Second Curriculum Paper

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  • 1. Michael Parent EDAS 7776EX Curriculum Dr. Strobert English and Larson tell us that curriculum is preplanned. Curriculum is derived from a process of gathering, sorting, synthesizing, and selecting relevant information from many sources. This supposes that those charged with curriculum development adhere to a protocol of establishing an education theory and a best practices model on which to design and test a curriculum. English and Larson also tell us that inherent in the curriculum planning process is a curriculum management process. Sadly, my experiences with effective curriculum development and management have been otherwise. The hierarchical structure in the Dumont Public Schools prevents effective development curriculum management. While Dumont is able to construct and develop a curriculum, the crucial managerial aspects of feedback, evaluation, and timely modification are lacking. Dumont’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction (DCI) is responsible for overseeing all aspects of curriculum management for all four of Dumont’s elementary schools and its one high school. Recent external pressures have forced the DCI to focus his efforts on improving the K-3 curricula. Our Superintendent has relied heavily on the DCI to secure and implement new curricula for each grade level. Therefore, the management of grades 6-12 curriculum (design, development, evaluation, and modification) has been left to teachers and school administration that have no formal knowledge of effective curriculum management practices. This has caused a serious breakdown in the managing of curricula, particularly at the high school. One would assume that if a new course were to be proposed at a high school, a series of events preceded the proposal process. Established student interest in the course, related instructional practices, and purpose of the course (as it relates to the district philosophy) are but a few of the items expected to be addressed prior to proposal. Beacuase Dumont lacks a true curriculum management practice, a Curriculum Committee has been established at the high school. This Committee is comprised of seven teachers, all administrators, and the DCI. No students or parents are represented. The Curriculum Committee only meets for one hour each school year to discuss new courses – not the need or desire to evaluate or modify existing courses. This faulty process of curriculum management has produced a myriad of problems. In the past two years, four new courses were implemented at the high school. During the 1
  • 2. development stage, a department supervisor and a teacher were solely responsible for designing the curriculum. No “litmus tests” (i.e. design theory, best practices, or particular education theory) were consulted or applied. The entire development and construction process was done in a vacuum – no marriage of the course curriculum to the school or district curriculum was undertaken. Thus, students are merely subject to teachers’ comforts, rather than to a common idea or shared cross-curricular vision. In fact, a curriculum audit would unearth the absence of either a school or district curriculum. Once written (over the summer months by teachers who are allotted only twenty hours of stipend time) the course curriculum (actually only a curriculum guide) is copied and sent to the DCI for review, then to the Dumont Board of Education for final approval. In all cases, the course curriculum was approved without question or careful examination. To complicate matters further, Dumont’s course curriculum guides are textbook centered. When a proposal for a new course is made to the DCI, the curriculum for that course cannot yet be written (again by a teacher in a vacuum) without a textbook first being approved. The textbook selection process is supposed to be committee driven. However, with a lack of curriculum monitoring and true managerial practices, this process is left to the teacher who wished to design a new course. I have found that textbook selection relies heavily on the textbook’s ability to match the state standards for student performance and the subsequent state criterion tests. Clearly, Dumont Public Schools lacks a true curriculum management method. Though the teachers, administrators, and members of the Board of Education have the students’ interests and learning as their central focus, the curriculum through which students’ interests and learning are derived lacks oversight, insight, and effective management. 2