You may have noticed lots of media coverage lately about curriculum transparency bills popping up across the nation. They range in specificity, but the overall gist is this: schools should make curriculum based items (lesson plans, textbooks, research projects, reading lists, etc.) more public, so that parents can easily access and evaluate all the things their children are learning in a given school year.
Here in Michigan, only one bill has been introduced: House Bill 5722. It would amend the School Aid Act to require each district to make several things “public” by the first day of the school year, including:
The district-approved curriculum for each school operated by the district
Each class offered to students of the district as part of that curriculum
Textbooks, literature, research projects, writing assignments & field trips
A list of certified teachers or other individuals authorized to teach/implement the curriculum
In some media coverage around the country, there is talk of legislation requiring more specific things, like teachers posting daily lesson plans for parents to consider - but to be clear, here in Michigan, this is the only bill that’s been introduced. For some educators, including many within our charter family, these bills are intimidating, mistrusting of educators, and on surface value create more work for people who are already stretched thin, already working long hours, and already doing their best to comply with complex and ever-changing compliance items during a global pandemic.
So what does this mean for Michigan charters, and other public schools across the state?
To start, we DON'T believe this bill, as written, would be a huge burden to Michigan charter schools - because our schools are already sharing a greater amount of information with parents than most traditional public schools. We as the charter movement have taken pride, since our inception, in offering unique, creative curriculum opportunities, character development, and so much more. Our very existence has depended on us being transparent, open and inviting with regards to what goes on in our classrooms. Quite often, the very things that would be required by this bill are the very things our schools use to help parents choose their school, should it be a good fit. Chances are, if we picked a random sample of Michigan charter websites and specifically looked for this information, we would likely find most of it on almost each site!
MAPSA does not advocate for arbitrary layers of regulation, especially those that add yet more stress to our hardworking educators. But we do believe in transparency - not just for us, but for ALL the public education entities in Michigan who receive this critical funding. Think about your local traditional public school district. While many charters have to fight to explain simple things like how they are tuition free, held to state testing standards, and offer specialized curriculum, programs or projects, traditional districts get to happily watch enrollment flood in without diving into those details. Bills like this one would require that those institutions provide the same type of information that charters do to all parents in a community - meaning parents could be more informed than ever, and better equipped to choose the right school for their child!
And right now, after two years of walking alongside their children within the learning experience like they’ve never done before, parents are ASKING for more access and more information. We should assume that more ideas and legislation will emerge that aim to bridge the gaps between what happens in schools, and what parents know - and we should NOT be afraid of that.