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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 2, 2006

Core curriculum is critical for our schools

The latest version of the "standards-based movement" has been under way for years across the country, and a common theme threads through the experience of many school districts.

Standards are imposed, and schools struggle to meet them.

Elsewhere, adopting a common curriculum a map for schools propelling students toward those educational standards has been seen as essential in getting through that impasse.

Today, Hawai'i leaders have a chance to embark on a similar campaign. The state Senate Ways and Means Committee will meet at 10 a.m. in room 211 to vote on Senate Bill 3059, which would call on state educators to create and maintain a standardized statewide curriculum for public schools.

This is a sensible initiative, one Hawai'i critically needs in its push to boost academic achievement a goal that undeniably has eluded too many of our schools.

The bill would require a curriculum, adapted from a successful, well-researched model and extending across all grade levels, to be in place in time for the 2008-09 school year.

The timetable, while short, is achievable if the Department of Education focuses immediately on the task of surveying curricula that have shown excellent results elsewhere.

The curriculum should also be adaptable to local cultures and circumstances, if students are to embrace it fully. Philadelphia implemented its own core curriculum a few years ago and had to respond to charges from its Latino community after discovering that the lessons were not ethnically inclusive. That's a lesson for us: Beware a rigid one-size-fits-all approach.

Anticipating and avoiding this pitfall should not be a problem for Hawai'i educators, who for decades have found ways to entwine Hawaiian and other cultures with a more generic knowledge base.

The lessons need not be rigid, and individual teaching styles need not be curbed. But there also need to be some unified standards, especially when many students move from one school to another. They must have consistency to succeed.

And the current teacher shortage means that many new teachers will take the classroom helm with little experience and a need for structure.

Teachers and students alike should have the stability of a core curriculum.