Core curriculum should be mandatory
Hawai'i's public school students deserve a consistent and rigorous core curriculum for each grade level.
Indeed, other school districts around the country have model curriculums that make it easier to deal with student transfers and overall academic standards.
There's a bill in the Legislature that comes close to achieving that goal. Senate Bill 3059 would establish a model curriculum, but only on a voluntary basis.
The original bill called for a mandatory model, but opposition from the Hawai'i State Teachers Association and the state Department of Education resulted in changes to the bill, making it voluntary.
But without a mandatory approach, some schools might opt to not adopt a curriculum, leaving the district without a uniform standard for all public schools.
That doesn't solve the problem.
Consistency is important. A model curriculum would establish a base line of knowledge that would help educators and students measure up to performance guidelines set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Students who move from one school to another often find themselves out of sync with the lesson plan. They can get discouraged, lose interest and are, indeed, left behind.
The strongest critics of the curriculum plan — the DOE and the teachers union — have argued that the Legislature shouldn't design curriculum by statute. That, they believe, should be left to educators.
But the bill provides enough flexibility: It provides broad guidelines, and leaves it to educators to decide how best to achieve them. It allows schools to adapt the curriculum to fit their individual campuses, and subject areas could be expanded to include courses such as Hawaiian education and information technology — depending on the school site population.
This weekend, the teachers union will hold its annual meeting in Honolulu, with nearly 400 delegates. On the agenda is the model curriculum issue. Officials say that could lead to a plan for a core curriculum to be developed with the DOE.
That energy and enthusiasm is better directed at making the existing bill work.
Students have been waiting too long already for a state-wide uniform curriculum.