From a reader:

For me the problem is not the common core standards, it is the amount of detail in them.

All of the Finnish National Standards for Math grades 1-9 fit on just 9 pages. In contrast, our K-8 Math Common Core Standards fit on 70 pages along with another 145 page appendix of requirements for grades 8-12. You could say that the US is easily 10 times more controlling in their standards.

This amount of detail reduces flexibility, ownership, and increases dependency on publishers and corporation produced curriculum and assessment. It leaves little room for education; to draw out and support the development of student’s unique talents. It leaves little time for teachers to realistically prepare thoughtful curriculum or accomodate for developmental differences. Instead it promotes a highly prescribed training of children.

In practice, preparing to be tested on the common core standards will now become the sole agenda for school. Micro-managing teaching and learning in this way invites a shallow, cursory covering of topics.

In contrast, Finland trusts its teachers and communities to continually develop and improve their own curriculum and assessments guided by broad, simple standards. National testing is only done for diagnostic purposes and has absolutely no implications for individual students or teachers.

This trust and broader leeway invites ownership and flexibility. It gives time for teachers to deeply know the developmental needs of their learners and for students to fully and robustly master concepts, rather than covering a huge unrealistic laundry list that can only happen in a perfect world with perfect students.

The effort to bring clarity and purpose to our educational system as a whole is important. But as every parent and teacher knows, over-controlling, micro-management results in lack of engagement and growth. Trust and simple, ongoing, predictable structure foster responsibility, engagement and optimal growth.

Do we want a nation of highly trained children, or highly educated children?