Curriculum & Instruction

Image depicting curriculum and instruction in US schools
Overview

Curriculum & Instruction

The content taught in American classrooms has been in the spotlight for years, particularly as researchers have shown what a difference a quality curriculum can make for P-12 students’ achievement. 

Reporters can take a closer look at the quality of curricula, teachers’ experiences in implementing them and what effect these have on student outcomes.  

The content taught in American classrooms has been in the spotlight for years, particularly as researchers have shown what a difference a quality curriculum can make for P-12 students’ achievement. 

Reporters can take a closer look at the quality of curricula, teachers’ experiences in implementing them and what effect these have on student outcomes.  

Unlike many other countries with more centralized education systems, the United States has never had a national curriculum. The closest it has come has been the collaborative efforts of many states (incentivized by federal grants) to establish Common Core State Standards for math and English/language arts.  

What Shapes the Curriculum?

In essence, a curriculum describes the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. Depending on how broadly it is used, the term can include the learning objectives, the lessons or units taught, the assignments and projects, the books and other materials, and tests or other evaluations. 

How best to teach reading and math (among other subjects), and what to include in social studies and history textbooks, have sparked debates off and on for decades.

What shapes the curriculum? State standards and textbook selections often play a big role, but teachers often curate their own supplemental materials — sometimes with minimal training on how to gauge quality. 

Evolving Tools Take Shape

The growth of open educational resources (OER), which teachers can use, adapt and share for free, has helped some school districts pivot toward more inquiry- and project-based learning, and has prompted some colleges to redesign courses at a cost savings.

As students continue to explore career and technical education (CTE), local industries give their input. And as schools attempt to address the social and emotional needs of their students, community partners and mental health researchers often weigh in.

Whenever you have the opportunity to visit classrooms, ask some questions about curriculum and instruction to see if the local or statewide rhetoric matches up with the actual practices.

Stories can also explore equity gaps in access to content-rich curricular materials, advanced coursework, CTE, civics and other subjects. 

The following modules will help you explore some key terms, resources, and history of curricula in U.S. schools.

Updated March 2021.

Highlight

Data/Research: Curriculum & Instruction

As federal and state standards continue to evolve, many governmental and independent sources have reviewed whether the curriculum programs are serving the best interests of students, teachers, administrators and parents.

General

Learning By the Book, the first multi-state effort to measure textbook efficacy since the implementation of Common Core, was published by the Center for Education Research at Harvard University.

Screenshot of a tweet by @KristenRencher
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond NCLB: New Era in Federal Education Policy?

Fifty years ago, the federal government enacted the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. The newest version of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, became law 13 years ago and has stayed in place ever since. On Thursday, a new version of the federal government’s most far-reaching K-12 education law moved closer to adoption. The U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, one week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version, the Student Success Act.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

College Board Goes ‘All In’ to Attract Latinos to Advanced Placement

Latino students might shun Advanced Placement courses if the only students they see in them are mostly affluent whites. 

That’s essentially what Jeremy Goldman, head of counseling at a Baltimore high school told NBC last week in an article about the College Board’s new campaign to boost the number of minority high school students enrolled in AP classes. 

Flickr/Games For Change
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is There Room for Games in Education?

Allen Turner recently recalled the day his grade school teacher said it was time to learn about the U.S. Constitution, beginning with its famous preamble. But Turner, now a video game designer and professor at Chicago’s DePaul University, already knew it. So did all his classmates.

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School's principal Pat Garrity, left, and its vice president of advancement, Elizabeth White. (Sarah Darville for EWA)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

At Catholic High School, Chicago Students Earn While They Learn

When Carolyn Alessio assigned her students to prepare to act out a trial to probe the themes of “Frankenstein,” she was surprised at what she found at the top of a few of their supporting documents — perfectly formatted docket numbers.

Reporters visit Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago's North Side as part of EWA's 68th National Seminar (Jessica Smith for EWA)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Chicago High School’s Turnaround

Five years ago, Nicholas Senn High School on the Near North Side of Chicago was one some educators felt lucky to avoid. While student discipline might have been an issue elsewhere, “you would say, at least it’s not Senn,” Principal Susan Lofton said.

