Friday, September 13, 2013

Standards: Are they curriculum?

Why are educators like me concerned with the constant revolving door of Standards? According to the newsletters coming from the SDE, standards are not curriculum.  Wait, are standards and curriculum different?  Educational Standards are simply statements about the knowledge and skills students should posses and when they should come to possess those skills and knowledge.  Basically, standards are what we want students to know and when they should know it.  Curriculum is the activities and resources used to meet educational standards.  So, in theory, standards are not curriculum and vice versa.  However, this isn't theory!  Muddying the waters are the ASSESSMENTS!  If standards are what students are supposed to know, then it only reasons standards are what should be taught.  What is taught is curriculum, intended or hidden.  Skills that are taught are taught by activities and teacher resources (curriculum).  To further add to the confusion are the items being assessed. Blue prints and item specifications tell teachers which skills are being assessed and what percentage of the test is each skill.  As long as there is 1 assessment being used, and teachers know exactly what standards are being assessed, then those standards will be taught.  In summary, having an assessment over a set of standards dictates the curriculum of the teachers.  No, it doesn't make a teacher pick a certain story for reading or a specific lab experiment for Biology.  It also doesn't give the Biology teacher Carte Blanche in setting the curriculum for the year.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction have released several documents in the last couple of days regarding standards, curriculum, and assessments.  If you have not been paying attention, let me bring you up to speed!  Sorry if the following alphabet soup of acronyms causes severe confusion.  I honestly think they could not have made this more confusing or difficult if they had tried!

PASS – Priority Academic State Standards
CCSS – Core Curriculum State Standards
C3 – College Career Citizen standards
OAS- Oklahoma Academic Standards (we only assume they took out “State” for obvious reasons, but I like to put it in there to sooth my Middle School personality)
PARCC – Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers
OCCRA – Oklahoma College and Career Readiness Assessment
OCCT – Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests

I will try to give you a general play by play of the changes to curriculum, standards, and assessments over the past 15 months.

            PASS will be changing (but still assessed for 2013-2014) to CCSS but not for Science and Social Studies.  PASS subjects will be assessed using the OCCT, but CCSS will be assessed by PARCC.  Social Studies and Science changed from PASS to C3 standards (but not really, because Biology standards are still in development, so we assessed them for PASS even though it was supposed to be C3).  Then it was decided that CCSS standards for some subjects and C3 standards for other subjects wasn't such a good idea, so CCSS + C3 standards would be referred to as OAS!  Then the decision was made that Oklahoma public schools were not ready for PARCC assessments.  Oklahoma dropped out of PARCC assessments but remained in the PARCC consortium as a governing state.  Next, it was decided to forgo 3 years worth of transition planning and training for PARCC to adopt OCCRA for OAS assessments. (Does anyone else not think that PARCC & OCCRA are both college & career readiness assessments and therefore virtually the same thing?)

So the next time you hear someone try to explain that the constant changing of the standards are okay because standards are not curriculum, you will know that as long as we have 1 assessment, curriculum and standards are basically the same thing.  Next you’ll probably hear it will be okay that children fail these new assessments because it will bring about a new way of learning!  Seriously, a new way of learning?! I'll talk more about that next time.