Tuesday, April 26, 2011

National education standards will stifle innovation

My most recent education policy op-ed, "National education standards will stifle innovation," appeared today in the Michigan Education Report, a publication of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. In it, I write:

"Strict standards risk forcing students and teachers alike into a curricular straitjacket, alienating creative teachers and sapping the motivation of students. It is worth remembering that standards are nothing more than the products of committees of education “experts” quibbling around a conference table about which curriculum objectives to attach to each grade level. The term “grade level” is virtually synonymous with age, and any list of skills and knowledge all students must possess by a specific age is bound to be somewhat arbitrary.

It isn’t just “at-risk” students who have trouble moving through an arbitrary curriculum at an arbitrary rate; all students learn at their own paces, and individual students usually progress at different rates in different subjects. Most students do not fit the artificial mold of slow progress from “grade level” to “grade level,” accumulating skills and content knowledge at the same rate as the average child born in the same year.

Rigid, uniform and centrally designed curriculum standards make the curriculum less agile and flexible, less able to respond to the needs of students. The stricter the standards regime, the less schools are able to meet individual students where they are — a necessary first step to helping students grow academically."

The article also argues that the centralization of decisions about curriculum also risks making the teaching profession less attractive. You can read the entire article here.

If you enjoy the article, please pass it along to others who might be interested.  Thanks, as always, for reading.