An Open Source Curriculum Initiative

The K-12 OER Collaborative

In a brand new T|H|E| Journal article, I’m reading about an open educational resources initiative involving 11 states and a handful of nonprofit organizations that have been involved in the Common Core and/or in developing classroom content as a part of their educational reform work.  This appears to be brand new, and on the K-12 OER Collaborative site, the group is inviting interested parties to register for a December 3 webinar that will provide details about their RFP process.  They are seeking proposals to meet this goal, from their RFP online description:

The K–12 OER Collaborative seeks proposals to create full-course, high-quality OER supporting K–12 mathematics and English language arts/literacy, aligned with state learning standards. Led by a group of eleven states, the K–12 OER Collaborative initiative is supported with expertise from state content specialists, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Creative Commons, Lumen Learning, The Learning Accelerator (TLA), Achieve, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the State Instructional Materials Review Association (SIMRA), and the Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics (ASSM).

Legitimately Open Source

I’m relatively suspicious of content development work around the CCSS, which I think is reasonable given the vast criticisms of CCSS as an initiative pushed by for-profit publishers and testing companies.  I’ve looked at the participating organizations and I’m relatively pleased to say that this actually seems like a true open-source initiative.  The groups involved actually are giving away their materials, and with only one exception, don’t appear to be run by hedge-fund founders with anti-public school leanings.

We won’t see results for some time.  They are looking for Letters of Intent by January 9, 2015, so they are a long way from having content ready to give away.  But they appear to me to be on the right track — CCSS coursework with classroom formative assessment and instructional feedback for teachers that clues them into next steps to move kids forward.  If this works, the hold on costly course content by publishers might actually be broken at last.  What a dream!

Anti-Federal Interference Forces Have Yet To Speak

Of course, the anti-CCSS and anti-national curriculum forces might well jump on this with all their fury.  Eleven state education departments and associations are in the collaborative, along with the Council of Chief State School Officers and Achieve, who are credited/blamed for the CCSS.  So, to opponents of the CC, this new effort will be seen as another federal take-over and an effort to build a national curriculum.

Personally, I think a national curriculum makes lots of sense, but the chances of even 11 states going so far as to accept and support the implementation of a uniform curriculum seems remote.  The group expects their content to be flexible enough that states and local districts can tweak it to localize it, so there’s hope that the process might escape the political drama that dooms any efforts at national educational initiatives.  Fortunately, with the deep south and Texas unrepresented in the group, there is some hope that decent curriculum can evolve.  Political forces that would water down CCSS to suit state interpretations of sensitive topics might not have great influence on this group.

Time will tell, and this is an initiative that has transformative potential in this reform era.  Let’s hope the reality lives up to these initial goals.

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