Calif. 'Curriculum Crisis' May Have a Silver Lining

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

To the Editor:

California’s “curriculum crisis” may present an opportunity for educators to evaluate the worth of a textbook-adoption system created in 1927 ("California Faces a Curriculum Crisis," Sept. 16, 2009). As a veteran Los Angeles teacher, I wonder whether making experimental revisions to textbooks justifies the enormous expenditures.

As a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the 1960s, I was taught that “new math” based on set theory was the best learning strategy for schoolchildren. In the ’70s, however, my own children’s school no longer used that method. I returned to teaching in the ’80s as “fuzzy” discovery-integrated math made its debut, though my private school resisted and followed the traditional, content-rich course sequence of prealgebra though Algebra 2. A decade later, teaching at a public magnet school, I found California phasing out traditional math courses and paying only for integrated discovery-based math books. Eventually the state reversed itself, another experiment ended.

Who profited from these decades of experimentation on schoolchildren? The state curriculum and textbook-adoption commission certainly, and the textbook publishers enormously. Your article quotes California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, who says, “Each new version of our textbooks seeks to improve on the last as we learn what strategies and materials are most effective.” That so many versions are so readily abandoned argues against that view.

A timeline accompanying the story shows when various subjects’ textbooks were supposed to be replaced from 2009 through 2012. Science and history evolve significantly and require updating, perhaps using supplementary materials. But what major changes occur in language arts, mathematics, or Spanish to justify costly new textbooks every few years? It’s often experimental learning strategies such as “whole language,” “discovery math,” and “cooperative learning”—not new content—embodied in revised textbooks.

That this whole process has been halted due to budget troubles may actually benefit students and teachers, and encourage the creation of a better textbook-replacement process in California’s future.

Betty Raskoff Kazmin
Medford, Ore.

Vol. 29, Issue 08, Page 27

Published in Print: October 21, 2009, as Calif. 'Curriculum Crisis' May Have a Silver Lining
Related Stories
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Vocabulary Development for Striving Readers

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >