Mid-State Educators: Curriculum Display Proposals Add Burden to Existing Transparency | Education

Through various means, local school district administrators say they are already providing parents with access to information about the courses their children are taking in school.

The concern is that national pressure to force educators to publicly post all course materials online could have a chilling effect on teachers’ ability to deliver instruction.

“It would send the sad and discouraging message that we don’t trust teachers or their professional judgment,” said Michael Gogoj, director of education for the Carlisle Area School District. “It is also heavy from a logistical point of view.

“Our community and our school district have always valued the educational process,” he said. “Teachers want to inspire and motivate students by providing rich and meaningful readings, assignments and activities.”

The Associated Press reported that curriculum transparency bills are popping up in state legislatures across the country. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and West Virginia are among the states considering versions of the legislation. Some Republican governors have highlighted the issue in their 2022 State of the State addresses.

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Online program requirements are not just about what is taught in schools. The push is also part of a broader national political strategy by Republicans ahead of this year’s midterm elections, centered on a “parents’ bill of rights.” The proposed manifesto calls for access to school materials, certain entrance privileges to school buildings, rights to academic, medical and security records, school contracts, educational data collection strategies, and more.

Pa’s bill vetoed

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed House Bill 1332 in late December. This Republican-backed legislation would have required school districts to publish a written syllabus or summary of each course, state academic standards for each course, and an Internet link or title for each textbook used.

The bill, with Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-Dauphin) as sponsor, advanced through the State House with a 110-89 vote, with only Republicans voting in favor. Midstate State Representatives Greg Rothman, Dawn Keefer and Toren Ecker signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

The bill was unanimously rejected by Democrats.

“This curriculum transparency legislation would give parents easy access to research what their children will learn in school,” Lewis said in a press release in December. “They should be able to log in morning and evening to have access to the curriculum plan, including textbooks, and that plan should be updated online whenever it is revised.”


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Wolf offered a different take on the bill.

“Under the guise of transparency, this legislation politicizes what is taught in our public schools,” Wolf said in a veto statement. “The onerous demands of this bill fall on educators who should focus on critical issues such as addressing learning loss, managing the impacts of the pandemic on students, and dealing with staffing shortages.

Wolf called House Bill 1332’s requirements redundant and overly burdensome. “State regulations passed by the state Board of Education already require public schools to provide parents and guardians with curriculum and instructional materials upon request,” Wolf said. “In addition, textbooks are adopted by school boards at meetings open to the public.”

The state teachers’ union also opposed the bill, fearing it would increase teachers’ workloads.

“What we really need to focus on at this point in our history is moving students forward, closing the learning gaps of the pandemic,” said Chris Lilienthal of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Regulations

The mandate to provide access goes beyond Pennsylvania. Under Title 20 of the U.S. Code, parents have the right to inspect all instructional materials, including teacher manuals and supplemental resources used in any course, said district superintendent David Christopher. Cumberland Valley School.

Federal regulations also give parents the right to exempt their child from certain instruction instead of another classroom activity, he said.

“I find it really interesting that we already have all these parental access laws,” Christopher said. “I just don’t understand where some of this is coming from. It’s frustrating.”

School districts across the country are already struggling with a shortage of teachers as fewer students want to major in education. There are fears that heavy-handed public scrutiny, prompted by curriculum transparency legislation, could make the problem worse and add to the pressure already felt by educators.


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“Who is going to want to do it? Christopher asked about being a teacher. “We have to create a job that people want. What high quality people are interested in doing.

In the Cumberland Valley, parents of middle and high school students can log into Schoology, a learning management platform where teachers can post lesson activities and assignments.

“At the elementary level, we have no way of doing it,” Christopher said, adding that posting everything online would be a big plus for K-5 teachers, as they teach classes in all subjects. . In addition, parents already have the opportunity to review the material that the youngest students bring home with their homework.

Trust in the system

Providing parental access to educational materials builds trust in the system at a time when misinformation is circulating about public education intentions, Christopher said. “There is this belief that the basis of the program is focused on using race as a class system to create a socialist society in the United States.”

Instead, Cumberland Valley’s goal is to ensure its students have the skills they need to pursue careers and compete with people around the world, he said.

“The problem is not with the parents,” Christopher said. The problem is to post material on a public site where anyone could review the lesson plan and then micromanage classroom instruction.

“It’s not that teachers have anything to hide,” he said. “It’s just that teachers really don’t need to face that level of scrutiny from people who have nothing to do with the district.”

As South Middleton School District superintendent, James Estep said he had no problem posting the content of the program online.

“I just wonder if there’s any real value or need in requiring teachers to post their day-to-day teaching plan,” Estep said. “If lawmakers want us to start releasing lesson plans, I don’t think that will go over well.”

Pedagogical fluctuations

On the one hand, there is the challenge of trying to keep up with fluctuations over several lesson periods or lesson sections at a time when teachers are already busy.

“We are dealing with children here,” Estep said. “Have you ever heard the Mike Tyson saying that everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face? Well, it’s kind of like that in teaching. You make a plan lesson plan for day-to-day teaching, but your ability to stick exactly to that plan depends on the students’ response. Based on their responses, you assess whether they grasp the concept. If they don’t don’t understand, so you recalibrate your planning and maybe try a different activity.

“If the push for transparency goes beyond just providing information about the program and starts going deeper into how that content is provided, that’s a step too far,” Estep said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to micromanage how a teacher delivers content. On every teaching certificate in Pennsylvania, it does not say that this certificate certifies you in the science of teaching. It certifies you in the art of teaching. The trick of knowing how to adapt, retool, recalibrate with original ideas. You don’t want to smother that.

At South Middleton, administrators and teachers have worked for years to align the district’s curriculum with core state standards, Estep said. “As we updated the program, we uploaded it to a program called Rubicon Atlas which is accessible on the district’s website.”


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To access the Rubicon Atlas, visit the district home page at www.smsd.us and click the “curriculum” button. Next, select “Board Approved Curriculum Maps” from the drop-down menu. This links to a homepage with a globe icon at the top. Click on the globe icon and the “Browse” button.

This displays a list of courses offered in the four school buildings. Each link to a course provides a list of concepts and a timeline indicating when that concept would be covered in class. Each link to a concept provides details about the specific content, vocabulary terms and skills taught in the course.

So far, updates have been made in World Languages, Family and Consumer Sciences, Mathematics, and English Language Arts. Staff and administrators are working to update and revise social studies with a science curriculum review scheduled for 2022-23, Estep said.

Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.

“It’s not that teachers have anything to hide. It’s just that teachers really don’t need to face that level of scrutiny from people who have nothing to do with the district.”

-David Christopher

Cumberland Valley Superintendent

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