The Problem with Widespread Policies

This class has focused on a lot of different education policies – usually programs that are developed on a very widespread scale and expected to be implemented with perfect success and immediate improvement on test scores. The problem is that these programs seem to lack room for adaptability, innovation, or modification for particular teachers, schools, or students. It is without a doubt that we should set the bar for our standards on education as high as we can, but without the proper tools and support in the classroom, there is no way we will reach it.

Last class we talked a lot about scripted curriculum, and example of a widespread education policy. Before learning the details of this program, I thought that a scripted curriculum was a horrible idea that should never be implemented in schools. I’m not saying that I believe in it one hundred percent now, but I definitely have a slightly more positive view towards scripted curriculum. After talking with a local teacher, we learned that most scripted curriculum programs are targeted towards elementary age students. Before, my understanding was that teachers for all grade levels were using a scripted curriculum program. We even viewed some of the sample lessons that these programs advertised, such as Success for All and Open Court, two examples of commercial reading programs. Although the examples seemed slightly cheesy, they did provide some good examples and strategies for teachers.

So while the outsiders view of a scripted curriculum program (at least my perceived view), was that teachers were reading directly from a paper with no liberty to interact with students or go off the structured syllabus, it seems that it’s really not as strict and limiting as I was expecting. I’m not saying that it’s the best program ever, but it could be helpful, especially for new teachers.

The problem is that these programs often lack the room or administrative support to be adapted. Often, when a school is struggling, the response is to quickly administer a new “program,” without looking at the bigger root of the problem. When we don’t know the problem or what changes to make to better suit the students, how can we expect there to be success?

Scott Ferguson, a local high school teacher, shared the details of a reading initiative program that he designed with our class. This program focuses on giving students time to read independently. He has found research that proves extreme benefits on testing and ability to think critically when students simply read. Often, when students’ only exposure to reading is complex and uninteresting literature, they don’t actually do the reading and rely on online text analyses. In addition, they will make claims that they “don’t like reading” or “are bad at reading”. When children are allowed and encouraged to read books that they are actually interested in, their enjoyment of reading improves and they gain the benefits that come from reading.

This program is an example of finding the root of the problem, students aren’t actually reading, and designing a practical solution. Further, Scott emphasized the importance of adapting this program to fit each classroom. For example, some students are allowed to read Sports Illustrated or other magazines if they can’t find a novel they are interested in. I think this program shows how adaptability and innovative programs can have an extreme, positive impact on education.

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3 Responses to The Problem with Widespread Policies

  1. Jinni says:

    I, too learned that scripted learning wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. I was personally taken aback by the concept of scripted learning because I thought they applied to all grades. I just couldn’t imagine what a high school literature class would look like with a teacher reading off a script. But, the examples you’ve mentioned did show that it had the potential to be a useful guideline in giving a rough outline of what a certain grade-level class should look like. You said that scripted curriculum lacks the room to be adapted, but really, what’s stopping teachers? They’re not being watched on a camera, and each classroom has different groups of students who respond differently. Can’t this be considered “adaptation” already? The way the teachers read the script, or administer the activities must be different depending on each teacher – isn’t this adaptation also? Our bias against scripted learning may have prompted us to regard it too harshly. I’ve seen teachers who really didn’t know how to teach and did worse than these scripts. Maybe it’s not that bad?

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  2. haileynt1023 says:

    I really liked how your post approached scripted curriculum! You talked about an issue that is widely controversial (and commonly disliked) in a positive light but also payed attention to some of its problems. I definitely thing the overarching issue, as you pointed out, is widespread policies being implemented in different areas and schools with different resources. Although I haven’t fully developed my own opinion of scripted curriculum, I really like and appreciate your take on it!

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  3. bgaudette says:

    I totally agree with this. Policies that are so broad limit the need specialization that both teachers and students need. Adaptability is essential to making things work for individual schools. The thing it is challenging to make policy super specific. However if the policy itself allows states and schools to make their own decisions that can make larger policies better.

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