High Standards Support Critical and Creative Thinking for Students


A recent letter to the editor to the Lancaster Online in Lancaster, PA suggests that Common Core State Standards have ruined the education of younger generations leading students to confusion, stress, and lack of critical thinking.  As Emily Ditzler wrote, “I hope young children will have an opportunity to realize the importance of critical thinking; it seems to be a dying art.”

Most teachers and parents would disagree with that sentiment, finding that high, comparable standards are fostering greater creativity and critical thinking than ever before.

Higher standards do not “force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instruction,” more than 20 State Teachers of the Year wrote previously. “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.”

High, comparable standards are designed to be “less prescriptive” than many states’ old standards, US News & World Report notes. “For example, the English language arts standards don’t prescribe novel or non-fiction selections. Instead, they gradually push students to more deeply understand and reflect on what they read, using texts of the teachers’ or districts’ choosing.”

As to the writer’s suggestion of “confusion” among students, she should know that Common Core State Standards were developed by educators and experts to ensure age-appropriate learning goals that prepare students to become college- and career-ready.  Common Core State Standards do set rigorous learning goals for students. They also give educators full control and the creativity to help students meet those goals.

In addition, the curricular materials, like textbooks and homework assignments, are decided by local educators. As former Alabama Governor Bob Riley points out, if parents have concerns about materials assigned for their children, they need to go to their local schools to address those.

In 2013, Cindy Long wrote for the National Education Association that the Common Core is good for students because it “ratchets up rigor,” “gives students a deep dive,” and “puts creativity back in the classroom.” We are now seeing real signs that these standards are working in states choosing to use them.  Let’s not go back to old myths proven false.