Money matters

Money matters, concludes a Shanker Institute report (pdf), which looks at ways that school spending improves student performance. When schools have larger budgets, they’re empowered to spend more opportunistically and productively, concludes Bruce Baker, a Rutgers education professor.  “In short, money matters, resources that cost money matter, and the more equitable distribution of school funding can improve outcomes,” Baker writes.


Against a national curriculum

A national curriculum backed by national tests will stifle innovation, freeze the status quo into place, end state and local control of schooling  and “impose a one-size-fits-all model on America’s students,” argues Closing the Door on Innovation, signed by 100 education and public policy leaders.

The U.S. Education Department is funding two groups that are developing assessment systems to match Common Core Standards. A manifesto organized by the Shanker Institute has called for a national K-12 curriculum.

Common Core Standards aren’t good enough to be the national standard, the anti-Shanker manifesto argues.  The highest-performing countries and states set higher standards.

Furthermore, there is no one “best” curriculum design.

The Shanker Manifesto assumes we can use “the best of what is known” about how to structure curriculum. Yet which curriculum would be best is exactly what we do not know, if in fact all high school students should follow one curriculum.

. . . A single set of curriculum guidelines, models, or frameworks cannot be justified at the high school level, given the diversity of interests, talents and pedagogical needs among adolescents. . . . Other countries offer adolescents a choice of curricula; Finland, for example, offers all students leaving grade 9 the option of attending a three-year general studies high school or a three-year vocational high school, with about 50% of each age cohort enrolling in each type of high school.

. . . A one-size-fits-all model not only assumes that we already know the one best curriculum for all students; it assumes that one best way for all students exists. We see no grounds for carving that assumption in stone.

The manifesto was organized by Bill Evers, research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; Greg Forster, senior fellow at the Foundation for Education Choice; Jay Greene and Sandra Stotsky, professors at the University of Arkansas; and Ze’ev Wurman, executive at a Silicon Valley start-up. Signers are listed here.

Update:  A national curriculum is in the works, Eduflack points out.  The Gates Foundation is working with the Pearson Foundation to write online curricula for 24 courses.

Robert Slavin believes the boffins can create one best algebra curriculum.

Shanker called for common content, not a national curriculum, responds Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers president.

Empty at the core

The new Common Core Standards will not guarantee “college and career readiness, predicts Will Fitzhugh of the Concord Review. A curriculum is needed to specify what students will read, write and know.

The education nomenclatura has been “reluctant to ask students to demonstrate any knowledge on tests, for fear they would not have any knowledge to demonstrate,” he writes.

So essay tests, for example, do not ask students to write about literature, history or science, but rather to give opinions off the top of their heads about school uniforms or whether it is more important to be a good student or to be popular, and the like.

. . . even though almost all of the state bureaucracies have signed on to the new Standards, the chance is good that they will collapse of their own weight because they contain no clear requirements for the actual academic work of students.

Fitzhugh is a fan of Albert Shanker, the great American Federation of Teachers leader. The Shanker Institute is among those leading the call for a “rich” curriculum to support the new standards.