A few quotes from a manifesto called CREATE: (printed in Substance News, a great resource)
“MYTH: A standardized curriculum, with emphasis on basic reading and mathematics, will raise standards.
“REALITY: In districts with mandated, scripted curriculums, or in schools that inevitably narrow the curriculum in order to prepare for high-stakes testing, students are covering less content in ways that do not require higher-order thinking skills. The standard for student learning is being lowered, not raised, and those students who struggle the most are even less likely to be served by curriculums designed with little knowledge of the unique needs in a given school and community. One of the many subjects being cut is the arts, particularly for students in low-income communities of color, despite that arts education contributes significantly to creative problem-solving skills and to social and emotional learning, which are all essential for academic success. In contrast are nations such as Finland where broad, rich curriculums with diverse, flexible, and rigorous standards are developed at the school level by teachers and school administrators, and where students perform at the highest levels internationally with little variation between schools.
“MYTH: High-stakes testing is an effective way to measure learning and to hold students, educators, and schools accountable.
“REALITY: High-stakes tests may effectively measure a small set of knowledge and skills, but they do not measure higher-order thinking skills and a broad set of knowledge, and consequently, offer a very narrow picture of what students have learned and how well teachers have taught. Grade retention that results from narrow measures of academic preparedness can increase student risk for problems in school, including increased drop-out rates, and even when the student is promoted, the use of such assessments to sort students creates tracks within grade levels that reflect racial, ethnic, and social-class differences and that function to direct entire categories of students toward low-wage jobs or incarceration. When such narrow and biased assessments are then tied to teacher evaluation and compensation, the result is a system that rewards narrow and biased teaching.
“MYTH: Good teachers are primarily those who know what they are teaching and need not have learned how to teach or be able to connect to the community.
“REALITY: Chicago Public Schools has reserved teaching vacancies for graduates of fast-track alternative certification programs, despite that such graduates overwhelmingly report that they are ill-prepared for the reality of schools, and have not shown to be more effective at raising student achievement. Programs like Teach For America recruit bright college graduates but offer little pre-service preparation, and then see their participants leave the profession after an average of three years. In contrast, teachers with community knowledge and connections are more likely to raise student achievement, as well as to participate in long-term efforts at school-community partnerships and teacher professionalization, including mentoring and collaboratively improving working conditions.