Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Aligning Curriculum to Core Content Standards

Aligning curriculum and standards, for the purposes of this paper should be thought of as just that, aligning, compared to teaching to the Core Content Standards (CCS). When creating or revising curriculum, it is prudent to align the curriculum with the Core Content Standards for the grade/content area. The standards should be the base for the curriculum, with the curriculum serving as a guide with resources such as formative and summative assessments, projects, mapping and projects.
Curriculum is defined as a plan used for classroom teachers that defines the scope, content, standards and time frame for a specific course. The definition for the standards used as the base for the curriculum is statement(s) that define what the student needs to know, understand and/or be able to perform.
The CCS and curriculum for a particular content area/grade level should be aligned in a way that lends rigor and relevance to the classroom instruction. The CCS and curriculum should also provide some uniformity across the content, without stifling the teacher creativity in delivering the lesson: it should result in curriculum that is a helpful guide.
There are many benefits to aligning curriculum with the CCS, outside of ensuring compliance to NJ Department of Education policies and requirements. One benefit is that it clearly establishes expectations and goals for both teachers and students to achieve. These expectations and goals are seen in the listed CCS as well as in formative and summative assessments included in the curriculum mapping. With the clearly defined expectations and goals through alignment with the CCS, student achievement on relevant state standardized exams should improve, as the students are being taught the content that will appear on the exams. Another benefit to aligning curriculum with CCS, especially when teamed with curriculum mapping, is that the end result will be a greater resource to educators because it will allow them to share resources and create some uniformity and cross-curricular alignment.
There are some drawbacks to aligning curriculum with CCS. One of them is that teachers could begin to “teach to the test” rather than align content with the CCS. Another drawback is that educators could rely strictly on the contents of the curriculum, thus squelching any creativity or differentiation that might otherwise be of greater benefit to the students. Another drawback is the difficulty some districts have in acquiring the necessary teacher buy-in necessary to make the alignment successful. Some teachers think their way is the best way, and are unwilling to let go of the curriculum they have created, or are unwilling to share assessments and other information with other teachers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Understanding by Design (UbD) and Backward Design

Understanding by Design (UbD) is an educational paradigm which suggests designing curriculum in reverse can lead to the development of deeper student understanding. It was developed by educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe and is a growing phenomenon within the field of education. The primary goal of UbD is student understanding of big ideas and applying them in practice across many disciplines and contexts. This is accomplished through “Backward Design”, a three stage process in which curriculum is designed in reverse. Teachers begin planning with the ultimate goal in mind, then deciding upon evidence necessary for proving student understanding of the ultimate goal, and finally planning the activities to drive students toward their ultimate goal (McTighe, 2010). UbD has its fair share of positive attributes as well as what some may consider negative ones concerning the paradigm. A more detailed look at UbD and its concept of Backward Design follows.

UbD begins with its stated primary goal which is the development and deepening of student understanding in terms of big, enduring ideas within the academic disciplines. In order to accomplish this, students need to demonstrate six facets of understanding: the capacity to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess (McTighe, 2010). Student learning should focus on much more than memory for procedures and facts. The six facets of understanding are found at the hierarchical top of the Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid. This is the desired target destination most educators feel students should perform at. The method for achieving this level of understanding is by designing a curriculum where goals, assessments, and lessons are interconnected (Wysocki, 2009). UbD’s authors feel “Backward Design” is the best method for developing such a curriculum.

“Backward Design” is a three stage process for developing curriculum. Stage One begins with determining what you want your students to know at the completion of the unit. Educators should keep in mind academic goals and standards, enduring ideas and essential questions to explore, and potential long-term application of these ideas and skills. The big ideas and essential questions should spark inquiry and discussion, require justification of opinions, and create meaningful connections with prior learning.

