July 2010

    Cutting to the Core

    July 2010 Cover

    When lawmakers dictate curricula, the natural reaction from educators is to reject this top down approach which seeks to homogenize the lives of children without possibly taking into account the individual gifts and foibles that teachers recognize as indicators of learning style. When a nationwide blueprint for educational standards is unveiled, reaction within the states of our union is likely to be hostile as it can only be seen as further erosion of state constitutional power. However, the publication of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English and Mathematics has been met with surprisingly little hostility.

    Although the Obama administration is strongly encouraging the standards, they are not a federal initiative. Sponsors are the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. States which opt to implement the standards will be better positioned to win grant money in the Race to the Top Program, which awards its second round of federal funds in September. An open letter supporting adoption of the standards was signed by over 50 superintendents and school chancellors from diverse cities such as Anchorage, Memphis and Omaha. In the missive, city leaders underscored the importance of a framework to which all states will be held accountable; “These standards will give us, for once, a common definition of what academic proficiency means and what it doesn’t mean, rather than having 50 different definitions,” they wrote.

    Within the standards are relatively detailed guidelines (see News, page 10) on their application to English language learners (ELLs) which recognize from the outset that “ELLs are a heterogeneous group with differences in ethnic background, first language, socioeconomic status, quality of prior schooling, and levels of English language proficiency.” It is such recognition of the diversity of our schoolchildren that prevents the CCSS from being objectionable. As long as they are used as a structure and do not become a law of their own, they are a very useful tool for states to adapt.
    But, we cannot expect these standards to suddenly improve our schools. Without equal distribution of resources to ensure that teachers are paid and trained sufficiently to be able to make a difference to the children who need it most, and schools that have equal resources to make sure that underprivileged kids have the environment and resources required to succeed, common standards have little bearing.

    Per pupil funding varies enormously not only from state to state, but from school to school, and this problem is being made worse by the Race to the Top initiative. Deep budget crises in many states are threatening thousands of teachers’ jobs and creating problems for schools and their students that no standards can hope to overcome.


    Insuring Adventure

    Not According to the Script
    Mira Teymurova questions the benefits of scripts in listening comprehension

    Preparing Teachers for the Modern World
    Lorraine D’Ambruoso and Duarte Silva argue that we need to transform our World Language teacher supply system and infuse it with 21st century innovation

    Guatemala A Spanish Immersion Adventure
    Daniel Ward is struck by the natural beauty and Mayan culture of the country of Eternal Spring

    Le Français au Canada
    Gonzalo Peralta explains how Languages Canada is making the country an even more attractive destination for French immersion

    Bel Voyage
    Kate Sommers-Dawes suggests some of France’s most alluring French immersion destinations

    Reinforcing French in the Americas

    Last Writes
    Richard Lederer on facts about teachers

    Plus all the latest news in language learning technology, book reviews, and source information on language funding


    1. This is one of the most authoritative discussions I ever read in a long time, I’m speaking about this section of your article “… of children without possibly taking into account the individual gifts and foibles that teachers recognize as …” it gets me to feel more knowledgable after understanding it.

    2. Absolutely right when you say “Without equal distribution of resources to ensure that teachers are paid and trained sufficiently” things will not automatically improve. It’s high time we teachers got the real support we need to ensure we can deliver what we believe is right. Keep up the good word!

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