Do the benefits of scripted curricula outweigh the drawbacks?

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Patrick Johnston (not verified)

Music

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A scripted lesson may work well for teachers who are new to the profession and have little or no experience to guide them. I strongly support a clearly defined sequential curriculum for elementary music, but the method needs to be flexible enough to account for the many variables that occur in this field. Teachers should be treated like professionals and valued for their knowledge and expertise.

Lisa (not verified)

Scripted Curricula

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A good teacher is going to be a good teacher no matter what. Would I want all of my curriculum to be scripted? Absolutely not. But I probably lean a little toward defending it because my school has a scripted phonics program. I can see its benefits especially for beginning teachers. Do I read from the script? No. I leaned on it at first, but while I still use the same program after 10+ years I do not rely on its script. What I do appreciate is being confident and knowing that I am covering everything I need to cover in the area of phonics. I know phonics is a bad word to some teachers, but I'm sorry, phonics is important. It is a tool to help children learn to decode. It is one strategy, and in no way the end all. I also am a firm believer in reading and writing workshop, and project based learning. I believe in BOTH phonics and whole language experiences for students. As different as our children are, how can any teacher worth his or her salt say definitively that one works and another doesn't. I am confident that someone has done all the work for me to include all the letters sounds, the digraphs, the dipthongs, the spelling rules, etc., and for that reason I like our scripted phonics program. However, I make it my own. I add things to it and I throw others out; so in a sense I supposed that doesn't make it truly scripted.

John Stallcup (not verified)

Mathematics/Reading

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In four Latin American countries including Honduras, educators have employed APREMAT for years. APREMAT is a math on the radio program that consists of three sets of 150 20 minute recorded math lessons with songs. One set for each grade level including, first, second and third grade. The research done in 2006(that meets IES clinical trials requirements) demonstrates that if a student completes 100 of the 150 math lessons the pass the grade level math exam and get to move to the next grade. The level of proficiency required is higher than that of the State of California and the standards are nearly identical. So yes scripted programs work fine in the real world. I won't bother to point out the Japanese system which is very scripted as well. Just compare the international rankings of the Japanese in Math to our students.
In Reading the www.headsprout.com takes any student from early phonics to early reading or their money back. So yes in specific subject areas scripted learning is proven to be highly effective, cost efficient and able to achieve remarkable results in harsh educational environments (The jungles of Honduras).

Anonymous (not verified)

Scripted Curriculum

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A huge portion of districts local to my own are adopting SpringBoard, a scripted curriculum developed by the CollegeBoard. (I cringe to think how much money is being absorbed from funding-poor districts by the CollegeBoard through this process.)

Mike Smoker is on record as saying that a common and viable curriculum is the single most important factor for a school's success. I know where he is coming from here--same resources, same materials, same assessments, same reteaching, same activities--gotta be a good thing, right? Uniformity is so pleasing! This is the general direction PLCs are gravitating anyway. The DuFours say one of the gravest tragedies in education is for a good teacher to teach down the hall from a poor teacher. Scripted curriculum was inevitable I guess.

The only benefit I can see in using a scripted curriculum is that A) "Drive-by" school and district admins and other officials can rest easy knowing every single teacher is teaching the exact same thing, and not have to wonder what's going on in certain classrooms (in lieu of actually visiting those classrooms with any degree of frequency, establishing professional relationships with those in their school and district, and so on) and B) I'd *guess* that the students in the class of very weak teachers may benefit from having a decent curriculum taught poorly by a weak teacher (as opposed to that same weak teacher delivering even weaker instruction). However, for the vast majority of teachers, scripted curriculum is the death-knell of the teaching process.

This is simply a case of clueless (and understandably frustrated) decision-makers higher-up covering their own rear-ends by adopting something "common"and "rigorous" that can be "aligned" and all of the other buzzwords that make these folks sleep good at night, when the problem really boils down to irrelevant and meaningless standards that have produced rows and rows of brain-dead students that see no real-world relevance or connection between the K-12 process and their daily lives. What can you expect when you teach students that the reason to do math is to "balance your checkbook" or "be an engineer."This type of reasoning is crap, and spread over 12 years kills student curiosity.

I'm rambling now.Scripted curriculum is a crutch at best (and this is being very generous), and at worst ruins what should be an organic and natural mix of the art and science of teaching. Until teachers are able to design powerful and relevant instruction on their own--and until students willfully adopt ownership of this powerful and relevant learning--nothing will work, and the teaching and learning process will be reduced to lock-step numbing of student curiosity and passion for lifelong learning.

Chrisitne Bechtel (not verified)

A scripted curriculum

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In response to John Wibbens: Here!! Here!!

