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California Schools Superintendent: Curriculum Cuts Will Undermine Instruction


California's superintendent of schools, Jack O'Connell, is urging state officials to reconsider their unusual decision to issue a five-year suspension on adopting curriculum "frameworks," saying the delay will hurt teachers and students.

Academic standards, in California and other states, are expectations for what students should know in various subjects. California's curriculum frameworks are documents that explain and translate the state's academic standards for teachers, essentially helping them craft lessons out of them. They also serve as the basis for textbooks and other instructional materials.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state officials have been forced to take a budget ax to many aspects of state government, schools included. A law passed recently cut support for curriculum development and supplementary materials, blocks the state board of ed from adopting any materials, and prohibits any framework development. My colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo provided some of the background in a story from a few weeks ago.

In a teleconference and a statement this week, O'Connell argued that cutting framework development will result in nearly completed documents in history/social science and science getting left on the curb. At the very least, the situation in California is a reminder of what is often the glacial pace for drafting and approving standards and curriculum in states. Restarting the process in California, once the suspension on frameworks is lifted, O'Connell said, will take years—meaning that students today will not receive instructional materials until at least 2017. In the meantime, teacher credentialing and professional-development programs for teachers will drop the frameworks, the superintendent contends, "and the connection between content standards and teaching will be lost."

Do you agree with O'Connell's view of the severity of these cuts?


Adopting new frameworks or books, IS a waste of money, when previous editions, even with quirks, can work. Teachers and administrators know this; often it wasted money, even when we had money.

Yes, it spawns more employment for "professional development" people, and it gets teachers out of the classroom for Inservice - which is really Out of Service. The local schools were never devised to train teachers, but to train students!

Adoption of new guides & materials when the previous ones are still workable, in this economy, is a criminal waste of money - just part of the periphery businesses of public education. This most certainly can be cut, or postponed, for years.

Science & History should be as visible as Language Arts & Math, but that doesn't depend upon adoption of the newest materials & guides. By the way, whatever happened after the adoption of the state VAPA Standards? Were the offerings to students enhanced?

While I agree with George Hufflinger that we probably can continue to use some of the older frameworks in the short run, I do worry about the symbolic de-emphasis of curriculum. All that's left as official guidance are the "standards" which tend to be exhaustive lists of discrete skills. They don't offer the coherence, big picture, or practical approaches that are the essence of the frameworks.

The issue is much worse than described. The History/Social Science Framework was last revised in 1987. It has little or no Chicano/Mexican American history (37% of students), and little or no Asian history (14% of students. As bad, in 1987 the Berlin Wall had not fallen. The economics of this framework is ancient.
This Framework, and thus the textbooks, are out of date. It is a disgrace.

I believe that there should be a standard kept with our school system that should not be compromised do to a State’s budget criteria. I guess that education remains along the back wall of our minds because it doesn’t seem to affect us immediately. Some food for thought: When our educational system should be one of the best in the world, it is actually in lower standards then education in some third world countries. More should be done for our schools in general rather than any cut backs especially on learning materials. Some might not understand what the majority of students go through within the public schooling system because they can afford the great cost of private schooling for their kids. I believe that cutting the budget on education makes a terrible statement in our educational standards.

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