Part 3 of the “Alaska’s Fiscal Future” curriculum saga …

letterReaders will be familiar with Parts 1 and 2 of the “Alaska’s Fiscal Future” curriculum saga.  If some need a refresher, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Following Part 1 I had an extended and ultimately, good exchange with those responsible for curriculum at the Anchorage School District and became convinced that they understood the reason for and importance of including the ISER model as part of the materials they made available to teachers.  In the last communication ASD committed that “all teachers who attended ​[the previous breakout session] ​will be invited to attend a special training focused on the DOR model vs the Goldsmith model​ ….”

The exchange following Part 2 — my note to Owen Guthrie of UAF, and Greg Huff of the Alaska Council for Economic Education (AKCEE) — has not gone as well, however. Guthrie responded with a defense of UAF’s decision to “center” the curriculum on the Department of Revenue model over the Goldsmith model on the basis of simplicity.  That is both odd (because the DOR model has many more “knobs” than does the Goldsmith model) and disappointing (because it suggests that UAF, at least, valued “simplicity” over accuracy and understanding).

And unlike ASD, whose response indicated it intended to take proactive steps to bring the Goldsmith model before teachers, Guthrie’s response said only “[w]e would be happy to share any educational materials developed for ISER’s model, and happy to add links to the good work the people at ISER have achieved.”  In other words, having spent their time — and presumably state funds — on preparing materials “centering” on the DOR model, they didn’t intend to spend the same effort on incorporating the Goldsmith approach.

I did not receive a separate response from Greg Huff at AKCEE, but today I noticed that Huff has an op ed piece in the Alaska Dispatch News defending AKCEE’s role in developing the DOR-centered curriculum.  It is much like Guthrie’s, focused on the “simplicity” of using the DOR model (“Although DOR’s model is not a perfect model, we found it the easiest to use with teachers and students …”).   My response to that is the same as when Guthrie raised it — it’s both odd and disappointing.

My response is the same also to another defense raised by Huff.  He argues in today’s op ed that “[t]he lessons developed for the in-service encouraged discussion and written responses from students to the problem in their own words —​ not the governor’s.”  But since Huff is quoted in the Governor’s original press release announcing the inservice day as saying the purpose of the program was to bring the Governor’s “Revenue Model into the Classroom” I would suggest that response is either naive or disingenuous.

If the purpose of the program is to bring the Governor’s “Revenue Model into the Classroom” and that is the only model the students are given, it’s not realistic to believe that the students are going to think, talk or write in any other terms.

There is one part of Huff’s piece that gives some hope.  In the middle he says this:  “in the future we will be working with ISER to incorporate its model into related lesson plans. Additionally, UAF eLearning has some work in progress based on ISER’s model.”

Those are hopeful signs, assuming the future tense becomes the present at some point.  And they are consistent with what ASD has already committed to do.

But until that is done I remain skeptical.  It’s one thing to make promises in op ed pieces; it’s another to deliver on them.

As I made clear in my follow up letter after receiving Guthrie’s (below), I intend to continue actively to oppose efforts to use or fund the curriculum as long as it remains “centered” on the DOR model.  I, and I am sure others, will continue to follow the development of the materials at the  “Alaska Fiscal Future” to see if that changes.

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