WHITEKER: Mile wide/inch deep curriculum

posted on September 10 - 08:35 AM
By Joe - TexasISD.com

Texas has created mile wide/inch deep curriculum standards for all subjects, prekindergarten – grade 12. Teachers are mandated by law to teach the state curriculum standards, students are assessed annually on mastery of these standards using the STAAR testing system. There are 3 types of standards per subject:

  • Readiness Standards– Essential for success in the current grade or course, necessitate in-depth instruction, address broad and deep ideas, and support college/career readiness
  • Supporting Standards– Introduced in current grade, but emphasized in a subsequence year, may have been emphasized in a previous year, prepare students for the next grade, but not a central role, narrowly defined ideas
  • Process Standards– Represent strategies and structures to access learning and provides a way for students to demonstrate understanding/knowledge

Mile-wide standards for students entering 8th grade:

  • Social Studies: 36 readiness, 56 supporting, 8 process standards
  • Science: 15 readiness, 35 supporting 13 process standards
  • Math: 13 readiness, 27 supporting, 7 process standards
  • Reading: 13 readiness, 4 supporting, 3 process standards (2 genres)
  • Writing: 8 readiness, 10 supporting, 2 process, (6 genres)
  • Total standards for 5 subjects: 258 (85 readiness, 132 supporting, 33 process, 8 genres)

These numbers may not seem too overwhelming at first glance; however, the following is an example of one 8th grade readiness standard, with 7 levels of specificity:

8.15.D - Analyze how the U.S. Constitution reflects:

  • Principles of limited government
  • Republicanism
  • Checks and balances
  • Federalism
  • Separation of powers
  • Popular sovereignty
  • Individual rights.

The 8 process skills are applied to each of those levels of specificity:

  • Primary and secondary sources
  • Sequencing, categorizing identifying cause and effect
  • Graphs, charts, timelines, maps
  • Point of view from historical context
  • Point of view on social studies issues or events
  • Use appropriate mathematical skills
  • Geographic distributions/patterns
  • Social studies terminology

From this 1 readiness standard, 56 different questions could be asked on the STAAR Exam. To cover a “mile” of readiness standards, one can easily see the limited time available to offer in-depth teaching/learning opportunities for our students. There are 35 additional social studies readiness standards and 56 supporting standards that must be presented within the 145 days prior to the STAAR administration. Classroom reality means the teacher must cover a comparable standard every 1.45 days!

This is not unique to 8th grade. A student entering first grade, age 6, is expected to master 211 standards in 5 subjects:

  • Social Studies: 14 readiness, 27 supporting, 10 process standards
  • Science: 7 readiness, 13 supporting, 13 process standards
  • Math: 5 readiness, 15 supporting, 7 process standards
  • Reading: 12 readiness, 16 supporting, (6 genres), 40 process standards
  • Writing: 8 readiness, 9 supporting, (4 genres), 5 process standards

Due to the number of standards for each of the tested subjects, Pearson’s Testing, under the direction of the Texas Education Agency, will select approximately 30% of the standards to be tested each year. Teachers begin each school year attempting to address 100% of these mile-wide standards, praying they have focused attention on the standards that will be targeted on the “state exams”! Exams that will determine the success or failure of students, teachers, campuses, districts! It is time we bring reason back to a system that is no longer reasonable or attainable.