Bill establishes optional systemwide curriculum
The DOE has not fully embraced the idea, which would simplify choices for schools
A Senate committee advanced a bill yesterday that directs the Department of Education to develop a single standardized curriculum that public schools could elect to use.
The measure is aimed at addressing what the bill calls the current "piecemeal" approach to curriculum decisions now in place across Hawaii's school system.
The state Department of Education has academic content standards in place but allows each school to choose the curriculum it uses to impart those standards to students.
Senate Bill 3059, which passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday, says that approach hampers efforts to raise student achievement in line with rising federal demands.
"The message I hear from schools and principals is, 'Yes, we need something that's standardized and coordinated,'" said Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village), the Senate's education chairman and the bill's sponsor.
It directs the Department of Education to adapt an existing research-based curriculum model to fit Hawaii's standards and to align the curriculum across the various grade levels. Use of the model by schools would be purely voluntary.
Sakamoto wants an initial $5 million in funding. The measure would simplify choices for schools that use the model, including being able to buy a prescribed set of school materials rather than cobbling them together from many sources.
The department has not yet fully embraced the idea.
The current system already tells teachers what should be taught and when, said Kathy Kawaguchi, the state's assistant superintendent for curriculum.
"We're not opposed to the idea -- a consistent curriculum is needed -- but the bill does not honor the many things that are already working at schools now," she said.
However, she said the department has been in talks with nationally recognized education research groups, some of whose curriculum products are already being used in Hawaii schools, about more closely adapting those products to Hawaii's standards.
The $5 million in funding attached to the bill could be used to accelerate that effort, she said.
Sakamoto's bill grew out of a separate measure championed by the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association that would have required the state to implement the Core Knowledge curriculum system statewide. The Department of Education objected to the designation of a specific vendor, and the bill died.
The curriculum model is to be ready for implementation no later than the 2008-09 school year.