Best of best: curriculum and effective schools


“Victory Surrounded by Prisoners and Trophies” by Frans Floris I via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

Best of the Best

This compilation of ideas on improving education sounds really interesting.

Speaking of compilations and the best of the best

Paul Kirschner has compiled a list of articles in response to the question, “What article or articles do you feel are seminal articles in our field [educational psychology] that every (young) researcher should be aware of?”

More best of the best: the most effective schools aren’t only charters, even according to Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Institute has published a report on the characteristics of the most effective schools, according to it’s Schoolgrades.org rankings. Nice to see a healthy balance of both district and charter schools in this mix, and the report highlights the work of Brooklyn’s PS 172.

The report highlights the following generic traits of effective schools:

  • Strong Leaders
  • Engaged Parents
  • Discipline and a Culture of High Expectations
  • A Well-Mapped, Well-Rounded Curriculum
  • Extended Learning Time
  • Frequent Assessment
  • Highly Effective Teachers

Most of these are pretty common sense, but I truly wish more attention were paid to the necessity for a well-mapped, well-rounded curriculum.

Speaking of curriculum

 

Mike Petrilli on a promising model for OER.

“Anyone interested in helping teachers and students innovate and meet new standards should support this type of marriage of top-down funding and bottom-up design. Those of us in education reform have a bad habit of not finishing what we started, of chasing a new shiny idea every few years. Doubling down on curriculum reform is one important way to get the Common Core job done.”

Common Core may have helped increase the challenge in school curriculum, but it’s still too easy for most high school students

“more than half of 12th graders reported that their math work was always or often “too easy.” Many high school students also say that they don’t get much from school, and nearly 20 percent of high school seniors across the nation don’t “feel like they are learning” in math class.”

Interesting results of a curriculum review from Louisiana

I focused mostly on the ELA 6-8 side of things, since that’s my wheelhouse.

What was really interesting is that they slammed ReadyGen’s K-5 program, which is rated highly by EdReports.org, rating it as a Tier 3 curriculum—meaning “not representing quality.” ReadyGen is also the only Core Curriculum K-5 offered in NYC next year (a school can feasibly go it’s own way, but then must pay it’s own money to do so).

The other surprise was that they rated NYC’s other two middle school core curriculum, Code X and Expeditionary Learning (EL) EngageNY, as Tier 2, only “approaching quality.” Again, EL’s was rated top by EdReports. But I have to agree with the items that they knocked EL’s curriculum on: the fact that “It is unlikely that a teacher will be able to complete all modules in on school year” and that “there is no formal or consistent structure in place re: grammar and language conventions.”

What did they rate top tier ELA curriculum? Great Mind’s (of Eureka Math) new ELA curriculum, Wit & Wisdom, and Pearson’s new fancy online curriculum, myPerspectives.

I’ve taken a look at the samples available for both of the above, and I have to say that I’m a fan of Wit and Wisdom. It seems well-designed, clear, knowledge-based, and engaging. If anyone out there is using it in their school, please share your thoughts!

Pearson’s is also interesting. It’s got a fully digital platform for both teachers and students, making one wonder: are they attempting to slowly cut out the teacher altogether? Also making one wonder: maybe this is darkly ingenious . . . Other than the platform, however, this kind of sleekly packaged curriculum always rings alarm bells for me, as does Scholastic’s Code X. If it’s too pretty, I don’t trust it.

So we need more research on curricular impact

“Because no “taxonomy” exists of curricular features, research has not explored the elements of curriculum that really matter in student learning. We know very little about what makes a curriculum effective.”

From a new report on curriculum from StandardsWork

Comparability of state data is out the window

Part of the effort to set consistent standards across states naturally involved the desire for comparability of student performance. The Smarter Balanced and PARCC organizations were created to partner with states to do just that. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, states have opted for cheaper, less politically contentious, and less rigorous options. Just goes to show you what happens when there is a lack of federal “overreach” on such efforts.

Outsourcing grading.

A great idea.

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2 thoughts on “Best of best: curriculum and effective schools

  1. Raquel

    Our district has just adopted Wit & Wisdom for K-8. I teach Kindergarten. It’s very inappropriate for that age. The lessons are 70+ minutes for 5 year olds. Also, it assumes that students are able to spell and write sentences from Pre-K. The books are amazing, but that is really the only good thing that I can say. The curriculum is supposed to be rigorous, but the “rigor” comes in by having several long tasks back to back. Therefore, it’s really just more stuff to do. Also, there are multiple questions that you ask during a lesson, but you don’t answer all of them in the lesson. It’s very unfair to a little child to barrage them with questions that you aren’t going to answer. It confuses them. I don’t know if this is from the Great Minds or our district, but we are not supposed to modify the program in anyway. The program neglects English language learners and students with learning disabilities because of this lack of customization. My biggest issue with my District’s adopting the program is that they didn’t do a pilot in a handful of test schools. They adopted it wholesale without knowing the impact it may have. This curriculum is only 2 years old and it hasn’t been tested enough. Most of the articles championing it are really press releases written by the company or written by someone who has involvement with the company. I forgot to mention that it says every child “reads” the books. No every child holds a copy of the book and is supposed to follow along. I have some students who read on a 2nd grade level and some who don’t know where to begin reading a sentence. Those kids who can’t already read in Kindergarten are becoming frustrated because they can’t keep up because they don’t know how to follow along in the book. The good parts of the program are overshadowed by the negative parts in my opinion.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Raquel. I only looked at the middle school level, so don’t know what that level looks like at all, so it’s good to get some feedback on it. I haven’t found a perfect curriculum anywhere, so I’m wondering whether you’ve used other curriculum that you think it more appropriate?

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