Not all curriculum is created equally
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is developing free curriculum for secondary schools as a replacement for expensive textbooks. Professional development will also be part of this new initiative.
- The foundation will also financially back groups that rate curriculum — including its own. This may create a conflict, says a story in Chalkbeat, which suggests studies, not rating groups, are a better measure of a curriculum's worth.
- As the Gates Foundation was a Common Core backer, its curriculum will likely align to these standards. But the states that do not support the Common Core, including West Virginia and Texas, may be harder to sway. So too will teachers who like to develop curriculum they feel works specifically for their own students.
Curriculum designers tailor syllabi for their schools based on a variety of needs: the students in their districts, standards they need to meet and even what educators are comfortable tackling. These materials aren’t casually created — and administrators and teachers will invest time to evaluate independent reviews and studies to develop what they use.
The Gates Foundation has been focused on changing public education for a number of years, but also miring itself in some controversial areas, such as teacher evaluation. The attention now from such a well-funded philanthropic organization on curriculum is concerning to some who worry that the foundation’s reach could shape what is taught at school — and how.
Certainly school administrators have a responsibility to find the best materials for students. A 2017 study from the Brookings Institution notes that choices of materials can make a positive, or negative, impact on student testing. It’s important to evaluate anything brought into the classroom — but also any potential bias that may influence its use.