Thursday, May 25, 2017

Common Core Bombing in Brazil, World Wide Curriculum Base Faces Obstacles

Folha de S.Paulo - Internacional - En - Culture - Under Discussion in Brazil, Curriculum Base Faces Obstacles in the USA - 22/05/2017:

Under Discussion in Brazil, Curriculum Base Faces Obstacles in the USA

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The current scenario in Brazilian education is very similar to what the situation was like in the United States back in 2010. That year, then-President Barack Obama, billionaire Bill Gates, and teaching associations and unions bet on an unprecedented and rigorous national curriculum standard aimed at placing the country's students among the best in the world in international learning assessments.
Obama invested about US $1 billion in the idea. The founder of Microsoft contributed US $200 million. States governed by Democrats and Republicans voluntarily incorporated the policy.
Seven years following the launch, the success envisioned has not yet become reality-and they are doubts if this will ever be the case. The situation serves as a warning for Brazil, which is prepared to adopt the National Common Curriculum Base (BNCC).
In nations with smaller populations, such as Australia, Singapore, and Portugal, curriculum standards have been successful. For many researchers, however, it is more appropriate to compare Brazil with the United States. Both are continental and federative (meaning states have autonomy) countries that also have regional educational inequalities.
The American document, known as the Common Core, establishes a set of skills that students should have at each grade level, from pre-school to high school. At least in theory, standardizing education allows for greater collaboration among states and facilitates comparisons among them.
These objectives are similar to those in Brazil. Last past month, the government of Brazilian President Michel Temer (PMDB) launched its curriculum standards, with full support of the states, municipalities, and private foundations. At the ceremony, managers from the administration of former President Dilma Rousseff (PT) were present, in a display of non-partisan support.
Discussed since 2014 during the PT (Workers Party) government, the Brazilian proposal encompasses pre-school through high school. It will include both public and private schools, and a population of 40 million students (The US has 55 million students).
In determining what each student must know for each grade level, the document will be required to reference new teaching materials and teaching training. States and municipalities will develop their own plans (the curriculum itself) to teach what is determined by the National Base.
Such a re- organization was what the US also hoped for with the Common Core, starting in 2010. Today, however, optimism has been transformed into skepticism. Of the 45 states that adopted the Common Core, 9 have ceased using it. Popular approval of the measure, which was 90% in 2012, is now at 50%, according with a national poll from Education Next magazine. Among teachers, the support has fallen from 80% to 40% during that same time period.
What happened between 2010 and 2017?
Errors in implementation and political disputes were the answers most frequently heard during the last seven months of reporting, which included school visits and consulting of academic studies, researchers, authorities, directors and teachers in different American states such as New York, Kentucky, Washington, California and New Jersey.
"The Common Core was well designed. It is compatible with the best curriculum standards in the world, but this is not enough. This should be seen by the Brazilians as a strong warning sign," said the German Andreas Schleicher in an interview with Folha. He is director of PISA, the main international student assessment body.
Overseeing this test since its start 20 years ago, Schleicher is one of the best- known experts in educational systems in the world. "Without good implementation, a good curricular base can just become words on paper." Implementation is the step that Brazil is about to take.
The USA did not improve its performance on the most recent PISA test, which was done in 2015. Some states have used the Common Core for two or three years, but American students continued to score below average among developed countries in mathematics.
A resident of Long Island, a middle-class region of New York, Jeanette Deutermann,43, recalls the initial phases of the Common Core. In 2012, her son started to have stomachaches. He cried when going to school, a public one. A doctor said that it might be stress. "But how? Stress in an eight-year-old boy?" recalls the mother.
Still without a clue about what was happening, the housewife talked with his teachers. She discovered that the curriculum had changed due to the Common Core. The means of teaching was different. The boy did not understand the classes and the mother could not help him, as she did not know the new method.
Additionally students were submitted to a new test, the results of which played a role in teacher evaluations. "The school became focused on what would take place in these tests,"said Jeanette. There were even special classes just for preparation.
Evaluating teachers and schools had a proposition: to try to guarantee that the new curriculum was in fact adopted in the classrooms.
This concern made sense. In 1979, Larry Cuban, today a professor emeritus of the School of Education at Stanford University, compared curricular reforms to a hurricane at sea: there is an enormous churn on the surface, but the deep waters remain nearly unaltered.
According to Cuban, politicians, specialist and authorities are on the surface while the classrooms are submerged. And implementing the Common Core in a hurried way, taking advantage of the initial excitement, could create a shakeup in deep waters.
John King, Commissioner of Education in New York during the implementation of the Common Core, says that the tests were also important to reveal advances and difficulties in the school systems.
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