Are Standards-Based Teaching Strategies Killing Creativity? Yes
Guest Post By Chad Malcolm
As the Fall local election time has passed, the elections for school board were more surprising than any others. While driving around constituents read sign after sign about how Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are killing creativity in children. It is amazing as an educator that voters are swayed by signs without understanding the behind the scenes actions.
In the state of Ohio, everyone is running for school board claiming common core is the sole reason the schools are not achieving as parents would like. The toughest part of this debate is Ohio decided over a year ago to drop common core and rewrite Ohio Department of Education standards to move forward. Then to take it a step further, the CCSS are just the guides to get children to mastery levels, yet parents are being lead to believe that these standards are why teachers are teaching content the way they are. Let us look at what CCSS compared to Ohio Model Curriculum:
|CCSS||Ohio Model Curriculum|
Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s.
Count forward and backward within 1,000 by ones, tens, and hundreds starting at any number; skip-count by 5s starting at any multiple of 5
As you can see the standards mirror each other in content and level of mastery desired. However, as you can see the standards do not say anything about the “how to teach” the content. Both CCSS and Ohio Model Curriculum allow that freedom to the school district. Once the standards are reviewed a school district will make curriculum choices and buy new textbooks and materials for the teachers and students to use. It must be stated though, that most school districts chose a curriculum every seven years, but budget shortfalls make this a 10-12-year cycle on average.
So, given the information that standards are the same across CCSS and Ohio Model Curriculum, and schools change curriculum about every 10 years we can see a disconnect in how education is conveyed. Teachers are taking the brunt of the education discontent; however, they are trying to do the best they can to make people happy. Teachers are required to teach the curriculums adopted by a district, while making sure that it aligns with the standards the students will be measured against. This is made more challenging when you research the curriculum companies and realize that the major curriculums school districts select from normally are written based on the States of California and Texas standards, because these are the two biggest states to spend money buying curriculum annually. In 2014-15 the State of California budget outlined $77 billion to fund curriculum adoption.
The interesting aspect of the election signs for local school boards, is that CCSS and/or local state standards are not killing creativity. It is the curriculum that the local school district purchased. CCSS or any local state standards do not tell the teachers how to teach the concept, simply the skill that should be learned. The curriculums that schools purchase are the ones dictating the teacher methods. If we were to allow teachers to develop lessons based on the standard alone and teach developmentally appropriately for their individual children education would improve. However, the conversation for over a decade now has been about how teachers are failing. I would challenge leaders at the national, state, and local levels to allow teachers to do what we do. We have learned to develop lessons based on standards in teacher preparation schools, and we know how to teach our kids better than a fortune 500 curriculum mill.