Once the big ideas and core skills have been identified, educators must determine what type of assessments and evidence will be necessary to achieve the desired results. In Stage Two educators will think about the aforementioned six facets of understanding and how they can be utilized as an assessment avenue for students to demonstrate their understanding. Each facet of understanding does not need to be represented in a single assessment method; however they should be represented across a continuum of assessment types. Assessments must be reliable, valid, practical and student friendly.

Stage Three is the final stage in designing the curriculum. After identifying the big ideas and core skills at the heart of the unit and determining the assessment evidence necessary to prove understanding, an educator now begins to develop a learning plan consisting of lessons, activities, and teaching methods to maximize student understanding of the unit’s big ideas and core skills. This is accomplished by carefully selecting activities which move students closer toward reaching the ultimate goals. Anything in conflict with the curriculum's big ideas and core skills should not be included(McTighe, 2010).

Backward Design in all three stages provides the opportunity to develop curriculum which drives students toward a deeper level of understanding because core skills and big ideas are well-defined and specifically targeted by the educator. Also vital to UbD is its continuous improvement model. Student work and achievement data needs to be reviewed regularly so targeted adjustments to the curriculum maybe performed if necessary. Feedback from students and peers is encouraged concerning the curriculum and promotes sharing of ideas and working collaboratively. Developing a curriculum through Backward Design is an ongoing process. Feedback and collaboration are forms of quality control which are necessary to avoid mistakes and disappointing results. UbD and Backward design can be applied to as much as a school's entire curriculum (McTighe, 2010).

Wiggins and McTighe contend that UbD is more effective than teaching approaches to delivering curriculum which are present in a majority of classrooms across the nation. “Textbook teaching” and “activity-oriented” teaching is diminished as a result of implementing UbD and its principles in developing curriculum. Engaging students in purposeful, reflective thinking and developing student self-awareness through such exercises are key elements central to UbD and are also lacking in classrooms today. UbD insures curriculum plans are aligned and focused on specific learning goals and objectives. The curriculum's ultimate goals are what drive learning and not daily lessons (McTighe, 2010).

Criticisms might include UbD narrowly defining its content and leaving no avenue for pursuing “teachable moments” outside of the meticulously designed curriculum. Designing curriculum itself in this manner is very difficult. With reflective thinking and self-awareness at its heart, UbD is very subjective in nature. Difficulty can arise when assessing students on their thoughts and feelings toward a topic. UbD also requires extensive professional development before its implementation which costs in terms of time and money. The amount of time and energy which is necessary for designing curriculum in such a manner as well as keeping it running effectively is daunting. Finally, critics argue taking time to train students to think critically and reflectively will drain away time from the central theme of the intended lessons (“6 Facets”, 2009).

I feel some of these criticisms are short-sighted. Devoting classroom instructional time to engage students with the practice of reflective thinking is beneficial to the students’ overall development. I doubt many teachers of any quality are going to ignore “teachable moments” in order not to deviate from the curriculum. Costs, time, and the amount of work necessary to successfully implement a curriculum designed with UbD’s principles are valid criticisms. The amount of time and energy one must devote to write a curriculum using Backward Design is substantial. Teachers will require professional development so they have an understanding of the process. Teachers will then have to deliver a curriculum focusing on reflective practices to students with little or no skills for it. These are very significant considerations and quite an investment on many levels; however if done correctly, the dividends should be more than worth the investment.

I believe that curriculum needs to be written to deliver learning experiences which will prepare students with deeper understanding of the world around them. UbD and Backward Design make this possible. Learning experiences developed which keep in mind UbD’s six facets of understanding are the types of skills students need to become future effective leaders in our society. I am very interested in using the concept of Backward Design along with UbD’s principles for student learning to develop my curriculum for the upcoming school year. I’ll be curious to revisit this writing at a future date to determine the validity of UbD’s perceived pros and cons. I feel confident the investment in time and energy will pay off for my students in terms of academic and personal growth as well as making me a more efficient and well-rounded educator.

Source material: McTighe, J. (2010, September). An introduction to understanding by design. Understanding by Design. Workshop conducted from Columbia, MD.

