The 4 School Curricula

Ebert, E. S. II, Ebert, C., and Bentley, M. L.  (2013, July 19). Curriculum definition. Retrieved from

             The article provides a history of curricula from the medieval to modern times, the purpose of a curriculum, and a description of the four curricula present in a school. The four curricula are explicit curriculum – the knowledge and skills to be taught and learned; implicit curriculum – lessons based on school culture as influenced by demographics and unspoken expectations and perspectives of adults and students; null curriculum – lessons not included such as evolution, gender identity, alternate lifestyles, and family dynamics; and extra-curriculum – lessons learned from participation or non-participation in committees and organizations beyond the classroom.

3 Big Shifts That Our Schools Need to Make

Shannon Greene


S McLeod. (2013, October 23). 3 big shifts, 8 building blocks, and some guiding questions.
[Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Summary: A summary of concrete changes in emphasis that schools could make now to positively impact the learning environment. The 3 big shifts are from low-level thinking to high-level thinking, from analog to digital, and from teacher-directed to student-directed. The 8 building blocks contain subjects such as project- and inquiry-based learning environment; authentic, real-world work; and online communities of interest that supplement and augment more-traditional learning communities.

Evaluation: Excellent and succinct, this article, particularly the 3 big shifts and 8 building blocks, includes many of the subjects discussed in the curriculum of 250 Instructional Design class. The guiding questions would be useful for both professional development and strategic planning discussions as well as daily curriculum planning guides.

API will soon lose its clout as shorthand for defining school success

Jennifer Brickey
CA—Curriculum and Assessment
Fensterwald, J. (2013). API will soon lost its clout as shorthand for defining school
Retrieved from
Fensterwald explains how for more than a decade the Academic Performance Index (API) has served as the primary measurement that determines a school’s success. This measurement, which is based solely on standardized test scores, has been a major determinate for parents to judge whether or not a school is best for their children. For schools, API drives curriculum and, consequently, the money that often supports the various programs in place. However, with the transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) API’s usefulness and appropriateness has come into question. “As a result, for the first time since API was created in 1999, the State Board is likely to vote to suspend it next year” (Fensterwald, 2013). Discussion has also swirled around suspending API for even longer depending on the CCSS implementation.
Although this piece was helpful in gaining an understanding for what will happen regarding API, I found that it raised more questions than provided answers. The document addresses other means of measurement such as graduation rate. Yet, there is an overall assumption policymakers profess—that everything a student learns can be measured. States like New York have begun institutionalizing the new Smarter Balance assessments and with it have experienced a backlash from educators and parents, which

suggests we need to reevaluate just how we measure students’ success.

Informational Texts and the Common Core

Jack, Gordon
CA-Effects of Common Core
Shanahan, T. (2013, November). You want me to read what?! Educational Leadership 71(3). 10-15. Retrieved from:!.aspx
The new Common Core Standards place greater emphasis on informational texts, but what are these exactly?  The Standards themselves describe them using different terminology. In the Writing standards, they are described as texts “to increase readers’ knowledge of a subject, to help readers better understand a procedure or process, or to provide readers with an enhanced comprehension of a concept (NGA & CCSSO, 2010, p. 23) The Reading standards include these texts, but also make mention of  “variant narrative and argumentative texts” (p. 11).  If informational texts include non-fiction narrative texts, such as memoirs and biographies, will students learn the skills they need in order to comprehend informational text structures found in essays, speeches, and historical, scientific, technical, or economic accounts?  Shanahan stresses the need for a “varied diet” of text across the curriculum, not just in English classes, to prepare students for the type of reading they will do post graduation.
Many librarians are going to be asked to supplement existing curriculum with these informational texts, so it’s important to have an understanding of how these texts are similar and different from general non-fiction.  While biographies and memoirs are important types of reading for students to be exposed to, they do not substitute for the kinds of texts such as Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”, the U.S. Constitution, Winston Churchill’s “Blood, Toi, Tears, and Sweat” speech, that the Common Core recommends.
Another interesting point the author makes is that the shift towards greater inclusion of informational texts in high school curriculum is not based on research that these kinds of texts will improve student achievement.  Rather, the recommendations come from more “commonsense notions” that informational texts are read more in college and in the workplace and require a different set of cognitive skills than reading literary texts (p. 12).
Work Cited

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved

Who Decides?

