Curriculum & Instruction

Too Good to Last: The True Story of Reading First is an in-depth and alarming study of Reading First's betrayal. Under the leadership of White House domestic policy chief Margaret Spellings and with support from Congress, Reading First was to provide funding to primary-reading programs that were based on scientific research. Backlash and brouhaha followed. Aggrieved whole-language program proprietors complained bitterly that their wares couldn't be purchased with Reading First funds. Then the administration turned its back on Reading First, allowing the program to be gutted and starved of funding.
Jeff Kuhner

Are we rearing a nation of ignorant students? This is the question posed in the latest report, Still at Risk, by Fordham's sister organization, Common Core. Its answer: yes, and we better start doing something about it. Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought, one in four said Columbus sailed to the Americas some time after 1750, not in 1492, and-most shocking of all-nearly one in four did not know who Adolf Hitler was. It is an education tragedy that a quarter of U.S. teens have no clue about the most dangerous mass murderer of the 20th century, whose call for a new Aryan racial order resulted in 6 million Jews being thrown into gas ovens and nearly 50 million dead due to his plunging Europe and America into a destructive world war.

The survey results, released at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, demonstrate what Common Core says is the "stunning ignorance" of many teenagers when it comes to history and literature. The organization rightly blames President Bush's education law, No Child Left Behind, for impoverishing public school curriculums by holding schools accountable for student scores on annual tests in reading and mathematics. This means that other vital subjects, such as history and literature (as well as art, music, geography and civics)...

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This report examines whether the reputation the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs have for academic excellence is truly deserved. Our expert reviewers looked at the four AP and IB courses most similar to the core content areas in American high schools--English, history, math, and science--and found that, in general, the courses do warrant praise. In a few cases, they deserve gold stars.
NCLB allows each state to define proficiency as it sees fit and design its own tests. This study compares state tests to benchmarks laid out by the Northwest Evaluation Association to evaluate proficiency cut scores for assessments in twenty-six states. The findings suggest that the tests states use to measure academic progress and student proficiency under NCLB are creating a false impression of success, especially in reading and especially in the early grades.
America's true competitive edge over the long haul is not its technical prowess but its creativity, its imagination, its inventiveness. And those attributes are best inculcated not by skill-drill or 'STEM' but through liberal arts and sciences, liberally defined. Thus argues this new Fordham volume, edited by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Diane Ravitch, which also explores what policymakers and educators at all levels can to do sustain liberal learning and sketches an unlovely future if we fail.
If you thought whole-language reading instruction had been relegated to the scrap heap of history, think again. Many such programs (proven to be ineffective) are still around, but they're hiding behind phrases like 'balanced literacy' in order to win contracts from school districts and avoid public scrutiny. Louisa Moats calls them out in Fordham's new report, Whole-Language High Jinks.
Two-thirds of schoolchildren in America attend class in states with mediocre (or worse) expectations for what their students should learn. That's just one of the findings of Fordham's The State of State Standards 2006, which evaluates state academic standards. The average state grade is a 'C-minus'--the same as six years earlier, even though most states revised their standards since 2000.
Is America's K-12 education system preparing students for life in a global village? Unfortunately, it is not. Renowned historian Walter Russell Mead, author of this report, found that thirty-three states deserved D or F grades for their world history standards.
Science education in America is under attack, with "discovery learning" on one flank and the Discovery Institute on the other. That's the core finding of this comprehensive review of state science standards, the first since 2000. Written by pre-eminent biologist Paul R. Gross, The State of State Science Standards 2006 finds that even though the majority of states have reworked, or completely re-written, their science standards over the past five years, we're no better off now than before. The good news is that many of the standards are easily fixed. The public's anxiety about the future of our nation's scientific prowess is palpable,and reasonable. How serious are we in addressing their concerns?
Almost every week a new report or commission decries the decline of America's preeminence in science, and calls for the nation's education system to raise standards in order for our economy to remain competitive with the rest of the world. Within this context, the National Assessment Governing Board is preparing to launch a new science assessment for 2009. Curriculum developers and textbook writers are likely to follow its lead. Fordham couldn't help but wonder: is the draft science Framework up to the challenge? Using much the same criteria applied in the Foundation's state science standards reviews (due out this December), our reviewers answered: no. As author (and esteemed biologist) Paul R. Gross wrote, The Framework is an interesting start, but there is much work to be done if it is to achieve its potential usefulness.

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