Thursday, October 16, 2014

Must We Standardize Creativity?

Some policy makers, education bureaucrats, and pundits use crisis-laden narratives that the public education system is in collapse and make calls for the overhaul of public education. They send a message about a lack of global competitiveness and impending economic slowdown and often use rankings from international tests as their example of a faltering education system. Their solutions coalesce around programs that seek to standardize, control, and homogenize public education via programs like the Common Core State Standards and national testing under the banners of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

There seem to be some underlying assumptions with the proposed solutions for perceived low levels of global competitiveness proffered by some policy makers, education bureaucrats, and pundits: 1) International test rankings are worth pursuing; and 2) standardized programs will increase the creativity of students in United States public schools. Colleagues and I have dealt with the first claim in multiple arenas. The second claim is more interesting to me because data exist that raise questions about that assumption.

Multiple down-stream indicators of overall creativity from students who were educated without curriculum standards and large amounts of imposed state testing exist that allow us to get a sense a of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship from a less standardized system of education from the accomplishments of adults ages 27 to 38. One indicator is the Global Creativity Index, produced by the Martin Prosperity Institute (2011). The United States ranked second behind Sweden, and ahead of countries like Finland, Denmark, Australia, Norway, Japan, Germany, and Singapore. China ranked 58th.

The United States ranked third on the overall Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (Acs & Szerb, 2010), behind Denmark and Canada and ahead of countries like Japan, China, Singapore, and Finland. The United States ranked sixth on the index of Entrepreneurial Attitudes, behind countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and Sweden. The United States ranked ahead of Finland, Norway, Germany, Japan, and Singapore. The United States ranked first on the Entrepreneurial Aspirations Index and sixth in the world on turning those aspirations into reality once again ahead of Japan, Germany, Singapore, and Finland.

The Global Innovation Index ranked the United States fifth in the world behind Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Netherlands (Dutta & Lanvin, 2013). China ranked 35th. Some other outcomes of creativity and innovation include utility patents. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (2012), the United States was granted 121,026 utility patents in 2012. The rest of the world combined for 132,129 utility patents, only 11,103 more than the United States alone.

The number of scientific papers published is a leading indicator of creativity, albeit scientific creativity, and innovation. And, contrary to the assumption that the U.S. is lagging in creativity due to a lack of standardization, U.S. scientists – ranking first in the world – published 3,049,662 scientific papers in 2011 (Thomson Reuters, 2011). Citations provide an indicator of the level of acceptance of scientific ideas and also of how well those ideas have been vetted and determined to be worth pursuing. Papers from U.S. scientists garnered 48,862,100 citations. For more click here.

Christopher Tienken, Ed.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education Leadership, Management, and Policy at Seton Hall University. Tienken's research interests include school reform issues such as Neo-liberal influences in education policy-making, the influence of curriculum design and development on student achievement, and the use of high-stakes standardized tests as decision-making tools to determine school quality and student learning.

The Forum on the Future of Public Education strives to bring the best empirical evidence to policymakers and the public. The Forum draws on a network of premier scholars to create, interpret, and disseminate credible information on key questions facing P-20 education.

No comments: