Right-leaning online journal Education Next has an interesting commentary on the words used to describe the Common Core, a set of nationally-crafted academic standards adopted now by 45 states.
The problem, writes Peter Meyer, is the new standards are often described as a curriculum:
As Lisa Hansel of the Core Knowledge Foundation notes in the first sentence of her recent Education Week commentary, “The Common Core Needs a Common Curriculum,” the CCSS themselves clearly warn against this conflation (here): “[W]hile the standards make references to some particular forms of content, … they do not … enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn. The standards must therefore be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum.” [Emphasis added.]
Indeed, the CCSS in English Language Arts do emphasize “informational texts,” do provide recommendations of the kinds of texts that should be read, and are a cut above most state standards on the rigor and content front. But they are not a curriculum.
It is not a small distinction, since standards provide goals and a curriculum provides the day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year road map for reaching those goals. As Cunningham says, “The standard is the bar that students must jump over to be competitive. The curriculum is the training program coaches use to help students get over the bar.” If we don’t understand that distinction, we encourage all kinds of mischief in what is so far a laudable effort to improve the chances of American students to succeed in the new world economy. Without a curriculum we send students willy-nilly, untutored and unpracticed, toward the bar; it won’t matter how high it is.
It’s an important distinction, especially in Indiana and other states where pushback against the Common Core has gained legislative traction. Earlier this spring, lawmakers voted to “pause” implementation of the new standards pending legislative review.
Indiana’s fiercest Common Core opponents, a pair of Indianapolis parents who formed the group Hoosiers Against the Common Core, argue that the new standards are dictating curriculum in schools across the state. They’re especially concerned about the impact of requiring students to read more informational texts could have on high school language arts classes.
“It’s about Indiana keeping control of what the students are learning and how we are going to test them,” says Erin Tuttle, who helped lead the statehouse fight.