Higher Standards Are Fostering Creativity, Critical Thinking In Schools


Criticizing federal regulations governing teacher preparation programs (it’s unrealistic all teachers can be “great educators,” the author says), Allen Singer pans state efforts to build critical thinking skills in an opinion piece published by the Huffington Post.

“Somehow critical thinking is supposed to emerge from packaged standardized instruction and assessments delivered by semi-skilled automatons to well-controlled students. Anyone who knows schools and students knows this is highly unlikely,” the piece claims.

Contrary to Singer’s suggestion that states’ implementation of higher standards limits effective instruction, educators have overwhelmingly argued that they now have greater flexibility and room to be creative – which they are using to help students build strong analytical and critical thinking skills.

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 teacher’s or district’s choosing.”

Joe Fatheree, who spent a year making a video series that follows educators as they implement higher standards, writes that the assumption new learning goals somehow limit teacher autonomy are wrong.

“The outcome that excited me the most was having the opportunity to see how many different creative ways the instructors were using the Common Core State Standards to empower their students with the skills they need to find success in the 21st century,” Fatheree writes.

States are now beginning to see student performance improve. This year, a majority of states experienced increases in student proficiency rates in math and English language arts on assessments aligned to higher standards. Importantly, some of the biggest improvements were made by third-grade students, who have spent most or all of their educational careers 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.