A charter schools is supposed to innovate. What does that mean?
Let me think of a few criticisms of charter schools I've known, and let's think together about whether they are innovative or not. OK?
In my state, Colorado, we have a large number of Core Knowledge schools. Core Knowledge is usually associated with E. D. Hirsch and a set of content that leads to what Hirsch calls "cultural literacy." The curriculum is sometimes criticized as being pro-western or too Anglo-Saxon in its focus. However, in its own way, it is innovative.
Innovation is often marked by word "new" or "original." The criticism is that Core Knowledge is not new, but is based on old material that is not necessarily reflective of the entire American (or global) culture.
It seems to me that Core Knowledge is new in the fact that it goes against many current ideas that "cultural literacy" is relevant in society. In fact, it can be said that the idea that America is no longer Anglo-Saxon is now an old idea. While I don't have a real preference for or against Core Knowledge, I do think that there are ideas from the Anglo-Saxon past that are crucial and are often ignored in some forms of modern education. 21st Century education is one example that can easily ignore "cultural literacy."
The fact that Core Knowledge bumps up against established ideas about education makes it new. The best I can tell is that Core Knowledge is not merely a return to the 1950s or some other glorious period of American education. Core Knowledge is a re-discovering of what knowledge from America's past is essential to being literate in its culture. In that sense, it is innovative.
In addition, it seems to me that Core Knowledge can be taught using different methods. A core content does not require a specific instructional method. A school or teacher can still use differentiated instruction.
Last, it also seems to me that Core Knowledge or some modified form can be complemented with other content that might not be required for cultural literacy. In other words, schools or individual teachers can add to the core content with all sorts of content that is not "core." The teacher or school would not have to tell students what is or is not core. In fact, I'd guess that the best teachers wouldn't even give students a hint as to what was or was not core.
In other words, many of the global issues or cultures that have come to influence the U.S. over the past few decades could be included as either additional "core knowledge" or simply added because schools decide that students need to know about various cultures and influences on the country they live in and what is going on in this flattening world.
It also seems to me that for many of the "innovators" in traditional education, there is (or should be) pressure to see how their methods and content are innovative. In addition, there is another question to answer in a later blog, which is "If education is too innovative might it be no good at all?"
In another blog, I suggested that we have a problem. If something is completely researched based, then almost by definition it isn't innovative. If something has no research basis, then perhaps it's too innovative. Another question, that I'll need to hit some time soon is "Who decides how much research has to be behind a method or set of content in order for it to be used in education?" That's the question that really interests me.