Pittsburgh outsources curriculum

Pittsburgh has hired a private company to write a coherent curriculum for city schools, reports the Post-Gazette.

Because course content is uneven and out of sync with state standards, the Pittsburgh Public School district is paying New York-based Kaplan K12 Learning Services $8.4 million to write standardized curricula for grades six through 12.

. . . Teachers in other districts have complained that Kaplan’s detailed curriculum turned them into automatons and deprived them of time to cover material in adequate detail or help students with individual needs.

. . . Pittsburgh school officials cite an urgent need to bring coherence and rigor to what’s taught and tested in the district’s classrooms.

Not just a test-prep company any more, Kaplan went into curricula writing three years ago.

In 2003, the company began providing professional development and instructional materials to the 97 schools in low-performing District 5 in the New York City school system. Two years later, Kaplan said, District 5 was leading the school system in test gains.

Kaplan will tie the curriculum to state standards and test student progress every six weeks. Superintendent Mark Roosevelt wants to “use the results to provide extra help to struggling students. But he also wants to provide coaching or other assistance to teachers when results show large groups of their students falling behind.” I predict teachers will interpret “coaching” as monitoring for bad teachers.

Education Gadfly writes that the state standards are so weak that a standards-linked curriculum may not do students much good.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. I know there’s a “not invented here” issue, but why must people constantly reinvent the wheel? California’s math and language arts standards are consistently ranked as among the best in the country. Why not take those and tinker around the edges a bit, or take some other state’s widely-recognized-as-excellent standards and play with them, and then call them your own?

    This whole thing seems nuts to me.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    Why spend 8.4 million hiring some outside company when the state probably has scores of teachers who ARE experts on kids?

  3. Wayne Martin says:

    > Why spend 8.4 million hiring some outside
    > company when the state probably has
    > scores of teachers who ARE experts on
    > kids?

    Being an “expert on kids” and being able to construct a conherent curriculum are two different things. If the teachers were able to do this, why haven’t they?

    > California’s math and language arts
    > standards are consistently ranked
    > as among the best in the country .. why not
    > use these?

    Good point. PA Taxpayers need to start pressuring their legislators about intelligent reuse of education resources.

  4. Being an “expert on kids” and being able to construct a conherent curriculum are two different things. If the teachers were able to do this, why haven’t they?

    Nail. Head. Bang.

    Good point. PA Taxpayers need to start pressuring their legislators about intelligent reuse of education resources.

    Well, until PA becomes a right to work state, that won’t happen.

  5. Dan Greene says:

    I think that being a good teacher (or at least having had significant teaching experience) is necessary, but not sufficient for writing a good curriculum. A good curriculum is more than a logical structure, a list of standards, and a set of activities. You have to know how a given student population will interact with the curriculum (all curriculum developers make assumptions when creating their materials) and that takes teaching experience.

  6. Mike in Texas says:

    Why haven’t teachers written curriculum? Who says they haven’t, but in this day and age politicians and administrators can’t trust teachers, who spend the most time with the students and know what they are capable of, much more so than some bureaucrat in the state capitol who hasn’t seen the inside of a classroom in 20 years, if at all.

  7. Iron Mike says:

    How do we know that the private company hired to write new curriculum isn’t using teachers? Many teachers do quit and go into other fields where they could use their former experience.

  8. Wayne Martin says:

    > Why haven’t teachers written curriculum?
    > Who says they haven’t?

    Well, can you provide a list of School Districts and States that have adopted teacher-written curricula?

  9. Mike in Texas says:

    Well, can you provide a list of School Districts and States that have adopted teacher-written curricula?

    No Wayne I can’t. IMHO that’s why so many of them are so poorly done.

  10. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Who says they haven’t, but in this day and age politicians and administrators can’t trust teachers

    You do seem to have a skewed understanding of the public education system.

    Teachers are the subordinates of the administrators and the politicians are the elected representatives of the people. Who should be doing the listening and who should be doing the speaking is baked into the system. Don’t like it? Too bad.

    That’s the way expenditures of public money are handled and the lack of respect shown to teachers isn’t a shortcoming of the system, it’s a feature.

Trackbacks

  1. Pittsburgh Outsources Curriculum

    Joanne Jacobs:Pittsburgh has hired a private company to write a coherent curriculum for city schools, reports the Post-Gazette. Because course content is uneven and out of sync with state standards, the Pittsburgh Public School district is paying New Y…