Curriculum stifles creativity and holds students back

February 12, 2019

According to Patricia Braunstein, a history teacher at Carlmont, the push towards standardizing the curriculum across the district has been a trend throughout the 21st century since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed in 2001. 

“I have been here 26 years and when I first got here, the curriculum was much more open to the teacher’s discretion; I don’t recall anyone telling me what to teach. We each shaped our curriculum on our own interpretation and what we felt important and logical,” Braunstein said. “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 started to change things. This law made states more accountable to Federal mandate that all kids get basic education and be up to grade level.”

Many states, including California, continue the work of the No Child Left Behind Act by pushing for stricter standards.

“There was a giant district push to analyze our scores and align our curriculum, throughout the district, schools, departments, and teachers,” Braunstein said. “There was much less free will about what to teach. Since then, it has continued. Each department has had to have detailed conversations about what we teach, so that each subject area, no matter which teacher, teaches a curriculum that is consistent with each other.”

Jeromey Klein, a freshman at UC San Diego, expanded on how testing and standardization has impacted the classroom.

“Unfortunately, the current education system rewards potential over practical knowledge and experience,” Klein said.

Despite its positive implications, the emphasis on testing and increasing standards has stifled creativity in the classroom and has negatively impacted the effectiveness of educational instruction.”

— Jeromey Klein

According to Education Next, the stricter regulations surrounding the curriculum showed a 6 percent increase in math test scores among eighth graders in 2010. However, there was a 4 percent decline in the reading test scores. This finding suggests that these regulations may be strengthening the logical skills of students but fails to expand upon disciplines that require more subjective and critical thinking.

The current curriculum at Carlmont is holding some people back from reaching their full potential, both in test scores and in the classes they want to take.

Darren Yao, a sophomore at Carlmont, wanted to take AP Physics but was met with pushback by the administration.

“I already took Physics at Cañada College. But [Carlmont’s administration] said that AP physics would be repeating the college physics class I took, despite the fact that AP Physics uses a different type of math,” said Darren Yao, a sophomore.

Cassandra Areff, a sophomore, faced a similar problem with getting into AP Physics and Multivariable Calculus.

“I took a lot of math classes in middle school, and so there were also a lot of parents who also wanted their kids in [AP Calculus in freshman year]. It was kind of like a battle with the math department, but in the end, they were really helpful because they helped us to take a placement test and get into BC calculus,” Areff said.

She also agrees that the standardization of the curriculum is holding some people back from expanding their knowledge at their own pace.

“I feel like they should reassess some of the classes,” Areff said. “I feel like there shouldn’t be grade restrictions on classes because it doesn’t really matter what grade you’re in. Your understanding of a subject matters more.”

Yao shared a similar sentiment about the restrictions on the amount and difficulty of the classes he could take.

“I do think the school is holding me back because AP Physics is useful for what I plan on studying in the future,” Yao said.

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