The Daily Star
---- — If you’ve been paying attention to the debate over the Common Core curriculum, you can be forgiven for thinking that “module” is becoming a dirty word.
The term refers to sample lesson plans that the state Department of Education has provided to schools across New York to help teachers prepare students for the newly rigorous math and English tests.
Sounds innocent enough, right?
But here is what longtime Oneonta teacher Ken Sider of Riverside Elementary School had to say about the modules back in September:
“Modules prevent a teacher from shaping the learning environment in ways that are responsive to children’s interests, passions, and, most importantly, their individual needs. These automated teaching methods eliminate the possibility for wonder, curiosity, and self-direction.”
More recently, Greater Plains first-grade teacher Vicki Lyall said the scripts that teachers are being given to use could result in “the love of teaching being taken from them,” she said, adding: “The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t meet the needs of all students.”
Much of the ire over modules has been directed at state Education Commissioner John King. True, by canceling a series of forums on the Common Core after one got out of hand, King appeared cowardly and unwilling to confront his critics.
But it’s worth noting exactly what King’s department has to say about how these modules are meant to be used.
“In order to assist schools and districts with the implementation of the Common Core, NYSED has provided curriculum modules and units ... that can be adopted or adapted for local purposes,” a statement on the department’s website reads.
OK, so the italics are ours. But you get the point.
It’s easy to criticize the modules as being insufficient tools that could never replace an individual teacher’s judgment and abilities to guide his or her students.
But if that’s how they are being used in your local school district, it’s a bit unfair to blame King for that.
True, it’s asking a lot to expect teachers to deviate from these lesson plans and still be confident that they are adequately preparing their students for the rigorous tests that lie ahead. But we have a great deal of faith in the Ken Siders of the world to do just that.
We look forward to the results of efforts such as the Oneonta School District’s panel of educators, which has been tasked with addressing concerns from the community about the modules. And we encourage all districts to have the courage to “adapt, not adopt,” as the state has suggested. It’s a leap of faith, but knowing the quality of teachers we are so lucky to have in many of our schools, it is one we think will be rewarded.