Shanker Institute Calls for Common Content

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Albert Shanker Institute released a signatory statement, "A Call for Common Content," on March 7 urging states to develop the core curricula needed to guide teaching and learning in relation to the Common Core state standards.

The statement was released with the endorsement of more than 70 educators, advocates, policymakers, researchers and scholars from across the educational and political spectrum—a number that had more than doubled one day later. The statement argues that standards and assessments alone are inadequate to the task of fostering high achievement, and insists that educators be provided with the practical guidance and teaching tools they need to meet the goals of the new standards.

"Shared curriculum in the core academic subjects would give shape and substance to the standards," the statement says, "and provide common ground for the creation of coherent, high-quality instructional supports. …" Creating such curricula—and there can be a number, as long as they all match the standards and are of high quality—will require our nation to answer basic questions, such as "What is it, precisely, that we expect all educated citizens to have learned?"

In addition to AFT and Shanker Institute president Randi Weingarten, the bipartisan list of "original" signatories includes former Secretary of Education Richard Riley, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, Harvard University professor William Julius Wilson, Committee for Economic Development president Charles E. M. Kolb, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Andrés A. Alonso, former Lockheed Martin chairman Norman Augustine, Teachers College president Susan Fuhrman, and former U.S. Surgeon General M. Joycelyn Elders.

During a call with members of the press, Weingarten debunked the idea that this was a call for a national curriculum. "Not national, and not one," she said. Weingarten also emphasized that teacher involvement is central to the development of a high-quality curriculum, pointing to the statement's suggestion that national and state bodies be created to offer quality oversight on curricula and that "teachers, content experts and cognitive scientists—not just curriculum designers by trade" be involved in their development.

The statement, which is also reprinted in the Spring American Educator, has received significant press and policy attention, with stories in the New York Times, Education Week, eSchool News, the New York Daily News, and a variety of blog sites. In addition to Weingarten, the conference call for reporters featured a diverse group of signatories, including Susan Neuman, former assistant secretary of K-12 education under George W. Bush; Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief academic officer for the Detroit Public Schools; Deborah Wince-Smith, president and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness; and Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond, chair of the Obama administration's education transition team. They emphasized such issues as the value of common core curricula to an internationally competitive workforce, the contribution that rich curricula can make to improving the quality of education for low-performing students, the need for high-quality aligned teacher development—both prior to teaching and while on the job—and the importance of having a true preschool curriculum, ensuring that all children are exposed to the background knowledge and vocabulary they will need to succeed in later schooling.

You can read the full statement and sign on to show your support on the Shanker Institute website. [Eugenia Kemble, Burnie Bond]

March 11, 2011