Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Curriculum Narrowing is not a "Pathway to Success"

"On the whole, then, the available evidence strongly suggests that narrowing the curriculum in elementary school deprives students of an important opportunity to develop broad vocabulary and background knowledge necessary for strong reading comprehension later on. That lack of opportunity results in several negative consequences as students move into upper elementary school and the secondary grades."

(source: The Hidden Costs of Curriculum Narrowing by The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, 2006)

The new curriculum in the Allentown School District is called "Pathways to Success." How ironic that this new program, which is supposed to prepare students for college, has drastically reduced special classes (art, music, phys ed, library) at the elementary level to one per week. Now students will have art only 9 times per year. They will have one special per week, when they used to have one per day. Social studies and science have already been drastically reduced due to focus on reading and math standards.

All Allentown school board directors voted to approve these changes. Was any research conducted? The fraudulent ex-superintendent (Dr. Zahorchak) who imposed these harmful changes resigned right before the start of school. Administration is in chaos. But the district is moving ahead with Dr. Z's half baked experiments on our children. Dr. Z is staying on board another year in a newly created position, and taking his 195k salary. His entire buyout package is costing us 245k. And a consultant has been hired to help implement the curriculum overhaul.
The waste is enormous.

Disadvantaged children depend on school to provide necessary background knowledge. School is their only frame of reference. And now these children are being further deprived of access to books, since library class has been slashed from the curriculum. Their parents can't take them to museums, plays, or public libraries. They don't get to travel to Europe like the wealthy kids. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (no background in teaching) keeps talking about higher standards, and the importance of a well rounded education, but I guess that's just for the rich kids. All children deserve the same equally rich curriculum. Narrowing the curriculum is not "Pathways to Success" it's really "Poor Kids Get Less."

There are many more reasons why curriculum narrowing in bad. Here's the entire report:


Anonymous said...

Extremely well-said. I'm very concerned for education today.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Thanks for commenting. I believe that we are headed towards re-segregation of our public schools. It's unacceptable that the wealthier kids get a rich curriculum, and poor kids get only the basics. We have a governor pushing for vouchers and charter schools, which will further re-segregate and this is not good for our community. We need to invest in our public schools. And I hope Obama follows through on his plan to fix the old buildings that need repair. Some schools in Allentown are over 100 years old, and these are public structures we should all care about.

Locally, there is a movement to save our public park WPA structures, but we don't see any movement to fix our crumbling schools and playgrounds, which are unsafe. Maybe it's because poor kids use those schools. I think there is underlying racism in our community, and nationally. If kids had safe, clean, updated schools they would do better academically. Peeling paint, dust balls, mouse droppings, roaches, unhealthy air, dangerous metal playground equipment, are all realities of our schools. How can kids take pride in that?

Allentonian said...

The racism of the "Save The Clock Tower" crowd in Allentown isn't "underlying," it's what DRIVES them. They pine for the yesteryear days of an all-white, all AMERICAN city. And they admit no gratitude for the newly macadam-paved bike paths that make their walkers go faster. Annoying kvetchers, I try to ignore them.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Allentonian, I try to ignore them too. The schools are much more important than our parks, which look great by the way. People are too scared to mention racism, but when you think about how much the Republicans hate our President, and how they want him to fail, even if his policies are Republican ideas, then what else could it be? They call him un-American. And overt racism is evident in the comments at our newspaper's online forum, and at local blahgs.

The city council, mayor, and school board should all be working together to improve our schools, but they don't do that in Allentown.Everyone passes the buck by saying, that is not my job. Each elected official has their own little issue and ego which comes first, before the public good. They should have been questioning Zahorchak and his educationally unsound initiatives.
Elected officials, at all levels, are being bought by the rich and powerful. Even Democrats, the neo-liberals, are selling out to corporate interests. No one is looking out for the little guy anymore.

Mrs. Dottie said...

When specialists (art, music, phys ed and library teachers) are removed from a school, or reassigned to teach at several different buildings, after bonding with students at one school, it's very bad for students, teachers, and the community. Right now in the ASD the specialists will have to travel to different buildings. The changes disrupt the stability/routine that is so important for kids to succeed. Kids have formed bonds with teachers. This is important.

Also, students and teachers need that break in the school day when they can engage in physical activity or the arts, or take out a book, or just do something different. Now they are deprived of that. This could lead to more discipline problems, and very low teacher morale. It's such a dumb idea to narrow the curriculum. But school board members don't understand the realities of teaching. I'm really worried about this. Kids will lose motivation to go to school.

Anonymous said...

The DOE will be spending an estimated 45 billion on increased testing which will require new computer systems across the country. If they ditched the testing or even reduced the testing there would be plenty of money to repair schools and hire more teachers. This would greatly improve student achievement. But Obama has sold out to corporate interests who want to label public schools as failures in order to privatize and profit.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Yes, the amount spent on testing is outrageous. We have crumbling buildings, unsafe playgrounds, cuts to important programs that help disadvantaged kids, teacher layoffs, but never cuts to testing. How do tests benefit kids? Where's the evidence? The testing is immoral because our kids are being used to help companies profit. That undermines role of public education.

Mrs. Dottie said...

"We also want you to enjoy so many other enriching experiences that are so important to a complete education. We know you have great music, art, and physical education teachers at your school, and we believe that these subjects are essential for a well-rounded curriculum. And so is recess. We want you to have fun!" Arne Duncan Secretary of Education (no teaching experience)

WHat planet is this moron living on?

Jasmine said...

Hi, i'm actually a student in the ASD. I couldn't agree more with what you're saying about "Pathway to Success". It's so ridiculous, and my whole school pretty much thinks so too.

I think your pretty cool/ intelligent to make a blog about it, you make a lot of sense.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Thanks Jasmine, you are pretty cool/intelligent to comment here and read my blog! I write this blog because I believe it is important to speak out against education policies that are not in the best interest of ASD students. Don't ever be afraid to speak out.

lele622 said...

Hi Mrs. Dottie, im doing a research project on curriculum and I would like to use your blog as a source, if that's ok ?
If so, and you dont mind telling, what is your name ? I need it for my reference.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Sure, my name is Angie Villa. Thanks for reading and best of luck.