‘Farewell to A Farewell to Arms'?

By Elizabeth Rich — May 27, 2010 1 min read
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In Douglas County, Nev., English teachers are up in arms about a textbook set and curriculum that the district is planning to introduce this fall, reports the Record-Courier. Teachers are not happy that the program, called Springboard, eliminates many of the standard literary works that appear in high school English classes in favor of textbook readings: no more Macbeth, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, or The Catcher in the Rye. Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Twain would get the ax.

Teachers have also attacked the SpringBoard curriculum, designed by the College Board, for its lack of rigor in grammar, vocabulary, and writing instruction. “In our recent quest to find a common English curriculum, I feel that we’ve repeatedly used the term ‘rigor,’ yet we’ve failed to acknowledge the lack of rigor in SpringBoard,” said middle school teacher and novelist Liz Leiknes. “I fear that we will be sending our students to swim in shallow waters, yet setting them up to drown in the academically competitive deep sea of the real world.”

Tenth grader Taylor Gray, who participated in the pilot program for the curriculum last year, agrees. “During my entire 9th grade year, I did not learn a fraction of the grammar, structure, or vocabulary I was hoping to.” Gray also complained that she didn’t know what a “decently written essay” looked like. “The reason? I was spending time learning about ‘Edward Scissorhands’ cinematic value.”

According to Kerry Pope, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, the curriculum is designed to be thematic, rather than chronological, and weighs heavily on assessments. “We’re a district that believes in common formative assessments, and those assessments are included in the SpringBoard books,” she said.

Middle school teacher and supporter Susan Van Doren thinks the curriculum could serve as an academic equalizer. “SpringBoard makes it possible to throw open the doors to Advanced Placement that have long been closed to all but the elite.”

In part because of the strong opposition, the school board will review their decision to finalize the curriculum in early June.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.