Rahm Emanuel says that if elected Mayor, he will impose a new math and English language curriculum on Chicago’s public schools by the end of his first term. I'm not sure that Rahm even knows what the word "curriculum" means. It's obvious that he has some of Arne Duncan's guys feeding him bits and pieces of education jargon to toss around during the campaign and to his credit, he's been first out of the gate on ed issues leaving all the other candidates to respond to him. Hopefully this will change in the coming months.
Here's 10 thoughts I had after reading the NYT piece:
1. Rahm is blowing smoke. He needs a real educator atop the system to help schools develop curriculum. But I wonder if any of the other candidates have the courage to really take him on on this.
2. Common Core is not Rahm's idea. It's part of the "blueprint" currently being pushed by Duncan around the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind. It comes out of meetings of the National Governors Assoc. and state ed chiefs. But it's been met with strong resistance because, among other reasons, it appears to be code language for more standardized testing. It also presages an unprecedented expansion of the DOE's power over local schools. So far, that power has been used mainly to test and punish.
3. Which standards does Rahm want to impose? How about the Texas curriculum standards that excluded teaching about Thomas Jefferson and any mention of the word slavery and pushed the theory of Intelligent Design over evolution.
4. Common Core is really a multi-billion-dollar bone thrown to the large textbook and testing companies.
5. Standards should be developed by educators and not demagogic politicians who know or care nothing about child development, teaching literacy or authentic learning and assessment.
6. Rahm's claim of being the first throws him into conflict with own his machine ally, Mayor Daley. What makes him think he can do in one year what Daley couldn't do in 15 years? Every time Rahm says anything about education he has to beg forgiveness from Daley whose endorsement he needs for a successful campaign.
7. Rahm is promising to impose a new curriculum in one year without any consultation with educators or the teachers union. This is a recipe for even more division, chaos and resistance in the schools. How is he planning to implement the new curriculum? He will have to re-train thousands of teachers to deliver and assess this new pre-packaged curriculum at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars plus thousands of hours of training and planning time away from the classroom. That should make his pals in the consulting business very happy but no one else.
8. Rahm's version of standard core curriculum means a total revision of all the state's standardized tests. Expensive plus no way to accurately compare progress with previous years.
9. The whole idea behind Common Core standards is to eliminate the unevenness nationally between states. For Rahm to boast that he will make Chicago "the first city" to adopt the curriculum and to claim that “no one else has taken on the initiative” misses the point. If Chicago is the only one, then its standards aren't "common." Are they? It's also not true. Several cities have launched Common Core Standards initiatives. I think Suwanee, GA. may have been the first.
10. Instead of promoting Common Core, our new mayor should call for a Chicago Education Summit in collaboration with the CTU and other stakeholders in public education. It should bring together teachers, parents, students, community organizations, foundations, local school coulcils and the business community to draft a new education plan. A major part of the summit should include panels of teachers to design the Chicago Curriculum with input from national experts in reading, math/science, the arts, etc... Former mayor Harold Washington's call in 1987 for an Education Summit could serve as a model.