kitchen table math, the sequel: the trouble with curriculum directors

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

the trouble with curriculum directors

from Concerned:
I've been on a few textbook selection committees over the years. In the last 10-12 years, there's been a real push to force the selection of certain texts.

Why? I honestly don't know, but I believe that it is a very concerted effort.

Typically teachers are invited to evaluate the texts, but most likely the documents used to collect and organize the information are so skewed, that a text lacking conten will surely win out.

During the last text adoption, I decided which text was best first, then I filled in the scoring guide so it had the highest possibe marks in all categories and all the other texts ranked extremely low.

I just refused to rate them according to the "criteria" listed because it was so bizarre!

Content and coherence were only part of a very small category that was weighted lightly overall. There was no way the evaluation sheet could bring a text with quality content to the forefront.

It was totally ridiculous!

I'm sure that these teachers are going through a similar experience.

This is how curriculum leaders, who typically don't know the subject, drive the selection process - they place the focus on all the other "stuff"

The parents and the school board members should just ask individual teachers DIRECTLY which text/program they believe is best for the students.

This is another example of the anti-knowledge character of public schools: one curriculum director, certified to teach one subject & one subject only, is deemed competent to choose curricula in every subject taught.

Private & parochial schools & universities don't function this way. Authority over curricular choices belongs to departments.


My impression is that the position of "curriculum director" is a growing specialty in K-12.

Is that right?

Is this a change?


Heather said...

We are a district that allows our departments to be involved in our own curriculum development and selection (when we have the budget to do so, of course.)

And we appreciate it the freedom. We really do. But I will say that there is a flip-side to the freedom, and that is the hours and curriculum development and selection that we put in on top of our instruction. It is a huge hat to wear on top of our many others. We are constantly reworking our assessments, redesigning, and re-finding. It sometimes feels that because we don't have the resources that a curriculum director might have, we are always reinventing the wheel.

It's just another perspective. Am I glad that we have control and can use our assessments formatively to design our next ones? Yes. But it takes commitment, effort, and time. Things a teacher does not necessarily have.
Thanks for the article.

-Heather Wolpert-Gawron
aka Tweenteacher

Anonymous said...

SJ Mercury News reported this morning that the Palo Alto (Calif) school district just chose Everyday Math as its new curriculum:

Barry Garelick said...

Typically teachers are invited to evaluate the texts, but most likely the documents used to collect and organize the information are so skewed, that a text lacking content will surely win out.

This is probably because of educationist belief that "content" is merely the teaching of exercises and mechanical algorithmic solution to a specified set of problems. In their view this does not lead to thinking "off the script" and to "authentic" problem solving, as I describe in my recent article on the subject of discovery learning. The criteria are therefore skewed toward those books that don't focus on facts and procedures, but rather those that provide an "authentic" learning experience.

Catherine Johnson said...

Heather -- thanks!

Useful to hear.