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MDE has also created grade-level-by-grade-level "Course Credit Requirements" for each language arts grade, 9-12. These documents can be found at http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140-38924_41644_42674---,00.html

These documents also create specific "dispositions" that are supposed to be the focus of each grade level. For example, 9th grade is supposed to focus on "Inter-Relationships and Self-Reliance," 10th grade on "Critical Response and Stance," etc.

These documents also provide "model curriculums." You won't be surprised that the 9th grade model unit begins with short stories, specifically "The Most Dangerous Game," "The Gift of the Magi," and "The Necklace." In other words, the curriculum as envisioned as a "model" is a copy of the safest "chestnuts" from nationally standardized textbooks. The very idea that every ninth grader in Michigan needs to start their high school English career with these three stories is exactly why I think we need to continue to be strenuous in our objections to the so-called "model curriculums." Are these the stories that are going to keep urban kids from dropping out, as so many do in the 9th grade?

In the 9th grade model curriculum there is no careful or sustained investigation of ideas, theme, author, genre, or text. Students are to read To Kill a Mockingbird, and then an article from the NY Times about "Jocks and Prejudice," and then a holocaust narrative "from a survivor's perspective," and then the "Declaration of Independence." Next they read two "sections" of the Odyssey (the cyclops and Odysseus' return home) followed by an excerpt from The Things They Carried, followed by an essay by Sandra Cisneros, followed by newspaper articles about "reunions of victims of natural disasters," video clips from "Sounder" and "Clash of the Titans," lyrics from Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle," etc. With "Romeo and Juliet" they are supposed to study the "Gettysburg Address," and "Teens Can Make it Happen: Nine Steps for Success."

While I guess I can imagine that a particular teacher might be able to make some of these things work together, I find it truly preposterous that such a curriculum is being passed off as a model or that teachers around the state are encouraged in any way to adopt a common curriculum of this kind!

There is language in these documents that I find appealing, though not realized in the actual content put forward. For example, each of the grade level model curriculums includes the following:

"Instruction that is clearly relevant to today's rapidly changing world is at the forefront of unit design. Content knowledge cannot by itself lead all students to academic achievement. Classes and projects that spark student interest and provide a rationale for why the content is worth learning enable students to make connections between what they read and learn in school, their lives, and their futures. An engaging and effective curriculum provides opportunities for exploration and exposure to new ideas. Real-world learning experiences provide students with opportunities to transfer and apply knowledge in new, diverse situations."

Of course this kind of language sits right next to the curriculum described above!