Monday, April 12, 2010

Response to Ms. Kathleen Tucker's Criticism of The Hoboken Curriculum Committee

The following Letter to the Editor was published online by The Hoboken Reporter on April 11, 2010. It is a response to a rather baseless criticism of the Hoboken Curriculum Committee in general and the Social Studies Committee in particular (Click HERE for original letter).
The Social Studies Committee was an incredible group of individuals who worked tirelessly on assuring the curriculum they were creating would meet AND exceed both state and national standards in Social Studies Education. They utilized guidelines by the National Center for History in the Schools housed at UCLA. They incorporated more primary source material than has ever been used before. The curriculum they created meets all New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Social Studies. They worked with the Hoboken Historical Museum to assure accuracy and detail in making our city's history come alive for our grade school students. They created district wide assessments at every grade level using an informed view of formative and summative assessment techniques. Finally, they included a state of the art curriculum framework known as "Understanding by Design" that eventually became the adopted model used by the State of New Jersey (translation: The Hoboken Curriculum Committee used it first).

It is for reasons like this that Boards of Education, Superintendents and the general public need to weigh carefully comments and the underlying intentions like those of Mrs. Kathleen Tucker very carefully. While no one doubts their passion or the sincerity of their criticism-- likewise such critiques can only be viewed as misinformed, naive, ignorant, and void of any productive discourse.

I encourage anyone to take a "good hard look" at what was accomplished by the Hoboken Curriculum Committee in general or the Social Studies Committee in particular. The State of New Jersey under the County Superintendent's supervision did and looked over the curriculum closely with their recent QSAC review...and they were impressed with what they saw (we'll achieve "passing" when the final results are released later this year). The interim superintendent and his staff took a good hard look at the curriculum that was developed....and presented it to the Hoboken Board of Education. The Hoboken Board of Education examined the curriculum and took a "good hard look"....and they approved it unanimously. The curriculum has been reviewed by academicians, professional development experts, and content specialists from around the country. Even the Deputy Commissioner of Education of New Jersey advised and gave productive comments on it's composition and make-up- all, taking a "good hard look."

The peer reviewed work of the Hoboken Curriculum Committee ought not be used as a political football or as a means for political gain without such criticism being expected to live up to the same high standards of proof and documentation which were expected and achieved by the people who worked tirelessly to develop the Hoboken Curriculum. -Dr. Anthony Petrosino

Dear Editor,

As someone who worked on the Social Studies Curriculum, I find Kathleen Tucker’s letter on 3/21 to be insulting and unfounded. Mrs. Tucker, if what you read was “vague, with only samples and generalities,” it does not surprise me. It was clearly entitled “Curriculum Overview for Social Studies,” and came from a PDF file named “Narratives and Samples of Curriculum Work.” Had you put in the time to read the actual, full curriculum, you would have found specifics. While there is no unit entitled “Blindly Wave the American Flag,” you can be assured that it is not un-American. True, we desire that our students think in global, universal terms, just as we seek to produce individuals who can actually formulate opinions.

Now, I never taught, as your niece explained, that “Thomas Jefferson is a good president but he was a fake,” yet if one of my students said that, I would be curious about the thought process that led him or her to that conclusion. We agree that students “must understand their identity and responsibility as Americans.” On the very first page (grade one, unit one), one of the established goals state: “students will be able to identify characteristics of good citizenship.” That refers to the classroom; as their education progresses, students will learn of their role and responsibilities as Hobokenites, New Jerseyans, Americans, and members of the global community, respectively. Your assertion that parents need you to make sure “details are available so that [they] can know exactly what their children are learning” is laughable. Every teacher in the district has the curriculum visible in their classroom. Besides having two yearly parents’ nights, teachers are always available to speak with parents, and many have websites displaying exactly what their students are learning.

What I find interesting is the timing of your epiphany about what the students of New Jersey are learning—last December, as in three months ago. Our curriculum was contributed to by people who have dedicated their lives (some for over thirty years) to caring about what our kids are learning. And their work was in no way cryptic. The public was invited, even encouraged, to stop by at any stage of the process to observe, comment, and make suggestions. Too bad you were unconcerned back then.

What qualifies you to “take a hard look” at our curriculum? Do you have expert knowledge of all subjects, a background in pedagogy, or training in IB, MYP, and UBD? No, you would have mentioned those things. Could it be your work with German exchange students or the fact that you have a niece? How about your job as an “interaction designer”? I know. It is your self-righteousness and ability to condemn things about which you know little. Did I mention political ambition? Only the least thoughtful of our residents could believe you are running for the BOE to save our children from learning the wrong things. As a student in my class might say, Mrs. Tucker, “keep it real.”

Citizen and teacher