Thursday, October 22, 2009

Curriculum Alignment in SPS: WHY?


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This is a quote from the first entry on this webpage:

"Basically, the district wants to align the curriculum from school to school for a couple of reasons. One is that there are enough students who transfer from school to school and find completely different things happening. Another is that the district wants to have some continuity about what is happening from school to school. I can see their point somewhat."

Do you want to know why I think the District is keen on Curriculum Alignment?

[If you don't, you can click here to return to the Table of Contents.]

The justifications the District has given don't sound very compelling, do they?  Not to me.  My guess is that Curriculum Alignment and Elimination of School Choice (SAP) are complementary parts of an agenda to increase the appetite for charter schools. 

Notice that SAP cannot be justified unless all the schools are identical in curriculum.
  • Even so, I would still argue that aligning curriculum isn't enough to justify SAP, Within large urban school districts such as Seattle's, SAP has a huge downside: de facto resegregation. We know that the kids assigned to struggling schools having little supplementary fundraising are not getting as good an education as kids assigned to a school with a predominately white and middle-to-upper class student body. 
  • Familes of kids who under the choice system would have elected to go elsewhere (say, Summit?  African American Academy?  Tops? - the first two of these programs were closed, remember?) will soon be--under SAP--stuck going to a struggling school they don't want to be in in the first place, and which is academically inferior to the school they would have chosen to go to.
Curriculum alignment, as we can see in the case of Roosevelt High School, can lead to narrowing and dumbing-down of the curriculum.  The schools to which the more advantaged children are assigned will become less appealing to families. The familes that can afford to will move their kids to private school.

Looking at these consequences of SAP and Curriculum Alignment, it is easy to see how families of all income levels will likely show a greater appetite for charter schools. Why? Typically

  • Charter schools are choice schools; if demand for seats exceeds supply, then typically charter school seats are assigned by lottery.
  • A parallel system of charter schools provides the choice that is to be largely (more probably, completely) eliminated by SAP.
  • Charter schools are free to cater to a target clientele.  Some charter schools specialize in serving low-income minority children. Such charter schools are often punitive and highly regimented. Some charter schools specialize in serving more affluent clientele.  So a network of charter schools can provide something for everyone.
We already have a psuedo-charter school in Seattle. It is called the New School. It is also referred to as South Shore.  The New School will be the topic of a separate blog essay. I will mention a couple things about it here. ,
  • The New School uses a PK-K curriculum "High/Scope" that sounds distinctly progressive. "High/Scope sets the stage for active learning: students have direct, hands-on experiences with people, objects, events and ideas. The children’s interests and choices are the heart of High/Scope programs, and a daily plan-do-review sequence provides the structure."  It sounds like the Grade 1-3 curriculum is similar in philosophy to the High/Scope curriculum: "The New School Foundation supports strong alignment between its pre-kindergarten experience and the K-3 experiences that follow."
  • Rumor has it that Maria Goodloe-Johnson is sending her daughter to the pre-school program at the New School.
  • There is plenty of evidence that MGJ does not support the non-charter public Alternatives schools in SPS, all of which provide progressive education to their students. (See The Sun is Going Down on Board Policy C54 and Alternative Schools .)

Don't these facts taken together tell us the MGJ likes choice and progressive curriculum as long as it is not within the non-charter public school system?

The next logical question that someone would ask is this:  Why do Reformists abhor free choice and progressive curriculum when it occurs WITHIN the public school system?  The most plausible answer I can think of is this:


The individuals and organizations that are bankrolling the School Reform advocacy movement are first and foremost business people, whose most fundamental objective is to Make Money for Themselves and/or for Shareholders.  

Open enrollment Charter Schools would provide a much better business income opportunity than do open enrollment C54 Alternative schools.

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