Wysocki, J. (2009, August 27). Ubd in a nutshell. Retrieved from

6 facets of understanding. (2009). Retrieved July 23, 2011, from

Data Driven Decision Making

Accountability is an exercise in hope. When we raise academic standards, children raise their academic sights. When children are regularly tested, teachers know where and how to improve. When scores are known to parents, parents are empowered to push for change. When accountability for our schools is real, the results for our children are real.
—U.S. President George W. Bush (US Department of Education, 2002a)

Data driven decision making (DDDM) is a buzzword often heard in education systems across the nation. DDDM is a process that consists of collecting data and using that data to inform and guide decisions to improve teaching and student learning. “Gut feelings” and teacher instincts are no longer enough to direct the curricula of today’s schools and maintain accountability. No Child Left Behind has presented schools with no other choice but to turn to DDDM to earn incentives and opportunities to improve their curriculum and student performance. DDDM is multi-faceted, in that, there are numerous types of data collected, many uses for the data collected, and a system that is required to make it effective in school districts.
School districts may collect a wide range of data to be used by the central office, administrators and teachers, all with different roles and perspectives in education. First, input data may identify school expenditures or demographics of the student population. Next, process data may provide reports such as financial operations or quality of teacher instruction within the schools. Thirdly, outcome data, which is most commonly used to drive curriculum design and classroom instruction, may be data that reports dropout rates or student test scores. Lastly, satisfaction data would discuss opinions from teachers, students, and parents/community members. These four types of data are systematically collected throughout the year to make decisions within a school district.

Once this large quantity of data is collected, it is said to then go through a cycle. Continuously collected, data is then organized and synthesized by a school leadership team. A leadership team eliminates a heavy load on any one person. Members may include board members, administration, technical specialists, curriculum supervisors, teachers and community members. After the data is collected, it will then be used to make a variety of decisions. Data can be used to inform, identify, or clarify. For example, decisions may be made about the effectiveness of practices within the classroom, the progress made towards goals, the reallocation of resources, or whether all students needs are being met. Most commonly, though, DDDM is being used to determine student present level of performance and what needs to happen to have them reach curriculum goals.

In addition, DDDM can be extremely helpful when identifying patterns of outcomes within a school district. DDDM can strengthen a school by pinpointing successes and challenges, and evaluating effectiveness of programs. DDDM provides accountability for schools, which is an advantage to implementing data driven decisions in a district. Ultimately, DDDM helps teachers to collaborate and work together when discussing the data collected within the classroom. This type of collaboration is what builds strong, empowered teachers, which in turn builds students who have a will to learn. Students are given appropriate opportunities to learn because differentiation of instruction and learning styles are identified by the data collected. Education is no longer about the “average” student. Through DDDM teachers can reach accelerated students as well as those below grade level.
As these are all extremely strong arguments for implementing DDDM in school districts, much is to be considered when administrators and teachers are asked to utilize DDDM. As the cycle indicates, it must be organized and synthesized. Too much data means too much time demanded. Just because the data is collected doesn’t mean that it is being used effectively.

Time and money are the largest factors when discussing DDDM. Following the data collection, there is a need for time to organize, synthesize and train teachers to utilize the data within their classrooms. Without proper training in these areas, data will go to waste. Curriculum guides pressure teachers to keep to a rigorous pace in their instruction. Teachers become concerned with instructional time used to administer assessments and then re-teaching, if the data so indicates it is needed. In addition, there is so much time needed to sift through data collected, it is possible that by the time that data is analyzed students have moved on to other grade levels. Even if there is a leadership team in place all members of the team have other duties and expectations within their jobs.

DDDM demands money. DDDM requires school districts to purchase testing systems, for example. Then consultants from the testing company come in to train administration and teachers to administer and then decipher the data that is reported. Often technical support is needed and a team is formed to maintain a culture which data can be worked through constructively. Time out of the classroom must then be granted to the team members that require substitutes teachers and training for them as well.

