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Expert calls for more state control of curriculum, says national standards too onerous

Experts in supply chain and infrastructure management often talk about the “last mile problem.” It can be surprisingly difficult and expensive to get the goods to people on that last leg of the trip.

Similarly, a school curriculum expert “contends that the impact of the standards movement in public education has been undermined by local educators’ failure to deliver consistent, high-quality curriculum in the nation’s classrooms,” reports FutureEd.

That expert is University of South Carolina Professor Morgan Polikoff, author of the book “Beyond Standards.”

In a Q&A with FutureEd, Polikoff makes the bold claim that school “standards have failed to raise achievement because they haven’t been implemented.” He explains why, in his estimation, standards haven’t been implemented:

First, we’re asking teachers to become experts in reading and interpreting standards, going out and identifying curriculum materials to align with those standards, and then implementing those materials in the classroom. And almost on its face, this isn’t a way that you could get standards to be implemented in any kind of consistent way. You’ve got 3 million teachers doing this laborious work of trying to interpret the standards, which are oftentimes quite confusing.

One of the findings his book documents is that “Teachers in the U.S. supplement a lot. Teachers go to Google, teachers go to Pinterest.”

Polikoff argues that some problems can spring from this, but that mass supplementing also points to a larger problem that is not of any individual teacher’s making:

If you talk to teachers about why they supplement, by far the most important reason is for engaging students and probably the second most important reason is for students to practice skills, especially in math. That tells me that their core materials are falling short.

Polikoff admits that he used to be very much in favor of federal standards in education. The failure of much of President Obama’s Common Core reform convinced him that’s not a great idea in practice.

He says that states should invest heavily in curriculum, often developing their own, and the federal government’s Department of Education “could invest in research to help support states and districts and teachers in this effort.”

Read the whole Q&A.

IMAGE: northallertonman/Shutterstock

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