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February 2004 | Volume 7 | Number 5
New Needs, New Curriculum
Students need a curriculum that is guaranteed and viable. What does that mean? Follow this link to hear Robert Marzano's definition.
A guaranteed and viable curriculum—here's what it means: In your school, no matter who teaches a given course or grade level, you can guarantee that certain topics will be addressed. Absolutely guarantee.
Here's the second thing it means: That the content the teachers are supposed to address can actually be covered in the time available. That's the killer right there. The standards movement has turned around and bit us on this one.
When the standards movement started—arguably after the first Education Summit in 1989, when we set the national goals—the reaction was [that experts in] every subject area started to identify the key content for every student to know. We all used the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics' document as a model. (It was a fine document, which they updated in 2000.) The subject area experts got together and asked, “What's important?” By 1995, five national documents were created. At that time, Chester Finn was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. When asked the question, “Dr. Finn, what do you think about the standards movement?” he replied that it was a good idea, however, and I quote, “every subject area has exhibited gluttonous and imperialistic tendencies.” What did he mean by that? Every subject area identified absolutely everything in their subject area as important to learn.
My good friend and colleague at McREL, John Kindell, has tracked the standards documents for a decade. Here's what he's found: Across the subject areas in those standards documents, there are 255 standards across fourteen subject areas [with] 3,500 benchmarks. Now, you only have 13,000 hours of class time to deal with and only 9,000 hours of instructional time—when students are actually engaged in content instruction. Unfortunately, it would take 15,500 hours to address that content. In other words, you'd have to change school from K-12 to K-22 to address all that content.
Now, it's a humorous point, but it's not humorous. If you're a building level administrator or superintendent, my message to you, and it's a biased message, but I say, unless you address this problem, your teachers have a task that they cannot possibly perform.
Copyright © 2004 by Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
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