pilot reading program. Year three results, released this week, are equally compelling. Some background: CKLA is meant, through early reading instruction and content-rich “read-alouds,” to introduce all students—low-income students specifically—to the “core” common knowledge needed to navigate society. The pilot reading program tracks 1,000 students in twenty low-income schools in the Big Apple. Ten of these are implementing E.D. Hirsch’s “core knowledge” pedagogy (which stresses nonfiction reading, content knowledge, and decoding skills) while the other ten (with like demographics) employ reading strategies of the “balanced literacy” sort. Besides tracking scores on pre- and post-tests, this study gathered teacher and administrator survey data and conducted site visits at four CKLA schools, confirming teachers’ fidelity to the Core Knowledge program. CKLA students across all studied grades (Kindergarten through second) boasted larger gains than their comparison-group peers, and students with lower base achievement saw larger gains. Core Knowledge had the greatest impact on Kindergarteners; fidelity to the program resulted in reading gains fivetimes greater than those experienced by...

Save the podcast!

Mike and Janie make the case for keeping the Education Gadfly Show going with witty analysis of Common Core critics, student discipline follies, and the GOP’s education conundrum. Amber delves into teacher dissatisfaction and Chris asks “What’s up with that?” one last time.

Amber's Research Minute

 The MetLife survey of The American Teacher - Download the PDF

What's Up With That?

Teacher's health insurance policy includes free plastic surgery.

Sounding off on "snobs" and Santorum

Mike and Rick break down the week’s news, from the prospects of John Kline’s ESEA reauthorization proposals to the college-for-all controversy. Amber analyzes the latest report on Milwaukee’s voucher program Chris wonders whether robbing a bank is enough to get a school bus driver fired.

Amber's Research Minute

The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

School bus dispatcher was bank robbery getaway driver -

It’s Rick-sanity!

From Lin-sanity to charter school discipline, Mike and Rick take on political correctness in this week’s podcast. Amber breaks down the recent Brown Center report and Chris defends Michael Jackson’s dance moves.

Amber's Research Minute

The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education

Download the PDF

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

‘Billie Jean’ dance move a show stopper - 9 year-old boy suspended for performing Michael Jackson dance move.

Youth Choir
American innovation doesn't start in the classroom.
 Photo by Dave Parker.

A few weeks ago, a couple of Japanese scholars dropped by
the Fordham Institute offices for a visit. This happens every so
often—delegations of foreigners make the Washington ed-policy circuit, seeking
a better understanding of America’s schools. As with most Asian visitors I
meet, these gentlemen were curious about how we manage to produce so many
innovative leaders. They want a Bill Gates, a Steve Jobs, or a Mark Zuckerberg
of their own.

To which I replied: “You’re looking in the wrong place. It
has nothing to do with our schools.”

This isn’t meant as a knock on our school system. But from
ages zero to eighteen, our young people spend about 9 percent of their lives in
class. Isn’t it likely that the other 91 percent contributes more to such
attributes as their creativity or willingness to question authority?

I asked my visitors what Japanese adolescents do when they

Ed. Note: The email version of this edition of the Gadfly Weekly failed to identify sections of this week's editorials by
Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Peter Meyer as quotations from other authors. We
have great respect for the work of the
New York Times, the Washington
Post, and Mark Bauerlein, and would never want to imply that it was our own. We
apologize for the mistake.

Pundits and politicians have cited the loss of manufacturing jobs as a
sign of American economic decline for decades now, but a recent Washington
Post article
suggests that the problem is an under-skilled workforce, not a
lack of opportunity. With that in mind, Checker and Peter square off this week
to debate whether a renewed and revised focus on vocational education is the key
to the U.S.'s economic future.

21st-century VocEd  could be key to future economic prosperity

By Chester
E. Finn, Jr.

a huge fan of high-quality liberal-arts education for everybody and really do
it would go far to prepare better citizens, neighbors, and
consumer/transmitters of America’s cultural heritage and democratic
underpinnings. I’m also an acolyte...

Embracing the Common Core

Embracing the Common Core - Michael Cohen Presentation

Mike Cohen, president of Achieve, speaks at Embracing the Common Core: Helping Students Thrive to the specifics of PARCC (the assessment consortia Ohio joined last fall) and warned that the implementation of the new standards in ELA and math will not be easy and that districts should start the implementation process now.

Download his presentation here.