Superintendent explains today, “it isn’t as easy as handling over a curriculum”
By Guy Page
A statement by the Essex-Westford school superintendent may reflect school practices that violate federal law.
As reported in yesterday’s Vermont Daily Chronicle, Supt. Beth Cobb said at the Nov. 9 school board meeting modern teaching methods make it impossible for parents to review classroom curriculum. However, today she said teachers do make materials available to parents when requested.
“The curriculum is a difficult thing when somebody says please show me your social and learning curriculum. It can’t be done; it’s an ongoing process,” Cobb said. However, the district’s educational standards and goals and learning units are available on the school website, she said.
However, not providing parents inspection of classroom curriculum and materials is an apparent violation of federal law: 20 USC 1232h(a):
(a)Inspection of instructional materials by parents or guardians All instructional materials, including teacher’s manuals, films, tapes, or other supplementary material which will be used in connection with any survey, analysis, or evaluation as part of any applicable program shall be available for inspection by the parents or guardians of the children.
Today, Cobb responded to the Chronicle’s request for comment.
Yes, we do need to make instructional materials available for parents when requested,” Cobb said. “What I was explaining in the meeting was that it isn’t as easy as handing over a curriculum. It’s not a book. We teach to the VT Standards and we certainly can give materials to parents. I referenced SEL at the board meeting because I have had FOIA requests for our SEL curriculum and was from a community member. We do work with parents and guardians on requests.”
Republished from yesterday’s edition:
The school board was debating a proposed new policy committing to provide clear expectations about what’s happening in school.
“It would seem to me that the curriculum, the learning goals, and the specifics of what is being taught are not always readily available,” Board Member Al Bombardier said, in the Media Factory video, beginning at 45:25.
“That’s a difficult thing to do, as to the way we teach now. We teach to the needs of the students,” Superintendent Beth Cobb said. “Even when I began teaching, it was more a matter of opening a book, and following exactly what the book told us to teach. Now we realize we have humans in front of us. We need to meet their needs. We have to be adaptable and flexible.”
The school district sets standards, goals and learning units, all available on the school website. But the curriculum – the books and lesson plans and other learning materials – is prepared at the classroom level by the teacher, Cobb said.
And teachers, she said, have autonomy.
“We have our standards that we teach. And then teachers have the autonomy to teach to those standards,” she said. “We are not making widgets. We are making little human beings.”
“The curriculum is a difficult thing when somebody says please show me your social and learning curriculum. It can’t be done; it’s an ongoing process,” Cobb said.
Parents want “retail” level information, Bombardier said. “They are,” Cobb said–but they can’t have it.
They think about when they were back in school,” Cobb said. “Like when I could hand over the teaching books, the text books. We don’t have those anymore.”