In conclusion, our culture supports the use of DDDM, not only in education but also in politics and business. When DDDM is implemented in an educational environment the purpose for data must be clearly stated, and there must be a trained team that can teach and be advocates for the data collected. The team then must revise the data and the system by which it was collected regularly, to keep the development of the school at best. Communication is a necessary piece to DDDM to assure that data is collected, organized, and synthesized on a regular basis and in a timely manner. Then, data can ideally be used to inform and guide decisions made to improve teaching and student learning.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Adequate Yearly Progress better known as AYP, was introduced in 2001 as part of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB falls under the federal government’s Title I funding program. Title I supplies large sums of money to the local education agencies or LEA’s. This money is distributed to LEA’s based on numerous guidelines and the LEA’s individual need. AYP is a major factor of this funding tool for LEA’s.

The Federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires all states to establish standards for accountability for all schools and districts with in their states. The following items are mandatory:

  • All students in the district must be included in the state assessment program.

  • Accountability is based on the state’s academic content standards.

  • Students must show mastery in these in these content areas.

  • All public schools must meet the goal of 100% Proficient by the year 2014.

  • States set their own incremental benchmarks.

To meet these Federal mandates New Jersey adopted the NJ Single Accountability System. State assessments in Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics are based on the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards. The following items are mandatory:

  • All public schools and all student subgroups (ethnic, special education, SES) must meet proficiency benchmarks

  • Students must score Proficient (200 to 249) or Advanced Proficient (250 -300) to be counted as meeting the benchmark.

  • NJ utilizes grade clusters to factor AYP: Elementary 3-5, Middle School 6-8 and High School grade 11.

  • In addition to subgroups, clusters, and proficiency, NJ has a total of 41 indicators that need to be met; these include participation and graduation rates.

In the next few months the Obama Administration will release the Reauthorization of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESEA. The ESEA information that is currently posted on the Federal Department of Education website, notes that NCLB has been replaced by ESEA. In fact, if you search for NCLB on the US Department of Education website you are brought immediately to ESEA documentation. Could this be? Are we finally done with the nonsense of NCLB? Has the Federal government realized that we were comparing apples to oranges with AYP over the last decade? Here is to hoping. I am happy to report that the information that is available on ESEA is encouraging. The current administration has designed a blueprint for education that focuses on College and Career-Ready Standards and Assessments.

The new ESEA is calling for ambitious goals by the year 2020 and has outlined the following updates:

  1. Raising standards for all students in English Language Arts and Math.

  • States may choose to upgrade their current standards

  • States may partner with their 4-year public university to ensure students will not need remedial course work.

  • Work with other states to develop common standards that build college and career readiness.

2. Developing better assessments aligned with college and career readiness standards

  • State accountability systems will be expected to recognize progress and growth and reward success rather than only identifying failure. States will be “rewarded” for meeting performance targets. Standardized tests will be based on individual student growth. (Apple to Apple comparisons)

  • By 2015 funding will only be available to states that are implementing assessments based on college and career readiness standards. Testing will be conducted student several times during the school year to see if the student has gained knowledge.

3. Implementing a complete education for students through improved professional development for teachers and evidence-based instruction models and supports.

  • Increasing building level capacity for support at every level: schools, school leaders, teachers and students. Implement college and career- readiness curricula that will better prepare students for success beyond elementary and secondary levels.

We are currently experiencing a true shift in education. As a district test coordinator, I have seen a major change in what the state of New Jersey requires as a standardized test or assessment. Over the span of three years we saw the End of Course Algebra I test appear, become a graduation requirement and then become non-existent at the end of year 3. We have been testing New Jersey students in the NJ Biology Competency Test (NJBCT) for 4 years, yet it still has no bearing on graduation. Furthermore we still do not know what a passing score is on that test. We are also in the last administration year of the High School Proficiency Assessment or HSPA; however, there is no test scheduled to take its place. My thought is that HSPA will be extended for the next couple of years until the new Partnerships for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessments are up and running. The PARCC assessment system will be composed of a series of summative assessments given across and at the end of the school year, as well as aligned formative assessment resources for classroom use, (Doorey, 2011). The PARCC assessments are scheduled for pilot testing during the 2012 -2014 school years, with the first official test during the 2014 -2015 school year. Any coincidence that this new assessment will take full effect when our current AYP is scheduled to end?