Moderator Ki Sung (L) listens as Camille Farrington (R) explains the role non-cognitive research plays in schools. (Credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Wrong Answers Lead to the Right Outcomes

In a second-grade classroom outside of Palo Alto, Calif., students were sharing their answers to a math quiz. A young boy named Michael held up his answer, and, as was customary, his classmates showed their verdict on the answer – thumbs up or thumbs down.

Students work on robotics projects as part of the LEGO Education program, one approach to a "deeper learning" mindset in classroom instruction. (Flickr/Jeff Peterson)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond the Buzzwords: Understanding ‘Deeper Learning’

Focusing on student learning, and structuring the school to fit students’ varied learning paces, is proving to be a game changer, said panelists at EWA’s recent National Seminar in Chicago, moderated by journalist Katrina Schwartz of Mindshift at KQED Public Radio.

Report

Mindset Interventions Are a Scalable Treatment for Academic Underachievement
Stanford University

We quickly discovered two good reasons schools weren’t implementing mindset interventions: Schools didn’t know how to implement mindset interventions, and Schools didn’t know whether mindset interventions would work for their students. We had something important in common with them: We didn’t know either! To turn mindset interventions into something that schools could (and should) practically use, we first needed to develop a mindset intervention that schools could easily implement. We also needed to test whether this easy-to-use intervention was effective for various kinds of students.

Yo-Yo Ma performs at the 2008 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. He's one of several dozen artists affiliated with Turnaround Arts. (Source:
By World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

White House School Arts Program Expands to D.C., New York

A program that pairs celebrities with struggling schools to develop their arts education is expanding to more large cities, The U.S. Department of Education announced today. 

Known as the Turnaround Arts initiative, the $10-million effort pools public and private funds to teach music, dance and other arts disciplines at schools that are considered among the worst in their respective states.

Kindergarteners at the NKO campus of the UChicago Charter during a visit by EWA members in April 2015. (Beth Hawkins for EWA)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Thrive at U. of Chicago Charter School

What’s most notable about the Chicago kindergarten class where assistant teacher Nichelle Bell is temporarily in charge is what is not happening. Teachers are not redirecting pupils, who are not off-task. Hands are not in other people’s spaces. Voices—those of children and adults—are not raised.

Henry Roediger listens as Bror Saxberg answers a reporter's question at EWA's 68th National Seminar in Chicago. (Photo credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Don’t Study The Way Science Says They Should

Most students don’t study using methods backed by scientific research, panelists at the Education Writers Association’s deep dive on the science of learning told reporters in Chicago at the association’s 68th National Seminar.

“Why do people find learning so hard?” asked Henry Roediger, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who participated in the April event.

Report

NAEP 2014 U.S. History, Geography, and Civics Assessments

Nationally, eighth graders’ average scores on the NAEP U.S. history, geography, and civics assessments showed no significant change in 2014, compared to 2010—the last assessment year. However, several student groups have made gains. In 2014, eighteen percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level in U.S. history, 27 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in geography, and 23 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in civics.

From left: Educators Luann Tallman, Mark Sass, Merlinda Moldanado and Kristy Straley talk with moderator Liana Heiten of Education Week at the University of Colorado Boulder on February 26, 2015. (EWA/Emily Richmond)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Educators: Common Core Standards ‘Are the Floor’

For teacher Merlinda Maldonado’s sixth graders at Hill Middle School in Denver, it’s not necessarily about getting the answer right. It’s not about memorizing procedures, either. If Maldonado’s classroom is clicking, frustration can be a good thing.

Classroom with Chromebooks Flickr/kjarrett (CC BY 2.0)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

How One Charter Group Took a Start-Up Approach to Teaching

At Summit Public School: Denali, young learners do it differently. Most of the students at this Bay Area-area school complete their coursework on school-issued Chromebooks, where they access a portal to online videos, assigned readings and interim assessments they take at their own pace. It’s a competency-based approach to proving they have mastered the subject at hand. 

Educators discuss the Common Core during an EWA seminar at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill on Jan. 12, 2015. (EWA)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Common Core: What Educators Say About the Standards

When education analyst Maria Ferguson looks at data from across the country, she sees record-setting confidence levels among school district leaders that the Common Core State Standards are more rigorous than what states had in place before. At the same time, Ferguson told reporters at a recent Education Writers Association seminar, these new expectations are barreling down on educators faster than they are able to prepare.

