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Debate: Should US education be standardized?

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Should we standardize the curriculum of the United States education system?

Background and context

The recent movement towards standardization of the Curriculum standards in the United States can be traced back to 1983, when the U.S. Department of Education released a controversial report entitled "A Nation At Risk", which asserted that the country's public education system was being "eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity." It went on to claim that American students were not being adequately prepared to compete for the jobs of the future.

In response, business leaders, politicians, and community advocates renewed calls for education reform. These calls led to states' efforts to create academic standards - statements of what students need to know and be able to do in each subject at each grade level.

Curriculum can be defined as a plan for what is to be taught in schools. It consists of topics to be taught at all levels in the primary and secondary schools. The term "curriculum" is generally understood as the courses or programs of study offered by an educational institution. The concept of "curriculum" is best understood, however, from the Latin root of the word which is "currere", or "to run" as in to run a racecourse.

To use an analogy, curriculum means the course (or path) that students have to run to finish the "race" -- or put another way, all the activities which students need do if they are to finish a programme of study and achieve the intended learning goals. Curriculum is more than just a body of knowledge, a list of subjects to be studied, or a syllabus -- it is all the planned experiences such as extra-class activities, guidance, and interpersonal relationships which learners may be exposed to in order to achieve the learning goals.

Education policy expert Jolley Bruce Christman of Research for Action said, "It's an enduring dilemma of education - how much do you standardize, and how much do you leave up to the individual teacher and schools?"

Contents

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Is a national standarized curriculum constitutional?

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Yes

The U.S. Constitution is a document known for its "elasticity". The flexibility to change with the changing needs of the country is one of the fundimental advantages to the constitution. As the growing world economy effectively seems to make the U.S. economy weaker, we need to defend our selves by offering the best educated and most productive citizens available to the market.

The U.S. Department of Education released a controversial report entitled A Nation At Risk, which asserted that the country's public education system was being "eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity." It went on to claim that American students were not being adequately prepared to compete for the jobs of the future.

In an effort to regain the position of leadership in the area education, the U.S. will need to help steer the direction of each of its 50 states back on a course of excellence. This is the mission of the No Child Left Behind act. It is an effort to help states align their standards and measure their results.






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No

From the framing of the Constitution in 1788 to the mid-20th century, historically the federal government has been very cautious in lending assistance to the states or local schools for education--in line with the majority belief that the federal government should have little to do with education, and that education was a state responsibility. This historical president gives us a better understanding of the intent of the federal government.

The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reserves to the states all powers not specifically delegated to the national government, public education in the U.S. is fundamentally a state responsibility.







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Is a standardized curriculum a financially responsible way to spend tax dollars?

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Yes

When a school develops a curriculum that is teacher based each school pays each teacher to plan and develop the "plan"(virtually eliminating continuity between teachers). If a District develops a curriculum plan teachers and administrators get together and jointly form a plan far reducing the cost and at the same time the continuity is improved. It stands to reason then that a state curriculum would save even more tax dollars when it removes the burden from each of its districts. Therefore a federal curriculum plan would make every state work toward the same goal while removing the financial burden of developing the curriculum off of its 50 states.

Curriculum development is very costly. Curriculum development that is research-based is even more costly and somewhat rare. And, therefore, there are not that many choices of quality textbooks and supporting materials available. If one is deemed to be better than the rest then there should be some standardization. A national curriculum would make it possible for publishers to produce one well written text instead of 50 versions of the same basic text. This would dramatically lower the tax payers burden as well.

Centralized curriculum allows the districts and states to achieve some financial pull with publishers because of bulk purchasing. Although districts do not use their power of the purse aggressively enough, this is one very important factor.


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No

The benefits of a centralized curriculum can only be achieved in some ways if the benefits are cashed in on.

The economies of scale that can be achieved through a centralized curriculum in terms of the owner of the purse, parent involvement, professional development, and logistics are all meaningless if they are not realized.

In a time when school districts are providing classroom-only textbooks and a non-existent parent portal / involvement, it is unlikely that schools currently have the capacity to realize these gains.

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Will students benefit from a standardized curriculum?

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Yes

Sometimes teachers are expected to make up their own curricula based on the standards, this leads to a variation in how teachers address state standards as well as different expectations across classrooms. With Standardized curriculum the teachers will be working as a team, working on the same academic journey resulting in an equivalent experience ofr students regardless of which classroom they are in.

District offices can do some real work in terms of parent involvement on curricular issues if there is a centralized curriculum. Parent involvement is a lot of work and if there were pieces that could be done centrally that would be a benefit. When parents are involved student performance is increased.

Standardized curriculum in cities has a lot to do with student mobility. It's important for schools to be on the same page because students move so frequently back and forth among them.

Other rationales include the hope that standards will provide support to new, inexperienced teachers, equal opportunities for students in poorly managed schools, and guidance for principals who must serve as instructional leaders.

While they have become more common, standardized curricula still vary in degree. You can have a standardized curriculum across a district without having it be very detailed, or you can have a very detailed standardized curriculum where literally everybody is on the same page on the same day.

There is the argument that there is a body of common knowledge that everyone needs to know in order to be deemed literate in a broader sense than just being able to read. For instance, one would hope that every child with a high school degree would be able to describe why the US has three branches of government, what they are, and how the current system of checks and balances is working. Whether or not they remember that James Madison was the chief architect of our constitutional system is less important than that they understand his broader ideas. But each student could not escape hearing about James Madison if they were to read and understand the history of the US Constitution and, thus, understand the separation of powers … so, at least, recognizing Madison as a founding father is important.


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No

Teachers must be passionate about what they teach in order to be effective. They need to be in control of their material and they must have a clear sense of how children will learn about math or history through their use of that material. To force a curriculum on a teacher is very difficult and I am not sure that this ends up to be in the best interest of anybody: I think this is what is at the heart of the math wars. Some people are more right brain and some are more left brain and some curriculum fits better with some learning styles than others.





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Pro/con resources

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Yes


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No

See also

External links and resources

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