Our current AYP standards, benchmarks and targets have no real standing anyway. I have seen individual schools and districts on the “Schools in Need of Improvement” (SINI) or “District in Need of Improvement” (DINI) lists for the entire span of the AYP Benchmark targets. Those schools still are still up and running. Sure, those schools have jumped through all the required hoops of AYP: school choice, school improvement, corrective action plan, new curriculum, replace staff, replace leadership, extend school year or school day, appoint an outside expert to fix your school, reorganize, restructure as a charter school, replace more staff, state takeover and finally the implementation of all the changes listed above. Even with all these consequences I have yet to see a public school turn into a charter school; the worst case scenario that I have seen has been the State takeover. Even with a takeover imminent, the majority of the students choose to stay at their “failing” schools. It is definitely time to incorporate some new assessment options and new curricula that prepare our students for the future and strive for a common goal: college and career readiness.

Adequate Yearly Progress Target Chart. (2009 November). New Jersey State Benchmarks for Adequate Yearly Progress. Retrieved July 15, 2011 from NJ Department of Education:

Doorey, N. (2011 February). Coming Together to raise Achievement, New Assessments for the Common Core State Standards. Retrieved February 2, 2011, from

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Norm- vs. Criterion-Referenced Tests

The culture in American education says to test our students. We test them to see how much they have learned; we test them to see where they rank among their peers; and coming to us here in New Jersey, we will use this testing to determine the employment and salary of our educators.
There are two main types of tests. There are norm-referenced tests and criterion-referenced tests. The purpose of this paper is to explain the two tests and to look into their benefits and drawbacks.
Norm-referenced tests (NRT) are designed to compare students. They determine individual performance in comparison with others. With norm-referenced tests a randomly selected group of students is given the test prior to the test’s public release. The scores from that group of students are used to make-up the tests norm. Every group of students who take the test after that initial norm group, will have their scores compared to the norm group. The process of norming a test can be quite costly and time consuming. Because of this, these types of tests are usually normed about every 7 years.
According to Linda Bond (1996), the major reason for using a norm-referenced test is to classify students as either high achieving or low achieving. These students can then be place in either remedial or gifted programs. Other benefits of NRT’s are that they are used by institutions of higher education to predict college readiness and potential for success in college (the SAT or ACT); also the test is standardized which means that it can be reliably compared.
Critics of norm-referenced tests say that they focus on low level, basic skills. Some also say that these types of tests give little information as to what a student knows or can do. Additionally, Bond (1996) points out that the validity of a NRT depends on whether the content of the test matches the knowledge and skills that is expected in that specific school.
Criterion-referenced tests (CRT) are designed to measure how well a student performs against an objective or standard. This type of test is looking for mastery in a particular area. The content on this type of test is chosen based on the curriculum. Other benefits are that it may help to eliminate competition amongst students and encourage cooperation. It also may be used to evaluate the process of instruction. This is where teacher evaluation may come into play.
There are several drawbacks when it comes to creating a CRT. Critics say that test makers can create benchmarks with varying difficulty without considering whether the items are actually compliant with grade level standards or age appropriate. It is also difficult to evaluate good and bad test items without extensive piloting of test questions. Also, the specificity of the test may be a drawback. You may need to create multiple tests in order to get the full picture of the curriculum.
There is a reason and a place for both types of tests. In terms of curriculum evaluation the analyst would use a criterion-referenced test. This will best show whether or not instruction has taken place, and that the standards and objectives in the curriculum have been addressed.
Source: Bond, Linda A. (1996). Norm- and criterion-referenced testing. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 5(2).

