Curriculum Mistakes to Avoid

By W. James Popham

Mistakes happen. Yes, even school board members make them. But when a board establishes flawed policies, the people who suffer usually are not board members. Instead, children end up being taught less well than they should.

We understand, of course, how board members can arrive at such educational policies. After all, the world of public education is enormously complicated, and board members -- albeit well-intentioned -- surely suffer from their share of human frailties. Some mistakes we can forgive easily. However, certain kinds of flawed board policies are flat-out inexcusable. These policies are proven mistakes, ones that have resulted in educational harm. Such policies become twice-made mistakes -- the very worst kind.

I’ve been in public education for well over a half-century, and I’ve seen scads of educational policies turn sour. Indeed, I’ve had a hand in forging several of the most sour. Some of those mistakes were errors of commission, that is, policies that were implemented, but failed to do what it was hoped that they’d do. Some of the policy mistakes were errors of omission, that is, our failure to enact policies that -- in retrospect -- were desperately needed. It’s difficult to be in education for more than 50 years without seeing some serious policy screw-ups.

The following are a half-dozen of those screw-ups. What’s distinctive about these six policy mistakes is that history emphatically proves all of them are misguided. 

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