This chapter will provide a broad overview of your legal responsibilities as a future teacher. In addition, a critical look at “standards” will be taken. Among the questions explored about standards will be: (a) who determines what standards will be used, (b) how do you ensure that the standards are met, and (c) do you have any flexibility as a future teacher when it comes to “teaching to the standards.” Finally, this chapter will take a closer look at the curriculum. Once again, key questions about the curriculum will be posed, including: (a) who determines what curriculum will be implemented, (b) how closely do you have to follow the curriculum, and (c) are there ways you can supplement the curriculum if you feel it will better meet the needs of your students? Although you will get a good introduction to each of the topics identified above, please remember that whole textbooks have been written about each one. So the introduction you are receiving here is meant to be just this, and introduction. For more detailed information, I would encourage you to do additional research on your own.
Responding to Diversity
By the end of this section, the following Essential Questions will be answered:
- What are the two key legal responsibilities discussed in this section?
- What student population is most likely to experience some form of child abuse?
- As a teacher, when do you have to report child abuse?
- What are the guidelines associated with the use of copyrighted materials?
As a future teacher, you will have certain legal responsibilities. One of the most important being reporting child abuse and neglect. A secondary responsibility, is ensuring the proper use of copyrighted materials. In order to better understand what your responsibilities are, related to both of these legal issues, we will explore them in more depth in this section. Given the serious nature of the first legal issue, we will discuss the reporting of child abuse
and neglect first.
Child Abuse and Neglect
According to Webb et. al. (2010), “the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, defines child abuse and neglect as:
“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation. It includes an act or failure to act which represents an imminent risk of serious harm. (42 U.S.C. 5106)” (p. 303)
As a future teacher, it is important to note that child abuse and neglect occur across all socioeconomic classes and ethnic/racial groups.
In order to understand what this might look like in the classroom, consider the following examples.
Mrs. Sparks notices that Mitchell keeps falling asleep in her second grade class. Since this has been happening for over two weeks, Mrs. Sparks decides to keep Mitchell in at recess and talk to him so she can find out what is going on. When she asks him why he keeps falling asleep in class, he says:“I am sleeping in the closet at home because I am too scared to sleep in my bed.” When Mrs. Sparks asks Mitchell why he is too scared to sleep in his bed, he tells her:“My big brother chases me around the house at night with a pair of scissors and says he is going to cut all my hair off when I go to sleep!” When asked where his parents are, Mitchell says they work the night shift at the beef packing plant so his big brother takes care of him. When Mrs. Sparks asks how old Mitchell’s big brother is, she finds out that he is only 11 yrs. old.
Mr. Creately has a great group of 5th grade students. Since he teaches in a rural setting, he feels like he is able to get to know his students better because the community they come from is much smaller than that of a large, urban school district. During the second month of school, Mr. Creately notices that Jasmine begins to come to school in the same set of clothes two to three days in a row. She also complains about being hungry and is the first one in line for lunch. When Mr. Creately asks Jasmine what is going on, she reluctantly admits that her dad had to go out
of state to get a job and her mom is working two jobs so she doesn’t have time to do the laundry as often. In addition, her mom is not home in the morning because she has to leave early for work. So Jasmine has been having a hard time getting up on her own and getting ready for school and doesn’t have time to make breakfast.
Based on these two examples, can you distinguish which example is a case of abuse and which example is a case of neglect? If you said example #1 as a case of child abuse, you were correct, as Mitchell is in physical danger. Since Jasmine is not in immediate physical danger, but her needs are not being fully met, her example is one of neglect.
Although these two examples represent just a small sliver of the types of cases you might see, hopefully they help to contextualize the importance of this issue. As a future teacher, it is critical that you find out what procedures your school has in place for reporting child abuse or neglect. Some of the general guidelines that hold true across most states, as noted by Webb et. al. (2010) have been outlined below:
- Teachers must report actual or suspected child abuse and neglect immediately upon gaining knowledge or suspicion of the abuse or neglect.
- The report may be made orally or in writing to either a law enforcement agency, child protection services, or other designated agency.
Failure to report abuse may result in a teacher being found criminally liable, with penalties as high as two years in jail and a fine of $4,000. A civil suit claiming negligence may also be brought against the teacher for failure to report child abuse. In addition,
school districts may take disciplinary measures, including dismissal, against employees for failure to follow required reporting statues. (p. 303)
For more information about the staggering statistics associated with child abuse and neglect, as well as tips for you about reporting child abuse and neglect in Kansas, please view the following video: Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect.
