State raises education bar

But teachers forced to teach to new standards might have to curb successful teaching styles.

With many states struggling to meet standards implemented by the No Child Left Behind Act in their primary and secondary school systems, Minnesota is lucky to claim some of the most highly qualified teachers in the country. And now, those teachers will be required to teach to new standards the State Legislature set last year.

Following the national trend of teaching a more fact-based curriculum, which is easier to test than performance-based standards, teachers will increase drill-and-practice math problems while assigning fewer word problems, as well as emphasize Latin and Greek root words in English. English literature got a boost in the new standards as well, which requires more students to read William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer.

High school students will also have to alter some of their class choices to graduate. Students must take more math and science courses, as well as more art classes, which will crack down on students who avoid ceramics at all costs and those who slide through high school.

The new credit requirements will be beneficial to many students. An increasing number of jobs today relying on a working knowledge of science, technology and math, so it is good to make students take more of those classes. There will always be students who benefit from specialized programs geared more toward one discipline or another, and hopefully, those schools will be able to meet these standards while retaining their focus.

The resulting shift toward “teaching to tests,” however, is not good. Without solving practical-application problems in math class, students are likely to lose sight of why they are learning – in the real world, all math problems are word problems.

Teachers forced to teach to the new standards might have to curb their successful, creative curriculums in favor of more rote learning – this has already happened with the implementation of standardized national performance tests. It is unfortunate these creative, popular teachers might be stifled.

Overall, Minnesota’s new curriculum standards will ensure the state is leading the nation in education – but legislators must be mindful there are costs as well.