Overthrow the CIA

Not the Central Intelligence Agency — I’m talking about the Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment paradigm. It’s time to take a close look at it and figure some steps to get us to a more effective paradigm for causing learning.

The initial problem with the CIA paradigm is that it was not designed to cause learning; it is a perfect fit for an instruction-centric model. It’s relatively easy to determine whether or not students have been successful in responding to instruction — that’s the purpose of good assessments in this model. And of course, the question about what should be instructed was settled by the notion of a curriculum, now literally a “standardized” curriculum.

The real problem with the CIA paradigm is that we have more data than we can handle to demonstrate that it’s just not that effective in producing long-lasting learning. Imagine if successful adults were given a 10th grade state assessment. Here’s an example of a school board member’s dismal showing. I bet you can identify with it!

So what could replace this model? I would wager that for the next decade at least, the CCSS (or a derivative) will still play some sort of a role in most schools. We’ve been in the “Standards” era for over two decades already. In addition, in all honesty, there’s been too much money invested in every segment of the education world for it to just go away- no matter how strongly (or wisely) some might wish for that to happen.

No, we’re not “there” yet, so what sort of a model might serve learners in a next step journey? I say “next step journey” because no one should ever be foolish enough to think that there is some sort of an end goal to a process like this. OK, one notion to start stepping away from the CIA paradigm might be a Standards, Learning, Evidence model. For now, accept the notion that someone has decided what kids should learn — be it the local teacher, the school, the district, the state department of ed, or a coalition like the one behind the CCSS.

Then what? Take off the limits of time and place for students. Help each learner determine what might be some appropriate next standards to set as goals and then help them meet those learning needs through whatever is best for him/her as an individual learner. No responding to whole-group (or even small-group) instruction. Learners pull from all of their life experiences, interests and passions and other learning experiences to meet their learning targets in a way that demonstrates to the learners and the teacher that the goal has been met. Then the evidence of that learning (in whatever form it has taken) becomes part of a portfolio tied to the standards.

Let’s figure out some other ways to move past a CIA mentality.

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