March 21, 2014

Standards vs. Curriculum

Bill Gates himself has said "We'll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards." Nevertheless, proponents of the Common Core continue to spout about how the contents are "standards" and not curriculum.

So it was with great interest that I read an essay by someone who took the time to read the standards and offer two examples of exactly how they are curriculum:

Common Core standards are more than just content standards, they also dictate pedagogy and hence curriculum. Couple of obvious examples.

    Grade 1 standard 1.OA.6: Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).

This standard does not require only knowing addition and subtraction within 20, as a content standard should. It insists on knowing four specific ways to add and subtract. In other words, it dictates pedagogy and curriculum.

    HS Geometry G-CO: Understand congruence in terms of rigid motions
    6. Use geometric descriptions of rigid motions to transform figures and to predict the effect of a given rigid motion on a given figure; given two figures, use the definition of congruence in terms of rigid motions to decide if they are congruent.

    7. Use the definition of congruence in terms of rigid motions to show that two triangles are congruent if and only if corresponding pairs of sides and corresponding pairs of angles are congruent.

These standards do not require students to understand and prove triangle congruence, which is what content standards would. These, instead, require the study of triangle congruence using a very particular pedagogical approach (which, incidentally, is experimental and has a track record of failure).

In ELA, Common Core requires to split teaching time between informational and literary texts to about 50%-50% in K-8 and 70%-30% in 9-12. This is a pedagogical/curricular directive par excellence.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that these are "standards and not curriculum" point them to this evidence that they are wrong.

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