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Court to Teachers: No Free Speech Rights on Curriculum

A court ruling this week held a potent message for teachers: you can't use the First Amendment to defend your curricular decisions. The federal appeals court ruling out of Cincinnati notes that the school board has the ultimate right to set policy in that area, and to fire teachers whose choices fly in the face of that policy.

Other readings of interest this week:

• College admissions: The National Association of College Admissions Counselors released its annual report on college admissions, confirming what many of us already know: students are applying to more schools, and they're doing more of it online. (Exhibit A: my dining room table, where my youngest daughter has been camped out the last few weeks. It's College Application Central, and the laptop is the hub.)

• Career readiness: Those of you interested in definitions of career readiness might be intrigued by the collaborative efforts of the federal education and labor departments on this question. They've put together a "crosswalk" of skills drawn from the labor and education databases.

• Common standards in the classroom: Former high school teacher Sarah Fine turns in a thoughtful piece about teaching the common standards. She notes that the standards do not themselves threaten to "standardize" curriculum, since teachers, districts and states have not yet written curriculum for them. All by itself, the new learning framework "hardly precludes adventurous, morally pitched, or culturally responsive teaching," Fine writes. But she notes that the rub may lie in the assessments designed for them. That, she says, is where the curriculum could get narrowed, so broad-based input is needed to design those tests, as well as curriculum, for the new standards. In conclusion, she writes:

"What we need is to infuse the work around the common core with an element of visionary thinking. The standards themselves do not confine teaching to the realm of the scripted or undemocratic, but without serious reflection and rethinking, they will. The balance depends on our collective ability to come to terms with the standards and to use them as an opportunity for reflection and growth. Let us hope that we can muster the courage and energy to do so."
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