[From 2010–It’s interesting that all of these articles were available before Hawaii chose this curriculum.]
English teachers question new curriculum
Ohanian Comment: First, they pass the Common Core Standards. Next, they ship in the Common Core Curriculum. And then, come the Common Core Tests.
Think I’m exaggerating? The College Board backs the Common Core, though their Senior Advisor could use a grammar lesson:
“Common standards ensure that every child across the country is getting the best possible education, no matter where a child lives or what their background is. The common standards will provide an accessible roadmap for schools, teachers, parents and students, with clear and realistic goals.”
— Gov. Roy Romer, Senior Advisor, The College Board
Don’t you wonder how Springboard, “the Official Pre-AP Program,” a program that has eliminated the novel from the curriculum, could be “preparing students for AP courses”?
An interesting detail: Springboard comes with:
- Consumable Student Editions
- Annotated Teacher Editions
AND (sound the trumpets)
With national standards, a national test will soon follow. You can bank on it, while all interested parties carry their riches to the bank.
A number of dedicated, savvy teachers have expressed concern over Springboard. Here’s one:
by Scott Neuffer
Literary critics have long bemoaned the death of the novel and the subsequent demise of the reading public.
In Douglas County, that lament has taken on new meaning as English teachers throughout the Valley’s secondary schools question the depth and efficacy of a new curriculum and set of textbooks the central office is attempting to adopt.
William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and “Macbeth,” George Orwell’s Animal Farm, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, J.D. Salinger’s
The Catcher in the Rye, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain — these are some of the literary masters and classic works left out of the new curriculum, said Douglas High 11th-grade English teacher Katy Shipley.
“I do not feel right endorsing a product that completely deprives students of the literary experience we feel necessary,” she said. “I feel we are losing the most important and integral part of the curriculum by adopting this text.”
That text/curriculum is called SpringBoard, which the Douglas County School District piloted in grades 7-11 this academic year and used as a supplemental text in the middle schools the year before.
Designed by the College Board, which developed the Advanced Placement program, SpringBoard is “vertically aligned” in grades 6-12 and uses “standards-based instruction to reinforce content.”
The district puts the cost of SpringBoard materials for grades 7-11 at roughly $42,500 a year.
On May 19, Assistant Superintendent Lyn Gorrindo and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kerry Pope made the case for SpringBoard adoption in front of the Douglas County School Board.
“We’re a district that believes in common formative assessments, and those assessments are included in the SpringBoard books,” said Pope. “SpringBoard is very thematic. The texts jump around chronologically, which some teachers like, and for others, it’s a huge shift from how we’ve been teaching English. Part of the conundrum is that SpringBoard is not just a text book, but it really drives curricular pieces.”
Pope said no text will align perfectly with district competencies, but that teachers can supplement SpringBoard with other texts if needed.
“It’s a huge shift from English that has traditionally been taught through novels,” she said.
When Pope confirmed that only one novel a year is taught via SpringBoard, Trustee Sharla Hales asked how many novels a teacher could realistically add while still staying true to the new curriculum.
“They would not be able to read a novel in class,” Pope responded.
However, Pope said about four novels a year could be added through outside reading or through “literary circles.”
Because SpringBoard might not have been implemented with fidelity this year, Pope said the district can’t get accurate test data on whether the program is improving student achievement.
Nonetheless, central staff believe this is the right program to engage students and align curriculum. Pope said SpringBoard will allow students to walk away from different classrooms with the same understanding of the material.
More than a dozen English teachers at the meeting disagreed. Several spoke during public comment, and a panel of Douglas High instructors gave their own presentation outlining why they’re opposed to the adoption.
Teachers’ concerns were both general and specific. Generally speaking, they argued SpringBoard prevents students from being exposed to classic, challenging texts with rich vocabularies. Rather, they said, students are stuck with one novel a year and random excerpts, some of which deal with movies and television shows, resulting in a loss of the English literary tradition.
More specifically, teachers argued that SpringBoard lacks rigorous grammar, vocabulary and writing instruction.