Gymnasiums like these can be sites for explaining to families the process of applying for DACA. By Tedder (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

For Undocumented Immigrants, High Schools Can Play a Key Role

As many as 3.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are eligible for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which sets aside the threat of deportation and grants work privileges to eligible residents. Among the several conditions necessary to qualify for DACA approval is a high-school degree or its equivalent. That’s where schools enter the picture.

Source: Flickr/cdsessums (CC BY 2.0)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Discipline Policies Can Backfire

If tough school discipline measures are meant to maintain stability in the classroom, then a new definition of stable might be in order: A new study argues high use of suspensions and expulsions brings down all students – even the ones who behave well.

A researcher with the Albert Shanker Institute flagged the study, which was published this month in the American Sociological Review. Here’s more on the paper from the Shanker Institute scholar Esther Quintero:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Webinar Wednesday: Are Teachers Making Use of Student Data?

As tools and data profiles of students become easier to use, are teachers sufficiently data literate to make sense of the information at their fingertips? Do teachers have the skills and access to data in useful formats, and are the school leaders and institutions responsible for their professional development providing them the training they need?

Ohio Shakespeare Festival production of “Hamlet” at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. (Flickr/Phil Kalina for Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Study: Surprising Student Benefits to Live Theater Field Trips

In Watertown, N.Y., the local school district recently debated scaling back field trips for students, with administrators citing the cost of providing transportation and chaperones – money that instead needs to be devoted to more purely academic endeavors.

Sophie Wellington at Impact Academy, Nov. 19, 2014. (EWA/Lori Crouch)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Impact Academy: Rethinking Student Assessment

On a recent Wednesday morning, 11th-grader Sophia Wellington took to the undersized stage at the front of her high school gym and with seamless poise demonstrated what smarter student assessment could look like.

Author Elizabeth Green speaks to EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (Emily Richmond/EWA)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

What It Takes to Build Great Teachers

If 49 multiplied by 5 is 245, why would a student think the answer is 405? And who is more likely to know this – a mathematician or an elementary math teacher?

Elizabeth Green, the author of “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (And How to Teach It to Everyone), posed this question to a roomful of education reporters at EWA’s October seminar in Detroit.  

Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA Webinar: What About the Arts?

Decades of research suggest that some types of arts education can lead to academic improvements. But even though No Child Left Behind designated arts a core subject, student access to dance, theater and visual arts declined between 2000 and 2010. What are the challenges educators face in teaching a discipline many researchers say spurs student achievement, reduces absences and boosts graduation rates? 

Report

Common Core Redoes the Math – Education Week
New standards bring hard questions, daunting instructional adjustments

As detailed in this report, part of a series of special reports by Education Week that identify and explore high-priority issues in schools, the common standards for math differ from most previous state standards in significant ways. They are fewer in number, connect more broadly across grade levels, and emphasize conceptual understanding along with the procedural skills that schools have traditionally taught.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Are Students Learning Lessons of Midterm Elections?

Today is a day off from school for millions of students as campuses in some districts and states — including Michigan and New York — are converted into polling stations for the midterm elections. To Peter Levine, the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, that’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate democracy in action.

Dean Deborah Loewenberg Ball, University of Michigan School of Education, speaks to EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (Emily Richmond)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teaching Math: More Than Mastering the Numbers

Deborah Loewenberg Ball began her career as an elementary school teacher, working for 15 years with a diverse population of students. But math stumped her.

“That troubled me,” Ball said Oct. 21 during her keynote presentation at the EWA seminar on teaching held in Detroit. “I would work really hard on how could I make the math make sense to the students, … but on Fridays they would know how to do things and on Monday they would have forgotten.”

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Liam Goldrick, New Teacher Center
Multimedia

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Liam Goldrick, New Teacher Center
EWA Seminar on Teaching

For new teachers, the first few years on the job can present a steep learning curve. And the students who need the most experienced teachers often don’t get them. How are schools, districts and states ramping up the support provided to new teachers? What are the hallmarks of a high-quality induction program? And what does the research show on the effects of coaching and mentoring?

Panelist:

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Magdalene Lampert, Boston Residency Project
Multimedia

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Magdalene Lampert, Boston Residency Project
EWA Seminar on Teaching

For new teachers, the first few years on the job can present a steep learning curve. And the students who need the most experienced teachers often don’t get them. How are schools, districts and states ramping up the support provided to new teachers? What are the hallmarks of a high-quality induction program? And what does the research show on the effects of coaching and mentoring?

