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S.C. Unveils Curriculum Frameworks To Spur Reforms and Guide Learning

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South Carolina education officials last week unveiled draft curriculum frameworks intended to revitalize the teaching of foreign languages, the arts, and mathematics.

The new frameworks are part of an ambitious effort by the state to make curriculum the linchpin of its school-reform efforts.

"Until we really re-examine how children learn, we will not significantly change education,'' said Superintendent of Education Barbara S. Nielsen.

In all, state officials plan to develop frameworks for eight disciplines by 1994. The other five subject areas are health and safety, language arts, history and social studies, science, and physical education.

The new frameworks set down broad themes and goals to guide learning in those subjects and enhance students' critical-thinking skills.

In addition, they suggest the kinds of changes needed to help schools reach those goals. They recommend changes in the way teachers teach and in the way education schools prepare them. They also call for new forms of testing, such as performance assessments, to gauge students' understanding.

"If we want all children to be bilingual, then we have to say this is what it's going to take,'' said Dennis Bartels, who helped coordinate the framework-drafting efforts for the state education department.

In contrast, he said, the state's old "scope and sequence'' curriculum guidelines narrowly prescribed content and avoided larger resource questions.

A Paradigm Shift

The new frameworks are similar to those developed in recent years in California and Connecticut, said Brian Curry, a policy analyst for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

"This is part of a paradigm shift in how curriculum is envisioned and implemented,'' he said. In all three states, he said, the frameworks form a "common point of reference'' for other school-reform efforts.

South Carolina's framework-development process was launched last year with a statewide "curriculum congress.'' (See Education Week, Sept. 4, 1991.)

The event, billed as the first such state-level meeting, drew 1,700 teachers, subject-matter experts from higher education, and district curriculum coordinators. Participants shared views on the state's precollegiate course of study.

Smaller teams, drawn from that meeting, are writing the frameworks.

More and Better Teaching

The first three frameworks generally propose more and better teaching in the arts, mathematics, and foreign languages and recommend introducing those subjects earlier than most schools in the state do now.

The foreign-languages framework, for example, suggests beginning such instruction as early as kindergarten. By the time they leave a good elementary school foreign-language program, the document says, children should be able to express their likes and dislikes in a second language, write brief messages, and predict the outcome of a story they are reading.

The mathematics guidelines, modeled on the national standards developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, propose teaching data analysis, probability, algebraic notions, geometry, and other topics at earlier grade levels.

The arts framework suggests that no less than 15 percent of students' instructional time should be devoted to lessons in dance, drama, music, and visual arts. The guidelines also say students should both understand the historical and cultural significance of all four art forms and know how to perform in them.

State education officials said this month they will begin conducting field reviews around the state on each draft. Statewide teleconferences on the drafts also are planned.

Major recommendations from the frameworks will be condensed and supplied to public libraries, barbershops, hair salons, and other locations, Mr. Bartels noted.

"We're really seeking the broadest type of review on the education process,'' he said.

The final drafts of the frameworks will be completed next spring.

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