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Center Sponsors Competition To Laud Curriculum Designs

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The Center on Learning, Assessment, and School Structure announced last month that it will hold a competition to recognize outstanding curriculum designs in high school mathematics and language arts.

The Geneseo, N.Y.-based center is soliciting "enticing, coherent, and effective'' sample lesson units from teachers from across the country.

It plans to award $700 cash prizes to the top three winners, and will publish the top 20 submissions in an anthology that will be distributed nationwide.

"We would like to see at least one anthology in every high school in America,'' said the center's director, Grant Wiggins, adding that he hopes teachers will widely regard the materials as "stuff worth stealing.''

The top three award winners will also be expected to demonstrate a sample lesson in the classrooms of their home schools, which will then be videotaped by the center.

The competition evolved from Mr. Wiggins's prior work for the Coalition of Essential Schools. Mr. Wiggins served as the coalition's director of research for four years, and his partner at the center on learning, Holly Houston, was formerly its executive director.

During that time, Mr. Wiggins said they observed with frustration that exemplary lesson prototypes were not shared because teachers often worked in isolation from one another.

"We were surprised to find that often the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing, even in the same building,'' he said.

'Bigger Dreams'

The competition's guidelines call for curricular material that "evokes excellent work from the whole class, not just the already motivated and able students.'' Entrants must submit a wide range of sample student work completed during the unit.

Last summer, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation gave the center a $75,000 grant for the project. Previously, the foundation financed the center's production of videotapes showing examples of teachers conducting performance-based assessments.

"As we got to know Dr. Wiggins, we realized that he had much bigger dreams than just the producing of those videotapes,'' said Ronald Thorpe, Dodge's education program officer. "Part of what Grant Wiggins is trying to do is that he realizes that teachers are excellent writers and creators of curriculum, but their understanding of curriculum needs to be expanded. It's not just what is taught, but how it is taught.''

Eventually, Mr. Wiggins said, the center hopes to create videos demonstrating how lessons from the anthology were actually taught in classrooms.

The deadline for entries is April 1. Applications are available from the Center on Learning, Assessment, and School Structure, 39 Main St., Geneseo, N.Y. 14454; (716) 243-5500.

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