C. Leslie Lehmann (not verified)

My second year of teaching,was

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My second year of teaching,was my first in a 3rd grade self-contained classroom. I used a scripted math program. This was great for me, as I had no methods classes in teaching math. In fact, my state had done away with methods classes during the time that I received my degree. Math was my weakest subject growing up. Using the scripted program that first year gave me a framework on which to build. I've never used it again, since no other district I've worked for used it. However, each year I have asked to be sent to workshops on teaching math and that has never happened. Having had that first year with a scripted program, I have been able to search out the information that I needed to truly learn how to teach math. Many teachers would not have bothered to spend the time that I have in doing so. But, I don't think that I would have gotten where I am today, had I not had that first year with Saxon math. I also know that I would hate to use it today, lo these nine years later. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I agree with Barbara Ash. Scripted Curricula can be an excellent bridge for beginning teachers.
J.M. Jaco (not verified)

There is no one way to

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There is no one way to approach information, as scripting would imply. Scripting appeals to psychometricians who can study a canned approach and determine a measurable gain. On the other hand, I believe scripting is abhorrent to all but the most unprepared teacher. If the argument for scripting is to help students who are stuck in a class with an unprepared teacher, it seems that this "remedy" is being applied for all the wrong reasons. How will scripted lessons help a neophyte or unprepared teacher develop into a better teacher? Scripts are no better than training wheels and don't promote the need to learn one's subject content well, and to master pedagogic techniques. Through experiencing real classroom interactions with students, a good teacher develops an antenna that determines moment to moment how well his or her students are engaged in a lesson. How can a script help an unprepared teacher develop this awareness? And what does an unprepared teacher do if even the script doesn't help a child learn the material? Furthermore, what is the personal message to such an unprepared teacher who needs only to follow a script to be called a "teacher"? Is it any wonder that many teachers who are placed in the position of merely having to read a script decide soon after that their importance in the system is low and that "mobility" is the better alternative for their own self worth? The factory model for 20th-century schools has brought us to the place we are today. It has failed to measure up to 21st-century needs. Scripting is yet another manifestation of this anachronistic model and must go the way of "electronic page turning" programs and other mechanical approaches to learning. People who read Edutopia know the value of bringing back the Art of teaching, and understand the continual process of planting seeds and nurturing them into the fullest Bloom (pun intended).
Steve Jubb (not verified)

This poll illustrates the

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This poll illustrates the problem with data from polls. This is not a "yes" or "no" question. The question should be, "WHEN do the benefits of scripted curricla outweigh the drawbacks? ...and for whom?" There are tradeoff's for every teaching paradigm and affect individuals and groups of students differently. Fundamentally, education is a value-based enterprise and can be "scientifically" measured within but not across value systems. I agree that there is no substitute for well-prepared teachers teaching within a context of a true professional learning community with plenty of support for students and adults. The problem is that few schools in our urban centers (where I have worked all my career) enjoy those conditions. Many low income children of color attend schools with hodgepodge curricular materials, no schoolwide literacy program and teachers without the proper support or training to work with the students they see every day. This is often exacerbated by high teacher mobility. In such cases, having a clear, well developed and "scripted" curricula for teachers to follow is an improvement for those students. Worse, insistence on teacher (or even school) autonomy in such cases often makes things worse by ensuring a random, disconnected approach to skill development. I am talking about triage here. Ultimately Open Court-type curricula will never achieve what it takes for truly high quality and equitable education which relies not only on wise teacher judgment (knowing when to depart from the recipe), but on the values and participation of parents and/or community members in supporting each student's learning.
Chuck Fellows (not verified)

A software package created

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A software package created to operate a robot is a script. If it is robots you desire, script away! Many educational bureaucrats use the phrase "supported by scientific evidence." Does anyone ever ask "What science?" Alfie Kohn's "The Homework Myth" provides a lesson all should learn. I know now why Honda is pursuing robot production; to supply the American Educational market!
George Bogart (not verified)

When I got into teaching

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When I got into teaching thirty plus years ago, I thought I had something unique to offer my students. I brought with me a greater experience than many of my fellow teachers. I had gotten a late start in the profession and had done many other things in life before teaching, and I have always seen this as an advantage. It is the freedom to take extra time, give extra information, and share that experience with my students that make it enjoyable for me (and hoprfully for my students) and is what makes my class "my" class. It is hard for me to believe that I am the only one who feels this way. My fellow teachers each bring a perspective to their classes that broadens the experience of learning for our students. For someone to think that they have the single, best way to present a lesson is presumptuous and short-sighted. We have turned out enough "robots", and it is time to let real learning that is broad, experiential, and open to dicussion take place. I can't see how scripted curricula allows this.
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