Just this week I’ve read two blogs about whether the Common Core State Standards encourage or inhibit creativity on the part of students and teachers. One blog written by Lexington, Kentucky educator Rene Boss posited that the standards themselves are neutral and that it is the instructional decisions teachers make that determine whether compliance or creativity rule the day: http://reneeboss.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-common-core-is-not-problem-nor-is.html. The other written by CTL’s Drew Perkins offers a similar viewpoint: http://ctlonline.org/creatively-common-at-the-core/ and includes two related videos.
I find it interesting that we continue to have a discussion about compliance and the role of standards in the accountability movement. Several years ago I was invited to Beijing to address a conference of principals of the 400 highest performing high schools. My task was to describe how in our country we develop creativity and entrepreneurship among our students. The Chinese Ministry noted that while their high schools give students a firm grounding in math and science, the students lack the ability to think independently or create. Their perception is that the U.S. does a much better job of developing these abilities in their students. If China really wants to become a world leader the thinking goes, their schools need to prepare students differently.
I find it particularly ironic that while the Chinese believe we have a talent for developing creativity, our national conversation about educational reform is focused on ever-stricter definitions of curriculum, curricular pacing guides and every student on the same page at the same time. It seems the very thing we are admired for is the thing we are at most risk of losing.
I acknowledge that as a nation we want students to learn more than they are currently learning, but there is not agreement on how to achieve that goal. Is it through a more prescriptive curriculum and increased testing? Or can the Common Core State Standards be viewed as a set of goals for what students should know and be able to do, with lots of latitude on how to reach those goals? My perspective is that you provide a rich and deep learning experience for students where they have a stake in what they are learning and can guide the process with the help of their teachers. I am not alone in this viewpoint. In the midst of all the discussion about test scores and targets, there is a countervailing conversation at the local, state and federal level about providing students with a different kind of educational experience that prepares them to be the citizens and leaders for tomorrow.
Following is a link to a video that shows teachers and students in the kind of school I envision for my children, but at age 23 and almost 17, not one they will experience. My belief is the learning that characterizes Sammamish High School in Bellevue, Washington will foster a depth of understanding of the Common Core, so that the tests will take care of themselves. See what you think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Tlg-nsGi7V0#!.