An effective curriculum depends on its design. When developing and planning a curriculum, educators must focus on student success. According to Danielson (2002), “educators follow clearly defined steps that are designed to link the local curriculum to state and district content standards” (p. 81). Once a state has established a Standard Course of Study, educators can design a curriculum that will provide the most appropriate education possible for the diverse learners in that state. This will prepare students to become successful, contributing members in a 21st century society and global economy. In this paper, the author discusses the historical and political influences on the current curriculum practices, the effects of English Language Learners (ELL) and Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) laws have on curriculum development, and the impact of gifted education on the evolution of curriculum development.
Many political and historical influences on education come to mind, notably, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act and cases involving religion. Politics plays a very important part in curriculum development. The main component of politics is funding. Educational institutions rely on funding from federal, state, and local governments. These funds are used to hire personnel, build and maintain educational facilities, and purchase resources needed to define established goals. Failed programs such as No Child Left Behind have proved to be expensive and caused an increase in the achievement gaps among students. Designed to bridge achievement gaps, NCLB has not helped, but because it focuses on high-stakes testing, increased funding is needed to pay for the training, testing materials, and administration.
Furthermore, NCLB focuses on literacy and math, leaving little time in curriculum for history, science, and the arts. “Any balanced curriculum should highlight the interconnectedness of various fields of knowledge, expose students to a wide variety of experiences that can help them clarify their interests and talents, and incorporate appropriate ongoing assessment to gauge student mastery” (Cawelti, 2006, p. 67). Not only are there the issue of narrowed curricula and funding, research indicates NCLB has detrimental effects on minority and low-income students ((Woolhether, 2012). These students do receive the best education possible, because they are faced with overcrowded classrooms and teachers whose priority is “teaching to the test”. Education will continue to suffer as students are coached to pass tests and not taught a curriculum that will prepare them to live and participate in the 21st century. The other issue, school prayer and religion expression, has an impact on curriculum. Even though the court case Engel vs. Vitale (1962) sided with Engel concerning prayer in schools, it did not quell the issue of religion. Educators have to be careful when selecting resources for the curriculum. Choosing activities with religious undertones could pose problems for educators, such as musical and reading selections.
However the move toward giving religion a role in education includes establishing guidelines that specify how students can pray in school, how religious clubs can have access to school facilities, and how teachers can incorporate religion into the curriculum (Brown, 2012). Increasing immigration in the United States has led to a large population of children who live in homes where English is not the primary language. To provide the best possible education for these diverse students, curriculum planning must include elementary school programs, such as ELL (English Language Learners) and SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) that address their needs. Some schools may offer several programs to accommodate these students while other schools may offer only one program. Some identified programs are (1) the English-language monolingual program where the child is in a regular English-language monolingual classroom; (2) the English-monolingual-plus-ESL program where the child is in a regular English-language monolingual classroom, but receives instruction in English as a Second Language (ESL); (3) the Transitional bilingual education program where the child is placed in a bilingual education classroom and receives some form of English-language instruction, but also is taught in Spanish;
(4) Maintenance bilingual education program, where children are placed in a bilingual education classroom and receives some form of English- Spanish instruction. This program helps students develop full proficiency in both languages; (5) the structured immersion program where the child is in a classroom in which the subject matter is presented in English, but in a manner that students with limited English-language proficiency is insufficient (Honigsfeld, 2009). These programs are beneficial if the number of ESL teachers to student ratio is sufficient. Often funding issues lead to budget cuts in these areas. A positive for NCLB is that it allocates extra support for programs designed to help ELL students’ progress. The impact of gifted education on the planning of the curriculum is positive, but may also have some negative effects. The use of the multidimensional Curriculum Model (MdCM) helps educators to better prepare gifted students for the changing world, providing them with the skills needed for the 21st century (Vidergor, 2010). This model could be used as a framework for curriculum design and development that will reach and teach gifted students. The negative effects of gifted education include funding issues for hiring teachers capable of teaching gifted students and allocation of funds.
Again, movements such as NCLB have overlooked the population of gifted students. Collaboration and planning a curriculum that uses differentiated instruction is an effective way to reach gifted students. Since funding is in short supply for gifted education, reaching out to community leaders will help them gain an understanding of the needs of gifted children. This can help dispel the myth that “gifted children can make it on their own” (Roberts & Siegle, 2012). To save gifted education and serve gifted students, some schools are turning to the Schoolwide Cluster Grouping Model (SCGM). “When implemented well, the SCGM represents one viable solution for providing effective and consistent gifted services within certain budget restraints” (Brulles & Winebrenner, 2011, p. 35). This model allows school leaders to embed gifted education services into the school system, making it possible that all students’ needs are met (Brulles & Winebrenner, 2011).
Funds will still have to be allocated for teacher training. Classroom instruction should reflect societal needs, the needs of students, and recommendations of experts in their field of study. These are important components when planning an effective curriculum. It is clear that ELL program models do not work for everyone, in other words, ‘one size does not fit all’. NCLB has proven beneficial by the allocation of funds to certain departments; however, it must be revisited and revamped before it will be completely effective. Unfortunately, it does solve the problems that cause students to be left behind. NCLB also has a negative impact on gifted education. Emphasis is placed on lower achieving students and efforts to make these students proficient on standardized tests. A well-planned curriculum should be rigorous and demand from students higher-order thinking skills.
Brown, M. (2012). 50 years later: High court’s school prayer ruling still fuels religious liberty debate. Deseret News. Retrieved July 15, 2013 from http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865558046/50-years-later-High-courts-school-prayer-ruling-still-fuels-religious-liberty-debate.html?pg=all Brulles, D., & Winebrenner, S. (2011). The schoolwide cluster grouping model: Restructuring gifted education services for the 21st century. Gifted Child Today, 34(4), 35-46. doi:10.1177/1076217511415381 Cawelti, G. (2006). NCLB: Taking stock, looking forward. The side effects of NCLB. Educational Leadership(64)3. 64-68. Danielson, C. (2002). Enhancing student achievement: A framework for school improvement. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Alexandria, VA. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962).
Honigsfeld, A. (2009). Ell programs: Not ‘one size fits all’. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 45(4), 166-171. Roberts, J., & Siegle, D. (2012). Teachers as advocates: If not You—who?. Gifted Child Today, 35(1), 58-61. doi:10.1177/1076217511427432 Vidergor, H. E. (2010). The Multidimensional Curriculum Model (MdCM). Gifted & Talented International, 25(2), 153-165. Woolhether, L. (2012). The effects of NCLB on low-performing and minority students. Retrieved July 16, 2013 from http://www.ehow.com/info_7930134_effects-nclb-lowincome-minority-students.html