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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why Schools Need Curriculum: A Baseball Parable

There once was a young boy who loved baseball. He woke up every morning early just to watch Sports Center. He watched the Astros every chance he got and knew the statistics for every player. His father took notice of his son’s obsession. Though they had no money, the father was determined to get his son a baseball glove. One day he stopped by a garage sale in the neighborhood and found a tattered baseball, a worn out glove, and a crooked tee. He brought them home to his son and they enjoyed a nice game of catch.

The young boy loved his new gift. Every day he would go to the local park, set up his tee and ball, and practice his swing. On the first day he hit the ball 10 feet. The second day he hit the ball 20 feet. The third day he hit the ball 30 feet. The fourth day he hit the ball 30 feet. The fifth day, 30 feet. He became discouraged because he was not improving. He would watch his favorite players to see how he could improve his swing. But, no matter what he did, he could not hit that ball beyond 30 feet.

One day the young boy was at the local park practicing when one of the neighborhood girls walked up to the young boy. She had a pink bat, pink glove, pink helmet, and a shiny pink ball. She asked the young boy if she could practice with him. He reluctantly agreed and went to the pitcher’s mound with low expectations of how far this girl could hit the ball. The young girl put her ball on the tee, reared back and hit the ball over the young boy’s head. As he made the long walk back to retrieve the ball, he ran through several scenarios in his mind to avoid having to step up to the tee, hit the ball 30 feet, and feel the humiliation of being defeated by the young girl. Instead of faking a cramp or pretending that his mom was calling him home, he decided he was going to give it a try. He made the walk of shame up to the tee, put the shiny pink ball on the tee, said a small prayer, closed his eyes, and swung with all his might. The ball launched off the tee like a pink frozen rope, over the head of the young girl and over the outfield fence. Tears filled his eyes as he rounded first base, then second, then third. Finally, he slid into home plate for a world series style celebration.

So what did the boy do differently that he is now able to hit a homerun? The truth is, the boy was able to hit a homerun the whole time. He wasn’t hitting the ball wrong. He was hitting the wrong ball.

The same is true in education. We have incredibly talented teachers that do all the right things to hit it out of the park everyday. But, without curriculum, they are hitting the wrong ball. Curriculum takes the standards that hold school districts accountable and provides them with a scope and sequence to meet the standards through instruction. Curriculum is the ball. Instruction is the swing. And, the state assessment is the outfield fence. It doesn’t matter how great the instruction is if you don’t have the right curriculum, just like it doesn’t matter how good your swing is if you have the wrong ball.

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