In his Huffington Post blog, E.D. Hirsch, Jr. (the founder of the Core Knowledge curriculum), gives us an optimistic view of how Common Core standards and a content-rich curriculum can work together for student achievement. It’s an intelligent plea to factions in the education movement to ignore the politics of education, unite their aims, and start giving teachers a coherent sequential curriculum to teach to kids. I think he’s exactly right.
I especially respect what he says about teachers. “I have become so impatient,” he writes, “with the teacher bashing that has overtaken the education reform movement.” He believes that new emphasis on “teacher quality” says that reform efforts have not worked because teachers are incompetent. Now, I’m not going to pretend that there are no incompetent teachers in our classrooms, but I think, as Hirsch points out, that teachers are often set up for failure when their school lacks a specific multi-year curriculum for students. Often, he says, teachers are “sent into classrooms where it’s impossible to know what their students already know, and where teachers are given scant guidance about what they should be teaching — or worse — are asked to teach literacy classes based on the trivial and fragmented fictions found in the standard literacy textbooks.” Let’s set our teachers, especially new ones, up for success by giving them specific content to teach that builds grade by grade, not just the skill-based Common Core.