Teachers and Parents Know Higher Standards Create Greater Flexibility, Creativity

Neha Ogale and Alex Mazarr have a new piece in Collegiate Times contending that “one of the most problematic aspects of public education lies in standardized testing.”  In addition to supporting their argument with the fallacies that testing only measures “memorization” and stifles creativity, the two writers believe that in “the system as it exists today, students have essentially become cogs in a big factory — one that often churns out little more than test scores, grades and disillusionment.”

The piece includes almost too many inaccuracies for us to address in such a small space, but we grabbed some of the most puzzling.

First, the writers contend that the efforts of states to pursue higher-quality assessments came about in the second George W. Bush administration and were further fortified by the Obama administration.  However, schools have used assessments for decades to measure student growth.  As Bill Bennett pointed out, that theory “flies in the face of what many education reformers — both Republicans and Democrats — have agreed on for decades: that standardized testing is essential to evaluate the performance of students across districts, states, and countries with the purpose of giving parents and teachers an accurate picture of their child’s performance.”

Another fallacy promoted by the writers is that “the Common Core standards of education are levels of proficiency in reading and math that the government requires every student to meet.”  High, comparable standards were never ‘signed into law’ or required by the federal government or states.  High standards have always been implemented by the discretion of the states and they remain, as always, voluntary.  In fact, the Every Student Succeeds Act, ensures that states retain the lead and flexibility to establish their own accountability standards.

Finally, let’s address the authors’ presumption and rather non-creative argument that assessments lead to a “stifling of creativity in favor of rote memorization.” As we have discussed in the past, and as many parents and teachers have voiced, higher standards create greater flexibility and creativity.  In fact, more than 20 Teachers of the Year defended using high, comparable standards arguing, “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.”  And it’s not just teachers who see the value in the high-quality assessments and standards, students’ parents are also calling for them.

If there’s anything lacking in creativity, it’s Ogale and Mazarr’s piece.  They are using the same old myths against high standards already disproven time and time again.