Panelist:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Columbus Day: A New World For Schools

While Monday is designated as the Columbus Day holiday on federal calendars, it’s no longer being observed as such in a growing number of communities and schools.

Missouri State Capitol
Blog: The Educated Reporter

In Wake of Pushback, States Rewriting Common Core

In May, Missouri lawmakers approved a compromise to keep the Common Core in place for at least two more years but require more oversight and public input. And as Joe Robertson of the Kansas City Star reported, a total of eight committees comprised of lawmakers and parents were supposed to convene at the statehouse this week to begin the work of revising the standards.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Moving the Wrong Way on Student Health?

There’s a section in the new Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll out this week that hasn’t gotten much attention: what parents think about schools and student health. (You can read my overview of the full poll, which focuses heavily on questions about teacher quality and preparation, here.)

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Nashville Magnet School Students Sing Different Tune

More than a few reporters at EWA’s National Seminar who signed up for the visit to Pearl Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School in Nashville suggested that the campus would certainly be infused with country music elements. Perhaps cowboy hats and boots on each student, with future Taylor Swifts and Scotty McCreerys singing their way through the halls – right?

Key Coverage

The Science of Smart

Researchers have long been searching for better ways to learn. In recent decades, experts working in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience have opened new windows into how the brain works, and how we can learn to learn better.

In this program, we look at some of the big ideas coming out of brain science. We meet the researchers who are unlocking the secrets of how the brain acquires and holds on to knowledge. And we introduce listeners to the teachers and students who are trying to apply that knowledge in the real world.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Educators’ Interest in Latino Studies Courses Grows

Arizona made national headlines in 2010 with its law banning ethnic studies in public schools. That move resulted in the dismantling of the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program.

Four years later, educators in Texas and California are trying to drum up support for Latino and ethnic studies programs. The majority of public school students in both states are Latino. 

EWA Radio

Is Kochs’ High School Finance Class Pushing Conservative Agenda?
EWA Radio, Episode 8

This week, Emily and Mikhail talk to Joy Resmovits of The Huffington Post, who discusses her story (written with colleague Christina Wilkie) about the Charles G. Koch Foundation’s creation of Youth Entrepreneurs: a public high school finance course being used in schools in the midwest and south, which was designed to introduce students to free market theory and economics with a distinctly conservative point of view. 

Report

Measuring Innovation in Education
OECD

Do teachers innovate? Do they try different pedagogical approaches? Are practices within classrooms and educational organisations changing? And to what extent can change be linked to improvements? A measurement agenda is essential to an innovation and improvement strategy in education. Measuring Innovation in Educationoffers new perspectives on addressing the need for such measurement.

Source: Holly Yettick (http://hollyyettick.com/)
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Which Education Research Is Worth the Hype?

Education reporters may have the power of the pen, but when it comes to navigating the complex methods of research studies, we may feel powerless. As researchers churn out report after report, how can journalists on deadline figure out which studies are worth covering?

Key Coverage

What We Don’t Know About Summer School

So as the July heat kicks in, we started wondering about the whole idea. What, exactly, is summer school? How much does it cost? And, the biggest question, does it work? In a nutshell, we have no idea. “It’s been one of my pet peeves for years,” says Kathy Christie, vice president of knowledge and information management at the nonprofit Education Commission of the States. She says there’s never been a push for anyone to collect data on summer school. As a result there isn’t really good information about any of those questions above.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Kids Got the Beat: Arts and Music Enrich Student Learning

When Sandra Ruppert was growing up in Los Angeles every classroom at her school, Hancock Park Elementary, had a piano. And every teacher could play it.

“I made my first trip to the opera in third grade, learned ballroom dancing in the fourth grade and took violin in fifth grade,” Ruppert told those in attendance at “Kids Got the Beat,” one of the final panels of EWA’s 2014 National Seminar, held last month in Nashville. At her school, “there was artwork in the halls and seamlessly integrated into all kinds of classes.”

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Lawsuit: California Students Shortchanged on Class Time

A class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday accuses the state of California of failing to provide adequate classroom instructional time to minority and low-income students.

The suit, Cruz v. State of California, was brought by students who attend seven economically disadvantaged schools in the state. Schools in Los Angeles and Compton are included in the lawsuit, as are Bay Area schools.

