What the world of education needs now is a National Repository of Curricular Materials. This would be an online library of lessons on every subject with pre-assessments, instructional media, practice tasks, quizzes, and tests all linked to the common core standards.
Can this be done? There is a precedent, the federal government funded the National Genome Project at a time when gene-sequencing work was fragmented, competition in the field was rampant and yet, the entire human genome was sequenced for all scientists to access worldwide. This made possible exponential progress in science because the common good prevailed.
Analogously, private interests by textbook publishers and educational consultants would need to allow funds to be allocated centrally for this to happen in education. Currently, the common core standards have spurred a flurry of disparate activities to create texts, units, and lessons by teachers, professors, consultants, publishers and others. Yet teachers and students don’t have the materials they need at their fingertips. Over 40 years ago, we had a textbook that was the curriculum, complete with quizzes, tests and tips in the teacher’s edition. Teachers planned, taught, and focused on their students.
But the world is far too complex, the classrooms of today far to diverse for static textbooks. We need appropriate, engaging materials available for all students: for helping struggling students, for challenging proficient ones and for addressing the needs of all students in between. The vast majority of these curricular materials already exist: in published and online texts, states’ extensions of the standards, uTube videos, online assessments, educational games, etc. They need to be vetted, indexed and made available to all.
The intended consequence of this proposed curricular project is access to an appropriate education for all. With this tool, students could progress at whatever pace is most suitable to them: delving deeper into areas that interest them and repeating lessons similar to ones they find difficult. Teachers would finally have all the tools for differentiation in their classrooms. Every student would have the world at his fingertips.
The Repository would allow the system to break the mold of education by chronological age. Students would be grouped by progress, as in martial arts. Classrooms would be different. As communities of learners, students could shine in their areas of strength. Students would learn that practice and perseverance lead to success and recognition. Teachers and student leaders could spend time in small groups, clarifying concepts, discussing issues, making one another think, and providing encouragement for the pursuit of excellence.
Teachers’ roles would be re-defined as coaches, mentors, progress monitors, and discussion leaders. They will have time to know their students, encourage them, and build on their strengths. Sparking students’ interests and passions is how education will give us future successful citizens.
In 1868, Ezra Cornell said “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” Today internet access for all and the organized, vetted materials of a National Repository of Curricular Materials can make this possible!
Photo from dreamtime.com _______________________________________________________________________