The GPS as structure

I am just beginning to get a sense of the Georgia Performance Standards as a structure that we think will cause learning. Over the past few days, I’ve completed the comparison between the QCCs and GPSs for science and socials studies, K-5, and yesterday I started on the language arts curriculum.

My original intention was simply to find out where the “stuff” went, how much content had actually been changed. I knew already, I thought, that the thrust of the curriculum had changed, that it was somehow designed to permit the teachers and the learners to go more deeply into the topics than the QCCs did. There’s less to cover and more to discover, so to speak.

Here is what I’ve found so far. The GPS curriculum is far more than simply rearranging the stuff we have to teach. It is more than simply throwing out half the QCC objectives. What we have here is a true structure within which learning can occur.

The QCC was simply a laundry list of objectives. The GPS is an organized structure of standards. The GPS is more specific about what we want students to be able to do with the knowledge we think they should have, while at the same time being a lot more spare with that knowledge.

For example, in social studies, history is now supreme, and economics, geography, and civics (although listed separately) are embedded in the study of U.S. history. In 3rd grade, students will discuss the lives of Americans who expanded people’s rights and freedoms in a democracy [SS3H2]. The following are listed: Paul Revere (independence), Frederick Douglass (civil rights), Susan B. Anthony (women’s rights), Mary McLeod Bethune (education), Franklin D. Roosevelt (New Deal & World War II), Eleanor Roosevelt (United Nations & human rights),Thurgood Marshall (civil rights), Lyndon B. Johnson (Great Society & voting rights), and Cesar Chavez (worker’s rights).

Here’s what I think is true about this curriculum: it will not be sufficient to assign this list of people to your class to do “reports,” including a “visual aid.” That short list of people has embedded in it an entire study of the time periods and social forces with which they contended. Viz., SS3H2.b, which states that the student will “explain social barriers, restrictions, and obstacles that these historical figures had to overcome, and describe how they overcame them.”

Before we even get to talking about how the media center fits into all this, I’d like to see if anyone else is curious as to how we assess (i.e., get a grade for the computer) that standard, “students will discuss…” And what will the CRCT look like? Because if the CRCT is nothing more than identifying Mary McLeod Bethune, the whole purpose of the GPS will be undercut.

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