Key Coverage

Common Core at Four: Sizing Up the Enterprise

The Common Core State Standards have been reshaping the American education landscape for four years, leaving their mark on curriculum and instruction, professional development, teacher evaluation, the business of publishing, and the way tests are designed.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Brown Center Report: Common Core, Homework and Shanghai’s Success

The third installment of the Brown Center Report on Public Education is out from the Brookings Institution, and author Tom Loveless provides plenty of food for thought in three key areas: the potential effectiveness of the new Common Core State Standards; whether American students are being saddled with  significantly more homework; and an examination of Shanghai’s reputation for producing some of the best 15-year-old math students in the world.  

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Texas Teachers Push for Mexican American Studies

Some south Texas teachers are campaigning for the creation of a Mexican American Studies curriculum to be taught in the state’s public schools.

The El Paso Times reports that the school board of the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso voted to urge the Texas State Board of Education to offer Mexican American Studies content in literature and history classes pre-K through twelfth grade.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

After-School Learning Advocates Hope Research Leads to More Federal Dollars

Learning doesn’t stop when the last bell of the day rings, but for most communities, money to support after-school activities is tight.

The largest federal grant program dedicated to learning outside of class – after school, before school and during summers – is roughly only $1.15 billion for the entire nation, for instance. The AfterSchool Alliance, an advocacy group, notes that of all the money spent on education outside of normal school hours, Uncle Sam only kicks in about a tenth. Parents, meanwhile, contribute three-quarters of the dollars spent in total.

Report

Early Reading Proficiency in the United States

This KIDS COUNT data snapshot finds 80 percent of fourth-graders from low-income families and 66 percent of all fourth-graders are not reading at grade level. While improvements have been made in the past decade, reading proficiency levels remain low. Given the critical nature of reading to children’s individual achievement and the nation’s future economic success, the Casey Foundation offers recommendations for communities and policymakers to support early reading. Early reading proficiency rates for the nation and each state are provided.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Ten Questions To Ask On Expanded Learning Time

Amid the push to improve public education, a frequent complaint by educators is that there isn’t enough time in the school day to adequately cover everything students are supposed to be learning – or to address the myriad challenges they bring with them to class every day.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Keeping Up With Common Core: Will Learning Soar or Stall?

Is it better to teach fractions to elementary school students using a cut-up pie or a number line?

As 45 states plus the District of Columbia roll out the new Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English, teachers, parents, students and reporters will encounter a new set of practices many scholars say are necessary to improve K-12 learning across the country.

These common signposts are expected to greatly alter the education landscape.

Webinar

School’s (Still) In: Making the Most of Summer Learning
1 hour

While students are celebrating the start of the long summer break, there’s a significant tradeoff for the three months of leisure – on average, students will return to school in the fall a month behind where they performed in the spring. And the learning loss is even greater for low-income students who were already behind their more affluent peers. In this EWA Webinar, we examine how districts are successfully combating summer learning loss with high-quality programs and leveraging community partnerships to help pay for them.

A Conversation with Sal Khan, Part 3
Multimedia

A Conversation with Sal Khan, Part 3

As the Q&A concludes, Khan fields questions on adapting lessons for an international audience, the MOOC model, and solving the problem of credentialing in online ed.

A Conversation with Sal Khan, Part 2
Multimedia

A Conversation with Sal Khan, Part 2

During the Q&A, Khan discusses the history of distance learning, the structure and composition of his videos, and how Khan Academy is beginning to approach assessments.

How I Did the Story: “An Empty Desk Epidemic” by David Jackson & Gary Marx
Multimedia

How I Did the Story: “An Empty Desk Epidemic” by David Jackson & Gary Marx

David Jackson and Gary Marx of the Chicago Tribune talk about the 10-year reporting project that became EWA’s Grand Prize-winning project, “An Empty-Desk Epidemic.” The expansive story demonstrated how students in Chicago’s public schools racked up missed days of school even as early as kindergarten.

Recorded at EWA’s 66th National Seminar, May 4, 2013 at Stanford University

Head to The Educated Reporter to read a guest blog by Jackson and Marks.

EWA Radio

Retention in the Third Grade: Help or Hindrance?

