It’s the curriculum, stupid

Education reform has ignored curriculum, writes Beverlee Jobrack, a retired editorial director for McGraw-Hill, in Tyranny of the Textbook: An Insider Exposes How Educational Materials Undermine Reforms.

Mediocrity is the norm, according to Jobrack, writes Erik Robelen in Ed Week‘s Curriculum Matters.

• School and district committees for curriculum selection filled with teachers and others who lack the appropriate expertise, motivation, and time to make the best choices;

• State textbook adoptions focused on whether curricular materials meet state standards, line by line, with little or no attention to whether they actually are of high quality and represent a coherent and well-designed instructional approach; and

• A radically consolidated publishing industry, driven by sales and marketing tems, that has “resulted in a dearth of customer choice, a reluctance to innovate, and huge [curricular] programs that are barely distinguishable from one another.”

Graphics win favor. Innovation does not. “A group of very experienced teachers selects the textbook that is most like what they are already doing so they don’t have to change their lesson plans or procedures,” she writes.

Common standards won’t change teaching and learning “without real and meaningful changes in the curriculum,” Jobrack believes. The industry will resist change, she says in an interview.

“They’re not changing anything in the curriculum. They are simply relabeling. … If there’s anything missing in a textbook series, the publishers will simply add a paragraph or add a lesson to address that particular standard.”

When publishers produce an incoherent, standard-stuffed curriculum, it’s not surprising that teachers cherry-pick what they want to teach and ignore the rest.