Districts start with a set of standards, most lately the Common Core. District leaders then craft a curriculum based on those standards. They require teachers to teach the full curriculum — often at exactly the same pace with the same materials — because the new standards-based curriculum includes all the items expected to be on the annual state test.
Pity the kids in this scenario who are not functioning at grade level.
Simply, when a fully fleshed-out curriculum becomes obligatory, the absence of time for remedial instruction can become a crucial barrier to learning. No substitute exists for remediation time, but pre-established demands can squeeze out that remediation time. When a standard eats all the minutes available for the week’s instruction, those kids who have fallen behind will have made no progress catching up.
Before-school, lunch and after-school tutoring seldom solve the problem. A few extra hours of help per week will not catch up a student who has fallen years behind classmates. Older students often tend to avoid tutoring, too. It’s embarrassing for a middle-school student to admit he or she can’t read. Sometimes students can’t come early or stay late for family reasons. Maybe they have to babysit. Or they have to take the bus because no one can drop them off or pick them up.
Rigid curricula resulting from the standards-based movement have been a disaster for many kids, especially our most academically-challenged kids.