Depends on the school. It used to be that states created curriculum frameworks that described, generally, what needed to be taught. Then local districts (in conjunction with teachers) developed more specific curricula (often tied to the books and other materials they'd purchased) to guide classroom teachers, and then teachers had to develop actual lesson plans (under the supervision of a principal) that met those standards and followed those frameworks.For that matter, I don’t know what limitations most (or any) schools put on their curricula.
More and more today, school purchase curricula from the book publishers and mandate that teachers follow the lesson plans provided. Often every teacher in a school must be within, say, three days of the canned curriculum. More and more, teachers do the job of a trained monkey.
There are some elements of this that have merit, particularly the idea of concentrating on professional development and giving teachers some opportunity to budget and compete with each other for student performance. But we have to remember that students are not equal, and some teachers will have better performing students either because they teach higher "tracks" of kids or because of luck. The best plan I've seen would keep track of student performance on a sort of "leading average" of a three year period. Teachers would then be compared on how their individual students do compared to the last three years' progress. At least then you're comparing apples to apples.Personally, I think schools should be more focused on results. If a teacher can teach his/her students the subject, and they pass a test on such (obviously without any teacher knowing what the test questions will be), that should be the end of it.
Perhaps teachers should be given a budget, some reasonable “don’t go here” guidelines, and let loose upon the various providers of school supplies.
A few checks during the school year, via tests…
And teachers should have ongoing classes/seminars that they must attend, put on by various persons who study the art of teaching (and it is an art).
Just a few ideas off the top of my head.
That's not to suggest that standardized tests alone are particularly good measures of student learning. They test basic stuff (like memorization of discrete facts) fairly well, but higher cognitive functions (what Bloom's taxonomy calls "synthesis," "evaluation," and "analysis") are not well-evaluated by standardized tests--and those higher skills are what we really want for our future workers and citizens.
By the way, the standardizing of the curriculum is something pushed by conservative politicians, not teacher unions. And at least one union, the American Federation of Teachers, has bought into the idea of measuring the quality of teaching and holding teachers accountable. See this story from last month:Facing criticism that her union makes it too hard to get rid of bad teachers, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on Tuesday announced a union-backed effort to develop a new model for how public school teachers should be evaluated, promoted and removed.
The effort will be run by Kenneth R. Feinberg, the federal government’s special master for executive compensation.
In a speech at the National Press Club, Ms. Weingarten sought to present a more flexible, cooperative face for her union as she announced Mr. Feinberg’s new role and called for sweeping changes in how school districts evaluate teachers and work with teachers’ unions.
She scoffed at the predominant method of evaluating teachers — visiting their classroom a few minutes each year and then giving an evaluation at year-end. Instead, she proposed a system of year-round evaluations as part of an effort to improve teaching and weed out ineffective teachers.