Critical Thinking and Creativity Are Cornerstones of Common Core State Standards

In a letter to the Fresno Bee, California resident James Carson claims Common Core State Standards have turned “vibrant, creative classrooms into generic, Stepford-Wives, sit-down-and-shut-up systems that promote rote memorization…We have taken independent thinking and creativity out of education and replaced them with paint-by-numbers and the illusion of complexity. The dumbing down of America is complete.”

In reality, the Common Core is designed to foster critical thinking and creativity in classrooms by establishing rigorous education standards consistent for all students. Case in point: California teacher Elizabeth Little applied Common Core standards to teach her students to make a banana calculator. If that’s not creative, what is?

“Common Core State Standards now ask students…to analyze complex texts, to weigh evidence, to make clear and effective arguments, and to work with others with very different views,” David Ruenzel, a former teacher, wrote in 2014. “It will no longer be enough for youngsters to memorize information or rely on formulas.”

At The Atlantic‘s Education Summit this week, Washington DC math teacher Liana Ponce’s testimony differed sharply from Mr. Carson’s conclusions. Ponce shared that her students “get excited about defending and showing their work,” which is a principle encouraged within the Common Core. She added that “I’ve seen growth in my students that I’ve never seen before – and such a passion.”

Likewise, last year 21 State Teachers of the Year wrote that the Common Core fosters greater creativity and flexibility in teaching. “In fact, under the Common Core, teachers have greater flexibility to design their classroom lessons—and can, for the first time, take advantage of the best practices from great teachers in other states.”

Contrary to Carson’s claim that the Common Core homogenizes learning, or forces teachers into a rigid model of instruction, the standards equip educators to meet their students’ needs by setting high, consistent learning goals and giving full control over how best to meet those targets to local authorities.