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Teachers are professionals
Ending mandatory use and misuse of scripted curriculum brings teachers’ professionalism back into the classroom.

The school district took a giant step last night toward encouraging teachers to be creative in developing engaging lessons and meeting the needs of their students when it announced an end to mandated, scripted curricula in Philadelphia.

Across Philadelphia, there was an almost audible sigh of relief from PFT members who have been saying for years that the scripted Corrected Reading and Corrected Math was worse useless – it was educationally damaging to students and frustrating for teachers.

The corrective program – which has been used indiscriminately with high-, middle- and low-acheivers – is a turnoff to students who are capable of working at and above grade level.

For students who were struggling, teachers tell me that when they’d see the proverbial “light go on” and a student’s eyes light up indicating that he or she suddenly grasped the material, there was no way to deviate from the script and probe and reinforce the material.

And for a student who was completely lost? Good luck. There was no time built into the script to slow down to make sure all students were on the same page.

The prescriptive programs were used widely in “empowerment schools,” but that didn’t mean that all the students there needed remediation. Scripted programs used broadly insulted the kids and belittled their individuality and their accomplishments.

It’s ridiculous to rely so heavily on scripted curriculum when children themselves are so unscripted. Children respond to new material and situations in anything but scripted ways. (Think about your child’s reaction to an unappealing gift on Christmas Day.) Children approach new material in unique and often humorous ways. How could anyone believe that a one-size-fits-all curriculum could meet the needs of 154,000 children?   

Taking teachers out of the education equation won’t help kids to master complex material, and it is driving really talented women and men out of our profession. The district’s decision to let principals and teachers find the best way to help their students is a step in the right direction for schools and for kids.

This move will once again encourage teachers to innovate, create and connect with students as individual learners. It recognizes the great work teachers can and will do, given the chance.

Teachers live for those moments when students “get it,” and they work feverishly to make those electrifying, enduring connections happen. Teachers want to create innovative, stimulating lessons, and students are capable of grasping material, digesting it and reflecting it back to us in novel ways. This kind of fluidity in the classroom, the ebb and flow of information, is at the heart of teaching, learning and understanding.

No script on earth can capture that.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 3, AFL-CIO. All rights reserved. Photographs and illustrations, as well as text, cannot be used without permission from the PFT.