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Curriculum and Instruction

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The following is a summary of two articles pertaining to curriculum and instruction issues facing local school districts in Iowa and California.

The first article states that the Iowa legislature intends to approve new statewide curriculum standards (Campbell, 2008). Lawmakers feel this is needed because there is a growing concern that Iowa is falling behind other states. The governor has set a date of 2010 for students to be versed in a “model core curriculum”. The Iowa Association of School Boards and many businesses are in favor of the standards.
At issue is whether to wrestle control away from local districts. Iowa has prided itself in the past on the ability of local districts to set the standards. However, the legislature has said an increased emphasis in math and science is needed, and that the new standards should be aligned with the ACT and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, another highly regarded exam.
Iowa’s move to raise the bar for its schools should be applauded. In effect, the state is mandating the change in order to attain accountability for its businesses, taxpayers and citizens. These increased expectations are not without reward, however. The legislature wants to find common ground on a bill to increase construction funding and teacher pay. There seems to be some consensus, not only in the legislature, but amongst citizens as well. They point to the Minnesota bridge collapse as an awakening. Investment must be made in general infrastructure, especially schools.
However, the important point is that curriculum, in this case, is being decided on state and local levels. Cooperation is needed on many levels, not just government. Citizens are having a say as well. Lobbyists, civic groups and other non-governmental organizations are making their voices heard. Perhaps most importantly, parents are voicing concerns. Curriculum design should involve people from all walks of life, especially in the public school setting. Where there is government intervention involved, there should also be a need for accountability.
The second article states that 98 school districts in California are not meeting the standards set forth by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (McCarthy, 2008). The superintendent of Marysville Joint Unified School District, Gay Todd, has invited Gov. Schwarzenegger to visit and determine what the district is doing wrong. Todd states that there is a considerable ethnic minority population in these failing schools, and that the language barrier is difficult to overcome. "Second-language learners take longer to acquire academic English than conversational English," she said.
This seems to be a common predicament around the country, not just in California. On one side of the coin, there is a segment of the population that agrees there needs to be accountability in the system. However, many feel that the Act puts minorities at a disadvantage due to economic and language barriers. There needs to be intervention within this district. However, if a school fails to meet the standards, and therefore funding is eliminated, what is the alternative? Who benefits?
This episode also brings to light the need for ESL teachers. California, let alone our nation, has received an influx of immigrants in the last ten years. If we are to prioritize solving this dilemma, we have to find a way to get the language training that the minority students need without punishing the schools by sacrificing their monetary needs.

References

Campbell, L. (2008). Statewide standards for schools expected. Des Moines Register.
Retrieved January 11, 2008, from http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080111/NEWS09/801110388/1001/NEWS

McCarthy, R. (2008). Marysville students left behind?. Appeal-Democrat. Retrieved January 10, 2008, from http://www.individual.com/story.php?story=76037719

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