With High Standards, One Size Does Not Fit All
There is a common misconception shared among opponents that states having similarly high standards means our education system is a one-size-fits-all federal curriculum that fails to “treat children as what they are: unique individuals.”
These claims are not only false, but also ignore developments by lawmakers to ensure states have full control over what schools teach and how teachers teach it.
First, it is important to note that Common Core State Standards were developed by educators and experts from across the country under the leadership of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. Federal authorities had no hand in the development process.
Second, just because standards are consistent does not mean that teachers are forcing a one-size-fits-all education onto their students. 21 State Teachers of the Year wrote in Education Week, “The Common Core is not a federal takeover of our schools, nor does it force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instruction… 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 greater teachers in other states.”
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. This flexibility and creativity also allows them to customize – and individualize – their lesson plans to serve different students’ needs.
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 great video series that follows educators as they implement higher standards, writes that the assumption that 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.