Zero-based curriculum planning
I have been excited about the potential of the Common Core standards. Fewer standards, deeper coverage, more higher order thinking skills and process orientation, better assessment — it all sounds like an improvement.
Yet, as I’ve seen the beginning of Common Core implementations, they don’t seem to be living up to that potential. And the outcry from teachers about the problems with Common Core have surprised me. They largely seem to view it as the millionth change imposed on them by the powers that be. “This too shall pass” is what I’m hearing. This passive resistance has surprised me because I saw Common Core as a part of the solution to the curriculum and assessment problems that everyone sees.
I talked to someone from an organization involved in Common Core who said “If a school is implementing Common Core, and it doesn’t look radically different from how it looked before, they aren’t really implementing the Common Core.” Again, what I see so far isn’t radically different curriculum or classroom practice.
So why the disconnect?
I think the answer lies in part in how schools are implementing the standards, which looks something like this:
- Look at a cross-walk of old standards to new standards.
- Identify major changes between grade levels and any additions.
- Layer that onto the old and proceed.
I think that process misses the spirit of the Common Core.
In business, we do something called zero-based budgeting. The idea is that instead taking last year’s plan and adding a bunch of incremental stuff to it, you start from zero. This forces a hard look at every decision and its relation to the overall mission.
What if a curriculum were designed from scratch using Common Core? I venture to say it would look quite a bit different than one taken from previous years with cross-walk items added. Probably a lot more like what those of us who were hopeful about Common Core were thinking. And what a wonderful opportunity for some collaborative professional exploration around standards unpacking and curriculum mapping.
Anyone doing this?