Flying the ‘Don’t Tread On My Curriculum’ Flag

By Catherine Gewertz — May 12, 2011 1 min read
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Calls for common or shared curriculum for the common standards have prompted a bit of controversy about “national,” “mandated,” and “imposed” curriculum. (Check here and here for a refresher on the Dueling Manifesti.)

Now, one of the leading duelers on the side of favoring shared curriculum is proposing ways to keep common, voluntary curricula from morphing into “mandated,” “national,” or “imposed” curricula.

Checker Finn and Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute suggest that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ask the two state assessment consortia to “sign agreements swearing not to mandate—directly or indirectly—the use of curricular materials they develop.” (For the record: both assessment consortia have said that their stuff is voluntary. That hasn’t stopped opponents from arguing that “voluntary” is in the eye of the beholder, and intimately connected to who’s making the stuff, and to the tests testing the stuff.)

Finn and Petrilli also suggest that those who care about the common core consider forming some sort of panel or process to validate how well curriculum materials are aligned to the common standards. There’s been talk about this for quite some time; talk that includes recognition of just how controversial such a panel/process could be.

The Fordham guys also suggest that organizers of Manifesto #1, put out by the Albert Shanker Institute, and which Finn himself signed, make it more clear that they are not proposing development of only one curriculum guide. (That manifesto advocated the creation of “one or more sets of curriculum guides” that would be “purely voluntary.”) Likewise, Finn and Petrilli call on the folks behind Manifesto #2 to make it clear that “nobody” is calling for a single, mandatory national curriculum.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.