More states are embracing “third grade reading guarantees” that aim to prevent children from moving to fourth grade until they have progressed from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” But research has shown that students who are retained often end up dropping out. Two researchers will probe what the research says, and whether legislatures are on the right track. Panelists: Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post (moderator); Shane Jimerson, University of California, Santa Barbara; Martin West, Harvard University.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Word on the Beat: Assessments

As a regular feature, The Educated Reporter features a buzzword or phrase that You Need To Know (yes, this designation is highly subjective but we’re giving it a shot). Send your Word on the Beat suggestions to erichmond@ewa.org.

Word on the beat: Assessments

Key Coverage

Recess in Schools: Research Shows It Benefits Children

 Repeated studies have shown that when recess is delayed, children pay less and less attention. They are more focusedon days when they have recess. A major study in Pediatrics found that children with more than 15 minutes of recess a day were far better behaved in class than children who had shorter recess breaks or none at all.

Webinar

Summer Idyll — or Idle? Story Ideas for Journalists
58 Minutes

All over the country, the year’s last school bell is ringing. But now that it’s time for pool parties and summer camp, what happens to the knowledge students gained during the school year?

Gary Huggins of National Summer Learning Association; Kathleen Manzo of Education Week; and Katy Murphy of the Oakland Tribune talk about how reporters can examine summer learning loss and how to tell when schools and communities offer effective summer school.

Multimedia

Math Class Needs A Makeover

Math Class Needs A Makeover is a TED talk featuring Dan Meyers, who argues that “Today’s math curriculum is teaching students to expect — and excel at — paint-by-numbers classwork, robbing kids of a skill more important than solving problems: formulating them.”

Organization

Common Core

Common Core, founded in 2007, is a nonprofit organization that promotes rigorous liberal arts education in K-12 schools. They are not affiliated with the Common Core State Standards. Their efforts have been initiated, in part, as a response to their perception that No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on reading and math effectively pushed other subjects out of the curriculum.

Organization

The Learning First Alliance

The Learning First Alliance “is a partnership of 16 education associations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools.” The Alliance was established in 2000.

Organization

ASCD

ASCD, formerly known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, dates back to 1943 and has more than 150,000 members including teachers, principals, superintendents and other educators. In addition to providing professional development for its members, ASCD “advocate[s] for policies and practices that ensure each child has access to educational excellence and equity.”

Organization

The Alliance for Excellent Education

The Alliance for Excellent Education “is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century.” With regard to NCLB, the Alliance says the law “has played an important role in highlighting achievement gaps, but it has steadily proven to be inadequate in providing sufficient remedies and flexibility.

Key Coverage

Evaluating What Works in Blended Learning

Blended learning—the mix of virtual education and face-to-face instruction—is evolving quickly in schools across the country, generating a variety of different models. This special report, the second in an ongoing series on virtual education, examines several of those approaches and aims to identify what is working and where improvements are needed.

Key Coverage

At Technology High School, Goal Isn’t to Finish in 4 Years

By 2017, the first wave of students of P-Tech — Pathways in Technology Early College High School — is expected to emerge with associate’s degrees in applied science in computer information systems or electromechanical engineering technology, following a course of studies developed in consultation with I.B.M. “I mean, in 10th grade, doing college work?” said Monesia McKnight, 15, as she sat in an introduction to computer systems course taught by a college professor. “How great is that?”

Key Coverage

Competency-Based Schools Embrace Digital Learning

“Prior to kindergarten, everyone learns to talk at a different time,” he continues. “They get potty-trained at different times, but suddenly when you get to kindergarten, you’re placed in this box, and you’re given the kindergarten curriculum because you’re five, not because you’re ready for it, or even if you already know it all. Kids learn in different ways on different time frames.” National advocates for competency-based education echo those sentiments, pointing out economic and policy forces that are building momentum for such an approach.

Key Coverage

Studies Find Payoff in ‘Personalizing’ Algebra

The studies, which were discussed at a recent meeting here at Carnegie Mellon University, highlight one way to boost learning in algebraic expression, a concept considered critical in the Common Core State Standards but which educators say is perennially challenging to students. The study found that personalized math problems not only made it easier for students to understand what was being asked, but also helped boost the confidence of students who may have been intimidated by the subject.