“In our recent quest to find a common English curriculum, I feel that we’ve repeatedly used the term ‘rigor,’ yet we’ve failed to acknowledge the lack of rigor in SpringBoard,” said Carson Valley Middle School teacher and novelist Liz Leiknes. “As a parent, I’m afraid that by the time my own children are in middle school, we will have watered down the curriculum so much that they will not be exposed to challenging writing assignments and texts, and therefore will be unprepared as compared to students who have experienced a more rigorous English curriculum of the past.”
Leiknes said if SpringBoard becomes the district’s primary text, “I fear that we will be sending our students to swim in shallow waters, yet setting them up to drown in the academically competitive deep sea of the real world.”
Douglas High English and German teacher Karen Heine emphasized SpringBoard’s lack of “authentic grammar instruction.” She pointed out that the first time grammar is addressed in her new edition of the book is on page 18, where a side box discusses the difference between cumulative and periodic sentences.
“I don’t know how this can be addressed before you learn dependent and independent clauses,” Heine said.
As a young English teacher at the high school, Karen Lamb said she’s not afraid of change. She said she piloted the sophomore SpringBoard text with fidelity.
“I’m not afraid of hard work. I’m not afraid of reinventing the wheel,” she said. “I’m OK with it, if it’s what’s best for students.”
But Lamb said she found problems with the new curriculum.
“The grammar is weak, to say the least,” she said. “The literature is disconnected and often irrelevant.”
Teachers weren’t the only ones protesting the recommended adoption. Students were also upset.
Sophomore Taylor Gray said her ninth-grade honors English class was less than impressive as a result of SpringBoard.
“During my entire ninth-grade year, I did not learn a fraction of the grammar, structure, or vocabulary I was hoping to,” she said. “Before my sophomore year, I was unaware of what a decently written essay could look like. I was unaware of what pronouns agreed to certain antecedents. The reason? I was spending time learning about ‘Edward Scissorhands’ cinematic value.”
Speech and debate state champ Will Dornbrook, a senior, said SpringBoard has too much social studies, too many random passages and watered-down content. He said the curriculum lacks rhetorical and argumentative instruction.
“I don’t know how the college-bound group will benefit from reading one novel a year,” he said.
Teachers said the SpringBoard debate is about more than curriculum. They said a certain amount of trust was broken in the adoption process.
Pope said the pilot review committees were comprised of a teacher from each site, herself, a parent and site administrator, among others. The seventh-grade committee voted 7-0 in favor of SpringBoard; the eighth-grade committee voted 6-1 in favor; the ninth-grade committee voted 5-2 in favor; the 10th-grade committee voted 4-1 against; and the 11th-grade committee tied 2-2.
Heine said she initially asked for the SpringBoard pilot to try, but was dismayed by the steps taken toward adoption.
“If a vote was taken, one teacher, one vote, the majority of teachers would vote this product down,” she said. “Many teachers were denied their right to sit on the committees and express their beliefs.”
Not all teachers are on the same page, though. CVMS instructor Susan Van Doren spoke in favor of SpringBoard at the meeting.
“SpringBoard makes it possible to throw open the doors to Advanced Placement that have long been closed to all but the elite,” she said. “The confidence my students had after just one year of using SpringBoard with fidelity is exactly the kind of empowerment I want for my own children.”
In a letter to school board members, Van Doren said, “No textbook can provide everything a teacher needs for an ELA (English Language Arts) class. In the past, we have supplemented our Prentice Hall textbooks with additional grammar textbooks, workbooks, vocabulary curriculum, novels, films, and many other sources.
“There’s no reason to think that teachers couldn’t supplement SpringBoard as well. I was able to teach two different grade levels with fidelity this year while supplementing with a daily SAT prep vocabulary program, regular grammar lessons, and at least one additional novel in each unit.”
SpringBoard opponents insist the district restart the adoption process and order more sample texts from different publishers.
“All English teachers should be invited to participate,” Heine said.
After lengthy testimony, and with two trustees absent, school board members decided to continue the item until their next meeting, which is 3:30 p.m. June 8 at Douglas High School.
— Scott Neuffer
Quoted from Outrages http://www.susanohanian.org/show_atrocities.php?id=9381