Monday, February 22, 2010

"Powering Down" in 21st Century Schools

We have finally taken on the challenge of working with our colleagues within the district, across grade levels in core content areas, to define what is essential for our students to learn and to create the common assessments that will be used to assess those skills. I am thrilled that we are finally moving in a direction that begins to create a K-12 curriculum in our district. However, I have begun to grow concerned as I read Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World, edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. Are our schools and curricula frozen in time? Do kids "power-down" when they come to school and then return to the 21st Century as they exit the building? I am afraid that at many schools this is the unfortunate reality for students. Does the current middle school that I work in, function and look like the same middle school I went to? Sad, but true.
As we begin the endeavor to define what is essential curriculum, it seems the charge is to use the content we have always used to articulate the minimums for what a student must know. What happens if the minimum eventually turns to into all of what a student must know? Is this the right message? With educators facing a time where everything is being cutback; from instructional time, teaching staff, extra curricular opportunities, collaboration time, and worse, salary and benefits, the message is: do more, with less. Often times staff feel that the state, district, and building initiatives are too much to ask. The fact is we are all going to have to do more with less. If our students' success depends not only on defining essential curriculum, but that the curriculum is relevant and replaces outdated material, activities, skills, and assessments with those that do not require students to power down when they come to school, is this too much to ask?
How is this task accomplished for our students' future success? When the Race to the Top Initiative is no longer an initiative, it will require that all schools have a rigorous and relevant curriculum that embraces technology in every aspect of student life. How do we get there if we are asking too much?

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