Essay: Curriculum Laws and Gifted Education

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Curriculum Development

What historical or political occurrences do you think have most influenced current curriculum design?

The social and political history of the United States has always had an influence on schools and the curricula schools devise for their students. An article in New Straits Times (2005) reflects the fact that "…mounting levels of obesity" has raised concerns about schools and what they are teaching regarding good health habits. In the article the World Health Organization (WHO) reports over 300 million people worldwide are obese, and the lack of physical education and good health education in American schools was cited as partly to blame. Hence, curricula in some schools have added nutrition and physical health activities to regular classroom content.

In the www.peoplelearn.homestead.com website the authors note that historically children attending one-room school houses needed to learn to write, read and spell "…for the purpose of reading the Bible, government notices and common law." After the American Revolution, the "common school" (known today as public schools) was established in order to assure "…the survival of a new-found democracy."

What events, legislation, etc., in the last 10 years have "most dramatically changed curriculum in the schools? Clearly, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has had a very dramatic effect on school curriculum. That said, NCLB has been in effect for more than ten years, but it is very relevant to this question. The curriculum resulting from NCLB has been decidedly "test-driven," has posed "a potential threat to national security," and has harmed programs "for gifted students" (Hockett, 2009, 394). In fact some (if not many) teachers have been moved to "emphasize uniformly delivered test preparation lessons at the expense of differentiated approaches to curriculum and instruction" (Hockett, 395).

Hockett (395) gets right to the point when she says the "recent shift towards standardization has not been categorically deleterious for curriculum"; in other words, with NCLB teachers are/were "teaching to the test" so they can show high test scores. In some cases teachers' jobs are on the line if their students don't score high on standardized tests, and this is not only wrong, it goes against the idea that children should learn to solve problems, should learn independent research habits and should be challenged. Among the five principles offered by Hockett, "Principle 2" is the most germane: "High-Quality General Education Curriculum Should be Rooted in Ideas, Principles, and Skills Essential to the Respective Disciplines" (398).

TWO: What impact has ELL laws and SIOP had on curriculum development?

Federal civil rights laws make clear that English as a Second Language (ESL) / English Language Learners (ELL) have equal access to education. According to the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA), roughly five million students in the United States have "…limited English language skills," and that lack of skill in English has a negative impact on these students' ability to "participate successfully in educational programs" (NCELA). In 1970, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the federal government issued a memo to schools indicating what the civil rights law means for schools.

Because children who struggle with English will have a very difficult time finding success in schools -- which takes away their worthwhile participation from learning -- school districts "…must take affirmative steps to rectify the language deficiency in order to open its instructional program to these students" (NCELA). Federal law will thus be violated if: a) school districts exclude students because they don't speak the English language; b) students of minority ethnicity are assigned "inappropriately to special education classes" due to their lack of English language skills; c) programs for students without English language skills are "…not designed to teach them English as soon as possible," or if the programs offered are basically a "dead end track"; or d) parents of students who don't speak English well are not sent school notices in a language they understand (NCELA).

What impact have these laws had on curriculum? School districts have created curricula addressing the need to help non-English speakers get up to speed with the language. The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) is one instructional strategy that helps schools bring English language competencies to students (K-12). The SIOP model is very helpful for both… [END OF PREVIEW]

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