Educators Are Using Higher Standards to Foster Creativity in Classrooms


State commitments to raising education standards have created a system that funnels students “through a uniform pipeline,” argues Jessica Moore in the Maine Campus.

“By teaching all students the same way, we fail to foster the diversity which is so critical to society’s success… Have we forgotten the importance of being different?” Students aren’t able to learn at their own pace, Moore argues, “which overlooks the late bloomers, stifles the gifted and fails to engage people who learn in unconventional ways.”

Contrary to Moore’s argument, however, educators overwhelmingly say that rigorous and comparable education standards foster creativity and flexibility in schools and allow for greater collaboration with fellow educators.

High standards do not “force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instruction,” 21 State Teachers of the Year explain. In fact, “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 popular perception, Common Core was designed to be less prescriptive than many states’ previous standards,” US News & World Report explained last year. In math, the standards give “students the ability to choose flexibility from different calculation and problem-solving strategies in the same way most of us do when we encounter math in real life.”

To help his students meet the expectations of North Carolina’s education standards, Michael Bonner, a second grade teacher at South Greenville Elementary School, took a unique approach: he had his students create a music video. Bonner’s project is one of many examples of teachers using higher standards to deliver innovative approaches to learning.

By the same token, consistent education standards allow teachers to collaborate with fellow educators in other states and districts and to share best practices to formulate plans to unlock students’ full potential.

“Within schools, educators are encouraging students to apply skills across subjects and helping to reinforce foundational skills by integrating concepts from one class to the next,” Eric Slifstein, a P.E. teacher in New York wrote last year. “In physical education classes we are able to bolster many concepts through lively, hands-on activities… What’s more, for many students who struggle with concepts on paper, applying them to physical activity often helps make it ‘click.’”

Evidence suggests that efforts to raise classroom expectations are beginning to come to fruition. This year, most states administered assessments aligned to higher standards for the second consecutive year. A majority made significant improvements in student proficiency, and some of the biggest gains came among third graders, who have spent most of their education learning to higher standards.

“While there are numerous factors that affect student scores, and it is still too early to make definitive declarations, the 2016 assessments suggest that the promise of higher academic standards—whatever they may be called—is working,” Jim Cowen explains. To turn back on that progress would be a mistake.