Curriculum is key, teachers say

A strong curriculum is a top priority, said more than 40,000 public school teachers in pre-K through 12 who participated in Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools by Scholastic Inc. and the Gates Foundation. The report states:

“Nearly 9 in 10 teachers agree that a high-quality curriculum ensures academic success for their students (88%).”

Other conclusions:

  • Fewer than half of teachers (45%) say higher salaries are essential for retaining good teachers. More teachers say it is absolutely essential to have supportive leadership (68%), time to collaborate (54%), and quality curriculum (49%).
  • More than 80 percent of teachers say district-required tests are at least a somewhat important measure of student performance (84%). Overall, teachers value multiple measures, including formative assessments, performance on class assignments and class participation along with standardized tests.
  • Only 10 percent of teachers say that tenure is a very accurate measure of teacher performance while 42 percent say it is not at all accurate. Student engagement and year over year progress of students are by far viewed as the most accurate indicators of teacher performance measures (60% and 55%, respectively, rate as very accurate) but are not frequently used to evaluate teachers.
  • The report is a “useful snapshot” of teachers’ views, writes Common Core’s James Elias, though he hopes for questions in the next round on time management and the effect of testing on what gets taught.

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    Comments

    1. Mark Roulo says:

      9 in 10 teachers may agree that “a high-quality curriculum ensures academic success for their students,” but they would be wrong.

      A high-quality curriculum taught by an incompetent teacher will not result in academic success for the students.

      A high-quality curriculum is a very good thing, but it isn’t enough …

      -Mark Roulo

    2. Tom Linehan says:

      Exactly Mark. Tons of good research shows that the quality of a child’s education can not exceed the quality of the student’s teacher. http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/mckinsey_education_report_20071202070650.pdf

      There is no secret to improving education. You need leaders who keep everyone focused on teaching and learning. You need a great teacher in every classroom. You need a demanding curriculum. And you need a system of accountability. Great schools have all of these.

    3. Diana Senechal says:

      Isn’t the survey at fault here? I would have trouble with the question, given the use of the word “ensures.” The statement reads, “High-quality curriculum ensures my students’ academic achievement.” The choices are: “agree strongly,” “agree somewhat,” “disagree somewhat,” and “disagree strongly.”

      The largest percentages were in the “agree strongly” and “agree somewhat” categories (44 and 45 percent overall, respectively). And I wonder how many of those who answered “agree somewhat” or “disagree somewhat” were uncertain about the meaning of “ensures,” not about the importance of curriculum.

      For a survey to mean much, it has to be written well, for starters.

    4. I’m just shocked anyone asked teachers at all.

    5. Mark Roulo says:

      “… I wonder how many of those who answered ‘agree somewhat’ or ‘disagree somewhat’ were uncertain about the meaning of ‘ensures,’ …

      Are you seriously suggesting that a large percentage of “40,000 public school teachers in pre-K through 12” don’t know what the word ‘ensures’ means?

      This possibility didn’t even cross my mind …

      -Mark Roulo

    6. Diana Senechal says:

      They know the meaning of “ensures.” But what is it supposed to mean in the context of the question?

      If those who wrote the question really meant “guarantees,” then wouldn’t they expect a “no” across the board? Isn’t it obvious that no single factor guarantees students’ academic achievement? And isn’t it a silly question, then?

      And how could someone “agree somewhat” or “disagree somewhat” with the statement without reinterpreting “ensures”? You can’t partially ensure something.

      Or perhaps some took “agree strongly” to mean that curriculum plays a large role; “agree somewhat” to mean that it plays a role in combination with other factors; etc.

      Isn’t it likely that those taking the poll read into the question, realizing that it was poorly written and that they would distort the survey results if they took it literally?

    7. Mark Roulo says:

      “Isn’t it likely that those taking the poll read into the question, realizing that it was poorly written and that they would distort the survey results if they took it literally?”

      Now *THAT* I can believe 🙂

      So it is more a case that the teachers (a) understand what the word ‘ensures’ means, and (b) realized that answering the question was asked would generate ‘strongly disagree’ answers across the board. Realizing this, the teachers may have tried to ‘help’ the survey authors by guessing what the question might have been if the survey authors had written a meaningful question. Then, the teachers answered *this* guessed-at question.

      Yes, this would not surprise me.

      In which case, yes, the survey is at fault (or, more accurately, the humans who wrote it are at fault), *AND* the results are mostly likely close to meaningless.

      -Mark Roulo

    8. Lots of teachers believe that if you just have the perfect curriculum, the kids will be engaged and learning–and good behavior–will happen.

      What puzzles me, though, is why the teachers feel this is imposed by others. It’s not hard to make any curriculum work, and as a teacher you’ve got a lot of control over how you deliver the curriculum.

    9. Cal said:

      It’s not hard to make any curriculum work, and as a teacher you’ve got a lot of control over how you deliver the curriculum.

      I guess you’ve never heard of Open Court Reading, Direct Instruction or Everyday Mathematics?

    10. Cal,

      One of the big myths of education, in my opinion, is that a good teacher is a good teacher is a good teacher. I am able to be a good teacher if I have a good curriculum that I’m very familiar with in a subject area that I know a lot about. I become a bad teacher when I’m forced to teach a bad curriculum, especially if it’s in an area that I don’t know a lot about. When I taught character ed (not my major) with a wretched curriculum several years ago, classes were wretched and I’m sure those students thought I was a bad teacher. When I get to teach world history, my forte, and have time to build my own curriculum (a massive undertaking that few ed leaders seem to appreciate) I often feel I’m doing a very formidable job. Curriculum matters a lot more than most lay people seem to realize.