Some of the societal forces that influence curriculum today are the federal and state government regulations, the business sector and local culture and values. The federal and state educational regulations, with their direct ties to funding for schools, have influenced what, where and when curriculum is taught and assessed. Standardized testing resulting from these regulations has become the norm, and these tests have come to define how well schools are achieving their learning goals (Glatterhorn, Boschee, Whitehead & Boschee, 2012). The business sector influences school curricula today in that this group recommends the skills and knowledge that students will need to be employable in the future. The local culture and values of the community also have a strong influence on school curricula. Generally, it is the local school board who approves new programs or courses. The expectations, needs and wants of the community, who often play a role in supporting the school financially, have influence throughout the school in both positive and negative ways.
As the tides have shifted within our society, so have the philosophies and approaches to curricula within our schools. This can be demonstrated throughout history in the ways schools have adapted and changed over the last 120 years. During the period of great growth and scientific discovery at the turn of the 20th century, these values of learning about the world through rational and scientific thought were translated into the curricula of public schools (Glatterhorn et al., 2012). In our current era of “Modern Conservatism”, schools are both encouraged and mandated to standardize instruction and hold themselves accountable to a common national set of standards for all students. In our highly collaborative and connected world, through the use of 21st century technologies, students are not only required to master the academic standards but also learn how to work together across time and space to engage in collective learning.
While, constant assessment and improvement are key for positive change within any school curriculum, it is also important for school leaders to recognize when aspects of the curriculum are working well and change for the sake of change is not needed. School leaders might be proactive in avoiding this pitfall by staying current on the society influences that may impact a school, and be prepared to justify and defend the areas of the curriculum that are having a positive impact on student performance.
Glatterhorn, A., Boschee, F., Whitehead, B., & Boschee, B. (2012). Curriculum leadership: Strategies for development and implementation. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.