When planning lessons, there are multiple resources that you now have access to as a teacher. In order to ensure that you can use legally copyrighted material when teaching, Webb et. al. (2010) suggest that teachers use the following guidelines:
- Make sure you have requested and received permission from the copyright holder to use the work.
- Make sure the work is public domain (i.e., it is either more than 75 years old or has been created by a government agency).
- Make sure it is considered fair use (the fair use doctrine allows the nonprofit reproduction and use of certain materials for classroom use without permission of the copyright owner if each copy bears the copyright notice and meets the test of brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect (p. 305).
It is important to remember that materials found on the internet are also protected by copyright laws. Therefore, it is important to follow the guidelinessuggested by Webb et. al. (2010) when using materials from the internet.
In education, standards are the benchmarks used to compare curriculum, instruction and student learning (Webb et. al., 2010). However, much like the pendulum pictured above, the standards implemented as the benchmark of student learning are often influenced by forces outside the school setting.
In this section, we will look at three different types of standards: curriculum content standards, performance standards, and opportunity to learn standards. In addition, we will look at a current example of national standards being implemented in multiple states across the United States, the Common Core State Standards.
Types of Standards
There are three main types of standards referred to in education today: curriculum content standards, performance standards, and opportunity to learn standards. A brief definition for each standard has been provided below.
- Curriculum Content Standards: The appropriate content of a particular academic discipline that students at a specific grade level are expected to learn or be able to do (i.e., geography, science, etc.).
- Performance Standards: The levels of academic achievement expected of students at specific grade level(s) on specific assessments.
- Opportunity to Learn Standards:The resources or conditions necessary for students to achieve the performance standards.
The Common Core State Standards
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were implemented by 48 states in the U.S., including Kansas. When first proposed, the CCSS were introduced as a way to define what all students needed to know and provide them with a common way to demonstrate that knowledge. Specifically, the CCSS identified educational standards for English language arts (ELA)/literacy and mathematics in grades K-12.
Although there has been a lot of controversy surrounding CCSS, Kansas decided to adopt CCSS. Since CCSS does not mandate what curriculum is implemented, Kansas decided to call their adoption of the CCSS the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards (KCCRS). Under the KCCRS, key stakeholders proposed the following:
Using the CCSS standards to provide a clear set of shared goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills in English language arts and mathematics to help students succeed.
Using the CCSS to move students far beyond simply memorizing facts and figures, and challenging students to: (a) develop a deeper understanding of subject matter, (b) learn how to think critically, and (c) apply what they are learning to the real world. (Kansas State Department of Education, 2016).
There are countless videos and articles about the CCSS on the internet representing the pros and cons of CCSS.
Your challenge is to find a pro and con video and/or article. After watching and/or reading both sides of the argument, write a brief synthesis that ! summarizes your point of view about CCSS.
- Do you agree that it is a good thing or not?
Make sure to provide specific examples to support your point of view in your synthesis.
Imagine your first day in the classroom, you walk in, look around, and smile because you finally made it! Just as you go to sit down at your very own “teacher desk,” the principal walks in with a cart piled high of textbooks for math and reading. She tells you that these are mandated textbooks required by the school district. As you begin to look at the books, you discover that they are over ten years old. When you mention this to the principal, she says she is aware of this but due to budget cuts, new textbooks can not be ordered for two more years. As the principal turns to leave the classroom, she tells you that you are required to cover all the content in each textbook by the end of the year. You bravely keep your smile on your face till she is gone from the room, then you begin to panic! The question running through your mind, and that of thousands of teachers just like you is: How am I every going to cover all this material in one year?
As demonstrated in the introduction to this section, it is rare that teachers have a voice in the selection of what curriculum is implemented in the classroom unless they are part of a designated “curriculum committee” within the school. But even then, there are often other voices that greatly influence what curriculum is ultimately selected and implemented by the school. The following list identifies a few of the people and forces that influence curriculum selection and implementation in schools.
- Teachers: Teachers in the school all have specific agendas that may influence curriculum selection.
- Parents and Community Groups: Based on their level of involvement, parents and community groups might also have a vested interest in the type of curriculum implemented by the school.
- Local School Boards: Often influenced by budget issues, local school boards may have a vested interest in what curriculum is adopted and/or implemented.
- Textbook Companies: Since these are the people who profit from the implementation of their materials, they are eager to see schools adopt their curriculum materials.
- State and Federal Government: For accountability purposes, both of these agencies also have a vested interest in the curriculum.
Although you may not have much control over what curriculum you have to implement in your classroom, how you implement it is something you should have some control over.