Parker, Linda


Sadker, D. M., & Zittleman, K. R. (2007). Teachers, schools, and society: A brief

     introduction to education. (p. 354-358). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. 

     Retrieved May 5, 2013, from

     This article provides an excellent overview of the number of entities that shape, mold, and choose curricula for our schools.  The list of those involved include:
  • Teachers
  • Parent/Community Groups
  • Students
  • Administrators
  • State Government
  • Local Government
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Standardized Tests
  • Education Commissions and Committees
  • Professional Organizations
  • Special Interest Groups
  • Publishers
  • Federal Government
     These groups have competing interests for trying to decide what is taught to our children in the classroom.    The authors mention in the article, “Anyone from the president of the United States to a single parent, can impact what is taught in your classroom.”  All the more reason to stay abreast of what’s happening at the local, regional, and national level because it will have a bearing upon us.

Seeing Curriculum through a Child’s Eyes

Chaltain, S. (2013, March 5).  Seeing curriculum through a child’s eyes [web log post].  Retrieved from

In this article, the author describes the teaching method at Mission Hill School in Mass.  This school premises its educational model on recognizing students as individual learners with unique learning styles and learning pace.  As such, teachers work with the same students for two years in order to develop a more in-depth and personal knowledge of each student’s learning and to monitor their progress with their individual learning goals.  Moving away from worksheets, regurgitation and memory drills, the school promotes hands-on experience and exploration.  Further, teachers have authority at Mission Hill to help influence and design their curriculum, based on their understanding on the front line as teachers.  The author compares this type of education, which is funded largely on creativity, individuality and flexibility, to his daughter’s education, which is limited to paper and pen activities and so on.  The article also includes a short video on Mission Hill School.  My favorite quote from the video comes from the school principal, who says “If we want children to be inventors, we have to give them opportunities to invent; if we want them to be artists, we give them lots of opportunities to create art; if we want them to be problem-solvers, we give them moments of independence to figure out things for themselves.”  What a refreshing perspective from a school administrator!

I definitely recommend taking a few minutes to read the article and watch the video – both are valuable and inspiring.

An opportunity to talk about testing

Jennifer Alfonso-Punzalan

CA-Who Decides

C Coggins.  (2013, February 13).  An opportunity to talk about testing. [Web log comment].  Retrieved from

Teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School have boycotted against the Measures of Academic Progress assessment, which has helped spur the debate on whether or not assessments are right, wrong, or somewhere in between.  Teachers unions, like the Chicago Teachers Union and United Teachers Los Angeles, have taken stands of solidarity against using assessments.  The writer says that assessments in schools are here to stay, but what is needed is teacher input into how to make better assessments.

As a former teacher, I did not see the value of California’s state standardized tests.  Students would be assessed in the spring, when maybe 80% of that grade’s curricula was taught, and then I would not even get the results of how that cohort did until the fall.  Two things wrong with this (though there are more),  are that students were assessed when the whole year wasn’t even finished, so that pushed me to try to teach everything by the time the state tests were to be administered.  This led to a very frantic pace for my former school district, so much so that we teachers were put on curricula pacing calendars.  There was little room for deviation from the pacing calendar, and little room for constructivist teaching and learning.  To be efficient with time, we had to use the textbook and follow the pacing calendar.

Another thing wrong with the state standardized test was that the results for that spring’s assessment was only available in the fall, far after the cohort had left my classroom.  Every class is different, and every child is different.  And every child can be different every day, and every child is not a test-taker.

