In poor urban schools in the US, commercially-produced scripted teaching programmes are used as a way of making the curriculum teacher proof – that is avoiding opportunities for teachers to insert their own opinions, teaching skills, or curriculum broadening tendencies. They are also a way of ensuring a uniform product, both in terms of the learning experience and the student.
Instead of text books the students are given workbooks with names like Test Best and Bridging the Test Gap, and teachers are given manuals that ensure that on any “given day everyone is at the same place in the sequence”. In some cases students learn to read, not from literature but from disconnected sentences that they are then quizzed on.
Chanting answers in unison may encourage the production of the “team players” that employers want, but they discourage “mavericks, critics and dissenters” and those who can ask the penetrating questions; people who are so necessary for social development and wisdom.
Open Court produced by McGraw Hill is a scripted teaching program that has been mandated by some school districts. The program requires teachers to teach lessons in an undifferentiated way to all students at the same time, with minimal interaction between students and teacher.
Teacher Elizabeth Jaeger describes how these materials prevented her and other teachers from teaching in an active, holistic and cooperative manner: “In kindergarten and 1st grade, teachers now taught the least meaningful aspects of literacy — letters and sounds — and postponed emphasis on meaning for nearly two years.” According to Jaeger, children were bored and frustrated since their ability to actively participate was limited. McGraw-Hill trainers would come into the classroom whenever they liked and even interrupt classes to reprimand teachers who were not following the script.
In the reading curriculum in use within the school, for instance, teachers told me they had been forewarned to steer away from verbal deviations or impromptu bits of conversation, since each passage of instruction needed to be timed… and any digressions from the printed plans could cause them problems if a school official or curriculum director happened to be in the building at the time.
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