From a district veteran:

In the late 1960’s the public schools in this country threw out curricula probably due to the massive popular unrest caused by the Vietnam War. There were a lot of problems with the old curricula, but there were good things, too. In the early 1980s, there was unusual unanimity on the Irvington BOE that the Irvington schools needed more curricula. Bizarre as it may seem, each teacher was allowed to “do your own thing.” The older teachers generally retained content curricula. We had two very competent principals at the Middle School and the High School who were supporters of curricula. Dows Lane was a mess.

In those days the BOE each year came up with objectives for the District and each principal came up with his objectives for the year. The BOE wanted a review of a curriculum area each year and that became a District objective and an objective of the principals. A curriculum committee was established which included the department chair, some teachers and some community members. A timetable was set for a public presentation to the BOE. The BOE felt that this method kept the pressure on the schools to develop curricula. The principals at the MS and HS welcomed this because it gave them leverage with the faculty – they could say it was the BOE’s idea, not their idea. This schema didn’t always work and wasn’t implemented every year, but the BOE never lost sight of curricula development.

The constant pressure on curricula was very positive for the schools. It was understood by the BOE, the administration, and the faculty that curricula changes needed public BOE approval. Public presentations of the curriculum committee and of any proposed curricula changes were insisted upon. The faculty and administration welcomed the opportunity for public presentations. The BOE was not trying to second guess or dictate curricula and the faculty and administration knew that. The public presentations validated the curricula work done and were appreciated by the BOE and the public.

There was resistance, particularly at Dows Lane. The Science Dept made overtures to Dows Lane teachers to give them assistance developing science education at DL and were repeatedly rebuffed. There also was constant pressure from Albany to teach “skills” which usually resulted in forcing the loss of content.

It seems to be necessary for the BOE to keep the pressure on the administration and the faculty. Possibly with all the construction over the years, the BOE lost sight of its curricula responsibilities because of the need to oversee the construction. If curricula are going to get developed or improved, it has to be done with public involvement and participation of the whole school community which includes the BOE. The faculty and administration have to do the work on curricula, but they are not going to do it without the BOE requiring it be done. Making the work a public matter gives recognition to the faculty which they generally appreciate.

What RK is doing is not curricula development – she is reacting to the nonsense from Washington and Albany. It seems like the BOE is absent. There must be some conscientious teachers who care about curricula, but are they getting any support from the Dept. Chairs and the administration? Who is telling RK what to do or approving her projects and recommendations?

One may feel that there are too many areas of the curricula that need improvement to concentrate on one area. However, focusing on one area in a public way will stimulate effort on all areas. Suppose the BOE said to the administration that they wanted a comprehensive review of all English curricula K – 12 and, working with the Supt. and the Asst. Supt., organized a committee and set a timetable for a report and public presentation?

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