If I were still in the classroom, and I had to think of a way to assess students’ learning, I would not do multiple choice, standardized testing.  Instead I would (if I could) use a portfolio-style of assessment wherein students’ learning is documented and I could see a reflection of their individual personality and intellectual growth in their work.  This type of assessment is maybe more time-consuming than using a multiple-choice testing sheet and feeding it through a scanner, but I think that it is more humane and human.  Learning and assessment should not be input-output, but rather a portrait of thoughts that are captured and nuanced.

The History of Curriculum in America, Part II (C)

Greene, K. (2009, Apr. 4). The History of Curriculum in America, Part II (C) [Video file]. Retrieved from


Chole’ Tiscornia


 (1980’s to 2000’s) In this final series on the History of Curriculum in America, Greene identifies key points in our history that continue to dictate our nation’s public school curriculum. Starting in the 1980’s, we left off with a return to the basics due to reports of failing SAT scores. Different educational practices started to emerge like homeschool programming for everyone; introduction of phonics for reading comprehension, and a damaging article entitled A Nation at Risk which scared the entire country. At this time, the nation was in the throes of a terrible economic recession, and people were once again blaming the education system.


In the 1990’s Milwaukee was the first district in the country to offer school vouchers for parents to choose what schools they wanted their children to attend. It did not take long for this idea to spread throughout other states as well. Charter schools also popped up, with the first one in Minnesota. The geographical location of the states is important as Greene points out that throughout our nation’s history, much of the educational reform, standards, and practices, originated in the North East. Education reformists had now moved to the mid-west. However, in 1993, Massachusetts passed the Massachusetts Education Reform Act which started common curriculum and statewide assessments. Other states of course followed. Scripted curriculum took over state and district teaching standards and textbook publishers along with anyone else related to textbooks and materials started to become the drivers of the curriculum. In 1998, the Higher Education Act is amended.

 In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) revisited the war on poverty. It is another attempt to get teachers to work in poorer neighborhoods. It holds schools accountable for student achievement levels, and delivers penalties for schools that do not make adequate yearly progress. For the first time in our nation’s history, the U.S. Department of Education, which was originated to share best practices, give out grants, and help schools get ahead, was turned into the education police force.  Many states resisted, but are still bound bya system of reward and punishment.


I feel the last video in the series more or less further solidified the political nature of our education system as it is today. However, the video highlights the many avenues people, schools, districts, and states have taken in response to the negative reports and attitudes that are now a part of our education conscience. In the last 25 years or so, public schools seem to be playing dodge ball against reformists with a monetary agenda (homeschooling, phonics, etc.), sales people who have benefitted from standards in curriculum and testing (textbook publishers, printers, writers, computer sales, etc.), and a nation that cannot make up its mind if it wants to educate children to become responsible members of our democratic society, or so they can help us be number one in innovation, technology, military capabilities, etc. Although I do believe changes are necessary in the way we teach students because of the advancement and availability of helpful technology – and the way students have adapted their learning towards it – I do not feel education has failed us. This video lecture series on the History of Curriculum in America, even in its brevity, points to a fickle society that makes decisions and implements policies for short-term gain, on impulse to popular sentiments, without considering the long-term impact and its subsequent consequences.

The History of Curriculum in America, Part II (B)

Greene, K. (2009, Apr. 4). The History of Curriculum in America, Part II (B) [Video file]. Retrieved from

Chole’ Tiscornia


(1940’s – 1970’s) In this third video in the series of four, Greene starts us off in the 1940’s. This is also the time of WWII. There were a lot of school drop-outs; the depression was still in full swing, too. More women started to move into more advanced coursework. Additionally, the GI Bill allowed for even more people to go on to college. This meant more teachers! Soon after, we experienced a post-war baby-boom. Even more teachers were needed, as well as materials. Education started to cost more as a result. Also along this time people were developing shared languages as TV brought more people together. Next came the Red Scare and that meant that teachers had to be very careful what they said in class, and strict standards were once again enforced to balance on the tightrope. Questioning was not encouraged. Also in 1957, SPUTNIK was launched and Americans became worried they were falling behind so a return to the basics was implemented so we could develop more rocket scientists.

