We have recently created the new Common Core standards. Government bureaucrats and administrators are constantly creating new standards or adapting old standards. I’d like to ask a question: Why?
The act of changing standards creates a number of ripple effects. Every time we change standards, school districts must change their curricula. Every time we change standards, textbook and software publishers can adapt their materials, creating revised materials that they then tell school districts are necessary purchases since the new materials match the new standards on which district performance will be judged. Every time we change standards, teachers are forced to revise and adapt lessons that they have tweaked and worked with over time, lessons with previous track records of success.
How much benefit do parents and taxpayers derive from this ongoing shifting of standards? The costs from these changes to standards are proving high, especially when opportunity costs are taken into account. How much lesson planning time has been sacrificed to the need to work on new curriculum committees in school districts across the nation? I have worked on a number of these committees.
I would contend that standards have little reason to change in most areas. With the exception of technology, what we need to teach now remains remarkably similar to what we needed to teach 50 years ago. Calculus has not changed and the rules of grammar have changed very little. Certainly we have seen new discoveries in science that need to be added to our curricula, as well as a technological explosion that requires its own set of standards, but many recent changes to the standards also appear to be attempts to reinvent the wheel. I suspect it is no coincidence that the new PARCC standards were created with the help of a publishing company that now gets to sell new materials to school districts across the nation.