Pacing Guides/Curriculum Mapping

This is a reprise of that blog when Jennifer and I were talking about pacing guides:
I think that pacing guides, in general, prevent any real instructional freedom and any cogent alignment with the research of Dr. Krashen. I experienced this in Jefferson County before I came to DPS. Now that the new state standards have been adopted, this oppositional pull is going to be played out over the next years in countless districts. At the state level (at least in CO, CA, OR and the other states that have now fully aligned with ACTFL), wording of new standards will have to align with the categories of novice low through intermediate mid (ACTFL), but the people who make decisions about foreign language curriculum at the district and building levels will likely balk at that and stay aligned with the pacing guide approach, especially with current budgetary limitations. The kids who drop out of language study will be the kids who are labeled incapable of going through to the higher levels of study, even though we know perfectly well that they can succeed just fine in the right setting, as proven by the fact that many of them are already fluent in two languages. Rarely will one find a district coordinator like Diana Noonan who will fearlessly align a district like ours in Denver Public Schools with the state and national standards simply because she knows that it is the right thing to do. I asked Diana about the monumental refusal by districts to align with national standards and ACTFL. My question was about who is going to hold the set-in-stone districts accountable to the new national changes. She said, and I think that she was referring to our own district but it applies accross the nation, that it is up to the principals. If a principal is aware that the foreign language teachers in his or her building are not aligning with the new state standards, they can either investigate it and demand that change occur, or just turn away. Many will turn away, because the lack of involvement of principals in foreign language curriculum in general terms nationally is well-known – they just let the department do things that result in nine of ten kids dropping out after the second (required) year and shrug their shoulders. Thankfully, that is not the case at East. But student attrition will only worsen as the new rules governing language requirements locally take hold.The problem at the building level is compounded by the failure of the foreign language people at the district level – thankfully not in DPS – to axe the use of such anti-ACTFL curricular instruments as pacing guides, a failure based in ignorance that language acquisition is different from any other kind of learning. VanPatten, for example, suggests that the brain treats language differently from normal human cognition and therefore should not be studied cognitively, which is how it is typically taught. The pacing guides used in Maryland, that are used in Jefferson County here in CO, and elsewhere around the nation are not best for teaching languages – they are seriously flawed curricular models, but who is saying that, who is talking about that? We cannot let go sight of what we believe is right and best for our kids.



4 thoughts on “Pacing Guides/Curriculum Mapping”

  1. Maybe what we need to make a film along the lines of If This Is Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium! (If this is Tuesday this must be Direct Object Pronouns!) to get people to see how truly ludicrous this is. (btw, for those of you under 40 that was a very funny movie back in the day….)
    I jest, but only because the thought of pacing guides is so incredibly painful.
    with love,

  2. Pacing guides and curriculum mapping don’t belong anywhere near what we do. They work in other areas, but we don’t learn languages cognitively (Krashen, VanPatten). So they can’t work, as per what you said Laurie. Unfortunately, I think that there must be about twenty of us who think this way, who refute the entire premise of levels and chapters and cumulative gain in language, one concept at a time, which is hogwash, mixed with hooey.
    However, even when the last state has aligned with novice mid through intermediate low (any k-12 student would fall somewhere in there, with the rare AP exam five getting ranked at intermediate mid), these new standards still are STATE standards, and their implementation will be left to the DISTRICTS. Thus, any district wanting to ignore the state standards in the name of some kind of curriculum map/book based approach may, probably will, get away with it. The past will live as the future for our kids. The standards will sit there, at the state level, just like they did from 1983 at the national level, with ACTFL powerless to get into the local districts, and the book will continue to be used. Laurie, this is the “If this is Tuesday this must be Direct Object Pronouns” nightmare.
    I am going to get a blog going for tomorrow, an email from Elissa, in which she talks about “unlearning” all that she ever learned about how we learn languages through levels or chapters. It is really valuable. Without the unlearning she describes, we can’t get those state/ACTFL standards rolling – there will be too much ignorance and old stinking thinking, too many people who don’t really understand Krashen even though they say they do, which makes me vomit.
    The fear is real. Robert alluded to it before – about ten days ago – when he said that it will be a real challenge to get the CA new standards up and running, even in CA with all those hippies. Just kidding about the hippies – I meant yuppies. But I don’t know. The fear is that these standards don’t bring any change. That is why I thought what Diana said about it being educated principals who, if anyone, will be the ones to bring the change was so important.

  3. In the textbook world, the pronoun y appears somewhere in level 2. I included the y pronoun in a story that French 1 was reading this morning. No one asked about the y and as we were translating, they just blew right through it and said “there”. I was blown away at the naturalness with which they read and translated. I did something interesting the other day. I looked over the textbook and realized how much French they have seen and heard. It’s totally out of order, but much more natural.

  4. I just want to add here that I indeed am fortunate to be the coordinator in a district which is seeking to break away from the traditional way of doing things because it is recognized by my instructional superintendent that ‘traditional’ doesn’t work. My new challenge is ‘proving’ that comprehensible input based storytelling and reading works and in order to that, we need data. My superintendent uses terms such as ‘proficiency’ and recognizes that ‘seat time’ is meaningless. The data will come from key teachers in DPS who are ‘rock star’ teachers. Ben is at the top of that list and with his modeling for other teachers in DPS, we are light years ahead of most ‘traditional’ districts.
    Thanks Ben….

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