The 60’s brought more of the same as the Space Race was in full swing. However, JFK became President and along with him and his wife, they brought Arts into society and schools followed. Art started to become cool again. It was okay to explore, invent, be different, and question. Dick and Jane finally got a black friend. Also in the 60’s came the Cuban Missile Crisis and Cuban families began migrating to Miami. Laws were signed by LBJ such as The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as a way to fight a war on poverty which was growing faster. This act meant to bring teachers to low-income schools. Another act, The Higher Education Act of 1965 increased federal funding to higher education, provided scholarships, and student loans. It also established a National Teachers Corps.

The 70’s brought unintentional segregation that was met with mandatory bussing to better integrate children in schools. This started the White Flight – when many whites moved out to the suburbs where busing was not an issue, and if they did stay in the cities – into private schools.

For a while, teachers were teaching the metric system, but it did not work as our culture does not use it, and even teachers didn’t understand it. In 1977 a report came out showing that the nation had declining SAT Scores. This led the curricula back to the basics once again. The metric system went out the door and an emphasis was increased once again on the survival subject, the three R’s.


This third video lecture in the series started to make the history of curriculum in American schools make more sense. I’ve always wondered why I learned some subjects, while my children have been taught others. I have a better sense of why this happens – reports – studies – economic worries – national security concerns – etc. Not enough of the impetus in changes to our system is about the system itself. It’s like being a math major in college and people want you to have excellent writing skills. It is not a problem with the schools or the intelligence of the student; it is just what they have concentrated on. When people use the phrase, our schools are failing our children, I feel these statements are based on selective samplings and not a true indication of how far a child might have come in their learning process – which should be celebrated, not denigrated.

History of Curriculum in America, Part II (B)

History of Curriculum in America, Part II (A)

Greene, K. (2010, July 21). History of Curriculum in America, Part II_Movie A [Video file]. Retrieved from

Chole’ Tiscornia 12/05/12


(1919-1930’s) Picking up from where Greene leaves off in History of Curriculum, Part I, (see my previous post), Greene reminds us that when soldiers came home from WWI they had a new sense of being an American and had stories to share. New interest groups like Irish Americans, Italian Americans, and others wanted a place in history, too. Also about this time, high school counselors started talking kids out of finishing high school since it was really for college bound students. They were encouraged to look at other alternatives because the schools had too many students who were not performing well.

The 1920’s brought us the Scopes Monkey Trials where evolutionary theory was ejected from school classrooms and creationism, which is true to the Puritan mantra, would still be taught. In 1926, the first SAT was initiated. It was used initially as a means to give out scholarships, but was quickly picked up to make predictions about students’ abilities to succeed in college. In 1928, Dewy became an international face of education. He was and is considered the Father of Pragmatism, but really he was working off the work of William James. Pragmatism relates to the mind as being an instrument for realizing purpose. Ideas are plastic and adaptable conceptual tools of one’s mind. Dewey believed in exploring, problem solving, and involvement with purpose. Ideas like thinking rather than memorizing, and learning by doing were part of his theories. School is not separate from the world, but part of it. He also was anti-authoritarian, where knowledge was delivered, rather than understood. Other terms like experiential education, outcomes based education, and education as a purpose for each individual regardless of their college intentions are linked to Dewey.


The 1930’s brought the Great Depression and the population became even more mobile as they headed West and other places looking for jobs. The WPA brought artists and storytellers into schools. An important student of what was then considered our failing schools was something called The 8 Year Study, where the first charter schools were started and evaluated. At this time, the Dick and Jane Basal Readers emerged. Whole word reading, and standards meant to keep the country cohesive were beginning to emerge.



My thoughts on this part are similar to my previous evaluation on the first video of the series. It was interesting to learn just when and why certain ideas emerged and what prompted changes in curricula. Understanding what is going on in the country help me to better understand where we are at today.


History of Curriculum, Part II (A)