Key Coverage

Districts rank 99.6 percent of teachers ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective’

But Lansing teachers have plenty of company, as an Education Trust-Midwest survey of large Michigan districts revealed that 87.75 percent of teachers were deemed “effective,” and 11.60 percent were ranked higher, as “highly effective.” Together, 99.36 percent of the educators were in the top categories. At the other end, just 0.65 percent of the teachers were deemed “ineffective” or “minimally effective,” according to the study, released today.

Key Coverage

The Schoolmaster

David Coleman is an idealistic, poetry-loving, controversy-stoking Rhodes Scholar and a former McKinsey consultant who has determined, more than almost anyone else, what kids learn in American schools. His national curriculum standards and pending overhaul of the SAT have reignited a thorny national debate over how much we should expect from students and schools, and how much is out of their control.

Report

STEM Vital Signs 2012

Change the Equation is “pleased to unveil its 2012 Vital Signs, which measure the health of the K-12 STEM learning enterprise, state by state. Created in collaboration with the American Institutes for research, Vital Signs offer the most comprehensive available picture of STEM in your state—the demand for and supply of STEM skills, what states expect of students, students’ access to learning opportunities, and the resources schools and teachers have to do their work.”

Report

A New Mission for the Middle Grades

New research has revealed the key to middle grades achievement. Recent evidence makes clear that each middle-grader’s personal, individual engagement in school is essential to his or her success. Studies repeatedly show that students who lose interest in school in the middle grades are likely to flounder in ninth grade — and later drop out. Yet developmental and brain research confirms that by the middle grades, students are capable of making connections between their academic work, their personal interests and career aptitudes.

Report

Learning Less: Public School Teachers Describe a Narrowing Curriculum

This paper highlights from a survey by Common Core and the Farkas Duffett Research Group Sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers. The paper notes that “According to most teachers, schools are narrowing curriculum, shifting instructional time and resources toward math and language arts and away from subjects such as art, music, foreign language, and social studies.”

Key Coverage

2012: Virtual Shift Technology Counts 2012

2012: Virtual Shift Technology Counts 2012—the 15th edition of Education Week’s annual report on educational technology—tackles the shift in the virtual education landscape, where the rise in popularity is intersecting with a call for greater accountability.

Key Coverage

How Computer Games Help Children Learn

As schools aim to prepare students for life outside of school, they need to realize that the world now values knowledge and skills that can be applied in creative ways. Epistemic games fit the learning requirements of today’s world because they allow students to role-play professions while learning skills that they apply in the game.

Report

NAEP High School Transcript Study

The NAEP High School Transcript Study (HSTS) provides information about the types of courses that graduates take, how many credits they earn, their grade point averages, and the relationship between coursetaking patterns and achievement, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Key Coverage

In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores

But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning. This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements.

Report

Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning

In June, July and August, many students forget some of what they learned over the previous school year. But “summer slide” takes its biggest toll on low-income students, contributing substantially to the achievement gap between them and better-off youngsters. This major RAND study also finds evidence that summer programs can help, identifies obstacles to providing them, analyzes costs, and offers recommendations.

Report

Call for Action: Transforming Teaching and Learning to Prepare High School Students for College and Careers

This paper from a reform-focused group notes that “Students will be adequately prepared for college and careers only if they have teachers who (1) have the knowledge and skills to make sure courses are truly challenging, and (2) have the ability to elicit levels of student engagement and performance that are in line with postsecondary expectations.

Key Coverage

Federal Influence Over Curriculum Exhibits Growth

Written shortly after the No Child Left Behind law went into effect, this article examines how many of the act’s requirement effectively force the federal government to exert more influence over in local decisions affecting curriculum even though NCLB itself expressly prohibits such federal involvement.

Key Coverage

Digital Tools Expand Options for Personalized Learning

New software are hardware are making it possible for teachers to tailor their instruction for individual students: “New applications for defining and targeting students’ academic strengths and weaknesses can help teachers create a personal playlist of lessons, tools, and activities that deliver content in ways that align with individual needs and optimal learning methods.”

Report

Choices, Changes, and Challenges: Curriculum and Instruction in the NCLB Era

This report examines the impact No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on math and English had on other subjects. “The report finds that approximately 62% of school districts increased the amount of time spent in elementary schools on English language arts and or math, while 44% of districts cut time on science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch or recess.

Multimedia

Changing Education Paradigms

In Changing Education Paradigms, Sir Ken Robinson uses animation to explore “the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools’ dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD.”