Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Conflicting Feelings on Scripted Curriculum

Check out today's post on Dangerously Irrelevant here.

We’ve used our new, scripted reading curriculum (I won’t mention the company) since the start of this school year. Personally, I think it’s a step forward from the past. It provides a degree of continuity in an environment where a significant number of our kids are transient and move every few months to another school in the county. It provides some level of assurance that we are actually implementing recent research in our reading classrooms. For example, it scripts in tasks for building background knowledge related to a story – an essential (but sometimes overlooked) component of comprehension. It provides shared tools for monitoring student progress. It provides a measure of quality control.

I agree with many of these points. In general, even though every student and every classroom is unique, which each teacher bringing her or her own expertise to instruction, there has been so much research on what works that it makes sense to consolidate that somehow so that best practices are implemented consistently in a district. Using Open Court last year, I appreciated how objectives were built upon gradually and repeated through the year, and how comprehensively it covered areas that I wouldn't otherwise have done justice to. Also, our teaching staff was very young and inexperienced (average years of teaching experience: 0.8) and I think that amount of structure was a good support.

Yet, I missed the flexibility of the workshop curriculum I used while in Teach For America. I missed being able to choose books for students based on their interests, and forming reading groups around their interests. I never got it together well enough with Open Court to figure out how to bring those aspects of workshop into the scripted curriculum.

What does the research say on this? Does research support one type of curriculum over another, or are there too many variables? How does a district decide which approach to favor, especially with the pressures of NCLB? More on this in the coming weeks after I do some more background reading. Let me know if you have any suggested resources to look at.

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