Thursday, July 21, 2011


The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas nationally. It produces the Nation’s Report Card, to notify the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. These assessments are administered periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history, with foreign language and world history being developed. It is sponsored by the Department of Education and serves as a common assessment for the nation, since all tests are administered consistently and the same sets of test booklets are used. It stays basically the same from year to year and, therefore, illustrates a clear picture of student academic progress over time.

NAEP provides results on subject-matter achievement, instructional experiences, and school environment for populations of students. Grades for individual schools or students are not provided, however, report results can be compiled for selected large urban districts. NAEP results are based on samples of students at grades 4, 8, and 12. These specific ages and grades were selected because they signify critical points in a student’s academic achievement.

When NAEP results are reported, they become part of "The Nation's Report Card." These results are widely reported by the national and local media, and are an essential part of our nation’s evaluation of the state and progress of education. Reports are released six months after being administered every two years for math and reading at grade 4-8 and all other assessments are released about one year being administered. In a national sample, approximately 10,000-20,000 students are tested, while in a combined national and state sample there are approximately 135,000 to 165,000 students. Achievement is reported as scale scores and achievement levels. Scale scores categorize achievement into levels including below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced, while achievement levels report results based on standards of what students should know and be able to do.

NAEP has two main goals, which include tracking changes in the achievement of students at grades 4, 8, and 12 and comparing student achievement in states. It uses a nationally represented sample to acquire the information and is voluntary for every student, school, school district, and state; however, if a district receives Title I funds, by federal law they are required to participate in NAEP. NAEP is also confidential, as no personal information is asked or provided for the test.

As you can see, NAEP administers reports on many subject areas in grades 4, 8, and 12. It levels the playing field for all states to compare how students are achieving as a nation, where we are all working together toward a common goal of high achievement for all students. NAEP also shows progress over time for how students are performing in our nation. While there are many positives that arrived from NAEP, the amount of time it takes to provide reports is extensive, as it can take up to one year to report results to the public, and districts are not permitted to see their students or schools outcomes. As a result, NAEP is administered every two years, instead of yearly. In the national report, it also only reports the academic achievements of approximately 10,000-20,000 students, which is a limited number of students considering the size of our nation. I feel as though more students should be accounted for in the national report. Many people also argue that NAEP’s standards are too high and in Norway, for example, 91 percent of children would score below proficient, and less than a quarter of students in England and Scotland would make the benchmark. I am hopeful NAEP will show growth in students across the United States and be a competitive and comparable assessment nationwide.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Global Inequalities, Instability, and Education

The article "Global Inequality and Instability" is a thought provoking essay which paints an alarming picture about the state of education today and its future. The authors, Allan and Jason Ornstein, propose education in the United States does not do an adequate job teaching students about truths concerning other countries in our world. The authors believe education in the United States does not prepare students to become future leaders who will help solve the problems facing our ever changing world. To illustrate their thoughts, the authors begin by travelling back in time to lay the foundation of their argument.

America's founding fathers and other educational theorists through time believed in the need to examine economic and social problems, moral choices, and controversial issues. Engaging in such activities would help strengthen democracy by preparing a populace of educated, thoughtful citizens. To accomplish this goal, they felt students should be active participants in their education. Students should raise questions and challenge teachers and textbooks. I believe this is what education should be all about.

Somewhere over the last one hundred years a shift occurred resulting in what the authors now consider is the "norm" for education. Today students are no longer active participants in their education. Students are rarely challenged in terms of critical thinking activities. Our educational system is not preparing students with the skills they'll need to help combat a world ripe with global inequalities. In fact, our educational system largely ignores discussion of global issues. If global issues are discussed, they are done through the lens of rose colored glasses with America's role sanitized in order to shine the best light upon it. Students are not being exposed to the festering anti-American sentiment which is spreading over the world. Attacks on perceived values and the American way of life are not debated for their merits. This all contributes to the authors’ contention that our schools are not preparing students to become global citizens.

