Mandating curriculum a matter of urgency
AGHHHHHHH. What good is a map showing that the earth is flat?
Just as a voyager needs a map, or an architect needs a blueprint, a school district needs to know exactly where it wants to take its students and how to get there.
That's why Hawai'i should adopt a curriculum now for every grade level to provide the best paths to achieve the standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Such a model curriculum should be not be voluntary — but mandatory — in every public school in the state. Only a mandatory law that allows educators to set the path addresses the urgent need for consistent methods throughout our public schools.
Senate Bill 3059 should be the vehicle that installs a mandatory model curriculum. But it's not.
Instead, the bill proposes a curriculum goal that is merely an option teachers might choose to follow.
Making it optional turns a well-intended bill into a meaningless exercise. Teachers and education clusters can choose to ignore it at their discretion, and the inconsistencies will more than likely remain.
Making the bill voluntary is a concession to the Hawai'i State Teachers Association. But even the union is split on the issue. While some younger teachers are willing to accept a model curriculum that would include lesson plans, veteran members view the bill as the Legislature's attempt to dictate educational policy.
In reality, the bill respects educators' expertise and does not dictate a specific model curriculum. It calls for a standard curriculum, and leaves it to the Department of Education to come up with a model in consultation with principals and teachers. Clusters already in the process of developing a curriculum can incorporate their work into the final plan.
Too many students go through a school system plagued with inconsistency. Without a standard grade-level curriculum, students who change schools can find themselves hopelessly behind. A mandatory model curriculum would correct that. Making it voluntary fails to address the urgent need to help our students now.
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