The 2013-2014 is the year of implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) for high schools throughout New York State. To that end, private entities have been hired to write curricula for English and Math. The written curriculum is supposed to map to the CCLS. The curriculum has been divided into “modules” for English 9, Algebra, and Geometry. Beginning with the summer of 2013, the first modules for Algebra were released to the public, which now include teachers and administrators. Educators are not involved in writing these modules, which represents a break from past practice in New York. In the past, educators had a direct influence on the development of the learning standards as well as the creation of the curriculum. Now that educators are divorced from the process, schools are placed in a position to wait for these modules to be written and released and then determine how they should be implemented. Modules in English and Geometry are still being written, a process the State Education Department (SED) describes as “building the plane in the air.” The video SED staff developers showed to illustrate this phenomenon can be found here.
The SED offers individual school districts three choices regarding the implementation of the English and Math Common Core Curriculum and the subsequent modules: adopt, adapt, or ignore. Educators all over the state are downloading individual modules from the engageny.org web site and assessing how these modules should be implemented. Some school districts are also in the position of assessing whether there are enough funds to purchase materials, such as videos, books, and document cameras.
At Clarkstown North High School, we have begun adopting and adapting the modules in Algebra. Since the English modules were released as the academic year started, English teachers just recently assessed the Romeo and Juliet module. To that end, we have decided that beginning in January 2014 one-third of English 9 teachers will fully adopt the Romeo and Juliet module as written by SED approved vendors, the second third will adapt the modules, and the final third of the English 9 staff will ignore the modules and teach Romeo and Juliet as in the past using the 2005 State Learning Standards. The Romeo and Juliet module can be accessed here. Our goal is to collect data during this process to assess which implementation method works better for North students: adopt, adapt, or ignore. Formative and summative data will be collected in each class. Trained observers will collect evidence that will focus on questioning and discussion techniques, student engagement, communication and interaction, and the internalization of expectations. Summative data will encompass student performance on quizzes, tests, and written assignments.
The “building the plane in the air” method suggested by the SED fails basic policymaking tenets, which demand that any new policy be piloted, tested, and evaluated before being implemented. I am confident that our approach, which is based on sound policymaking principles, will help us assess how to proceed with the new Common Core Curriculum at Clarkstown North. Before making the decision to adopt, adapt, or ignore it is imperative that a decision is based on some data. We are excited with this approach, and we look forward to examining and analyzing the findings from classes. We will also involve student feedback in our decision to whether adopt, adapt, or ignore.