Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Iowa Core: Back to Basics or Forward to the 21st Century?

High schools in Iowa will be completing their Iowa Core implementation plans next year (completion date = 7/1/2010). As they do, their staffs will have discussions about what is effective instruction and good assessment. But a major thrust will be the alignment of content.

Here's where the philosophical discussion starts. How will you look at the content in the Core?

Will you see the essential content as a call to go back to basics, to beef up instruction time and effort in the 4 core areas? Or will you see the core as limiting the amount of content, freeing teachers from having to cover a flood of objectives, allowing time for teachers to go deeper and incorporate higher thinking? Or, will you see the core as another piece of red tape, another hoop to walk through, ending with an implementation plan that will appease DE visitors but will not affect instruction?

Obviously, you should not even begin to think of the last option above, although that will be tempting for some of our most jaded educators. Administrators will need to be wary of backroom discussions and help everyone remind themselves their mission as educators.

But among the first two, I see open interpretation... one district could easily look at the content one way while another district could look at it the other way. Much like Marzano, whose work with a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Marzano lists both an increased focus on basic essentials and a paring away of too many "essentials" as benefits of the system.

As mentioned repeatedly, I am a proponent of the second option, that the best value of the Iowa Core is that is allows us to look at what we can seriously get rid of in terms of content. For my philosophy discussions, here is my synopsis of why and how we can narrow the curriculum... use it to help your school any way you'd like.

This is what the 21st century curriculum will be.

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