The authors feel educational reform is necessary to help combat the issues in our evolving world. Today's students are going to become tomorrow's leaders. Students need to be challenged with curriculum that develops their critical thinking skills. The role of standardized testing and its importance hinders students. There is not enough time devoted to discussing these issues because teaching what is on the test takes precedence. Global issues need to be discussed in the classroom in order to expose students to the world around them. Existing curriculum does not introduce such concepts to students and thus students are largely ignorant to the world outside of the United States. Students are shielded from a world of growing inequalities and disdain for the United States and what it represents.

Students need to be challenged by their teachers. All too familiar is a teacher standing at the front of a classroom lecturing students from textbooks which do not address the real issues facing the world. Students are passive participants in their education. Critical thinking skills are underdeveloped; there is not enough questioning and debate about the world around them, their role in it, and collaboration with students from around the world about the issues facing them. Wouldn’t healthy debate with foreign students, whom may not agree with our values or way of life (and vice versa), help all parties involved gain insight about one another? I believe this type of activity is essential going forward if we truly want to broaden the minds of our youth in a manner which addresses global issues.

The authors argue today’s youth are self-absorbed individuals swimming in a media-driven cultural cesspool and have no capacity for hearing the cries of the impoverished in lands they could not locate on a map. Today’s youth are consumed with their own problems such as not getting a good enough parking space or having enough goat cheese on their salad. Can today’s youth truly relate to the genuine pain and suffering occurring in the world? How much of this is exaggerated perception and how much is reality?

Our world is changing and not for the better according to the authors. The divide between the “haves and “have nots” is widening at an alarming pace. The rich get richer. The poor struggle to escape what is known as the poverty trap, which is a repeating cycle that siphons away hope and any chance of prosperity for countries caught in it. Global poverty is increasing, yet nations in a position to help stem the tide are not completely altruistic when it comes to aid. Making wholesale changes to help others may jeopardize their standing in the world and they would also be discounting their own domestic problems in the process.

It is drummed into our subconscious that living in the 21st century means being part of a global economy, “a world without borders”, and how the future of communication and overall advancement is through technology. Our students are plugged into a myriad of multi-media devices, while all across the globe children are playing, sleeping, and living in squalid conditions. An obesity epidemic is engulfing the youth of America, while throughout the world there is famine which continues to become increasingly dire as the result of the third world population boom. All of this is not going unnoticed outside of the United States as anti-American sentiment is becoming more voluminous and violent. Even domestically, the gap is widening between the “have and have nots”; how long before unrest and violence erupts in the United States?

The authors conclude by stating they wish educational reform could be the solution to the world’s issues; however they feel the only real hope the world has to combat its issues will come in the form of political revolution, which they identify is also ripe with problems. The article paints a very dim future for our world in the years to come.

I am an optimist and also a realist. I feel there is no easy answer to solving the issues which created the world’s inequalities and instability. We live in a complex world with a multitude of influencing factors touching upon just about anything and everything one could imagine (e.g., age, education, ethnicity, gender, geography, politics, race, religion, history, wealth, food, culture, values). The issues existing in our world, whether viewed domestically or on a global scale, weren’t born overnight. They won’t be solved overnight either. I consider the article’s outlook to be extremely alarmist, which is not to say its indicators aren't rooted in reality. Suggesting what is set in motion cannot be combated at this point would be conceding defeat and how would that help? Education is key in the battle. Students must become active participants in their education while developing critical thinking skills through a dynamic curriculum which addresses global issues in a realistic manner and can be practically applied. Throughout history the human spirit has risen to the occasion to tackle overwhelming odds and overcome issues they were faced with. I am confident this generation and ones after it will do the same, but actions speak louder than words.

As I mentioned these are complex issues and ones which cannot be solved alone. We are all stakeholders in the future of humanity. I’d like to hear some of your thoughts on education’s role in combating global inequality and instability. I look forward to your thoughtful comments!