How Gates Foundation’s Push for “High-Quality” Curriculum Will Stifle Teaching

For much of U.S. history, local school districts had a large amount of discretion over what they taught and how.

In my book on the Common Core, I show how the national education standards in reading, writing and mathematics have reduced the power of communities and teachers to make lesson plans, coordinate field trips, invite guest speakers or incorporate special elements into the curriculum.

A new initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to advance the Common Core by getting schools to adopt “high-quality” curricula. But the way I see it, getting schools to use ready-made lesson plans under the guise of “high-quality” curricula will reduce teacher autonomy.

That’s significant because research shows that increased teacher autonomy leads to a greater sense of empowerment and professionalism. Research has also shown that teachers are less likely to be satisfied with their jobs when they lack autonomy within the classroom. To treat teachers like professionals, they must have the freedom to make their own lesson plans for the students before them.

The Common Core’s Promise

The Common Core identifies what students should be able to know and do in reading, writing and mathematics by the end of each year in school. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have used the standards since 2010, even if some of the states have changed the name and made small changes.

The Common Core permits teachers to “devise their own lesson plans and curriculum.” For years, proponents have said that the Common Core sets high academic expectations for all students and gives teachers freedom in how to reach them.

The Grant and the String

In 2017, Bill Gates, a billionaire tech titan who has devoted a sizable portion of his philanthropic efforts toward education, said that “teachers need better curricula and professional development aligned with the Common…

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