Around the Web: What Counts

Conservatives are pushing back against the Common Core, arguing that states should have the right to determine their own curricula. Some of the resistance stems from a desire to censor science curricula, which is just unfortunate. But it does raise interesting questions about the line between local pedagogy and national standards.

One of the other ways that line gets drawn is between practical experience and academic knowledge. Credit for prior learning is becoming a hot issue: Inside Higher Ed has a great overview. Dean Dad gives the community-college perspective here (another post addresses similar questions about how for-profit credentialing might hybridize with the non-profit campus-enriched experience).

In The New York Times, Alina Tugend looks at how college curricula can successfully combine academic with vocational training by emphasizing the overlap instead of the divide. Meanwhile, the conversation about MOOCs and credentials continues.

A Washington Monthly special report makes an important observation: almost all secondary education teaches to some kind of test. In the case of AP and IB tests, though, intellectual rigor and emphasis on deep learning make “teaching to” the test synonymous with a high-quality curriculum. Achievement Network’s teacher coaching tackles the same problem from the opposite angle: encouraging teachers to use standardized test data to “go deep” on curriculum standards. Teachers carefully dissect test questions just a handful at a time, working hard to make sure their students really grasp the particular curriculum standard underlying those questions before moving on to another one. Expensive but valuable.

The better our credentialing tests, the better the curricula that will teach to them, whether the test is the MCAS, the SAT, an AP exam, or the LSAT. And good exams make for qualified professionals. But too much emphasis on credentialing tests can help employers shirk their responsibility to properly vet candidates. Sometimes a college degree or a test-based certification isn’t what most qualifies a candidate for the job; assessing other qualifications takes time, but it should be worth it. In fact, if we get into the habit of emphasizing deep learning in our credentialing systems, maybe it’ll be easier to do so in job interviews.

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