Standardization tends to loom as the big scary Boogeyman in the realm of education. It sweeps through states with eerie swiftness and, in its wake, leaves a wreckage of scantrons and distressed educators, stripping the curricular landscape of all personalization and creativity. For as long as time can tell, standardization and localization have faced off as mortal enemies, but does it have to be this way? A new push for standardized education is sweeping the country, but is the Common Core still the same old monster in disguise?
Academic localization presents one of the most controversial oppositions to the Common Core State Standards. The idea affirms that specific regions have the best grasp of its own needs, resources, and interests and should thus have complete jurisdiction over its curriculum. For instance, a state rich in precious metals with 60% of its population interested in its thriving mining industry wants to tailor its K-12 education to this demand. The need to localize education makes perfect sense for this region, so why shouldn’t they fine-tune their instruction to adhere solely to their audience’s widespread interest?
It might seem that any form of standardization would inadvertently squash all potential to localize, but this is far from true. The Common Core State Standards highlight end skill results and assesses them with testing, while it also allows educators the freedom to integrate their own localized interests. The primary intent of the Common Core is to better prepare students for the “real world”, whether that is higher education or a trade career. If implemented effectively, students will graduate high school with a stronger grasp of core subjects in the context of their real-life applications. The key, however, lies in educators’ efforts to cohesively combine curricula. CCSS demand a higher level of mastery for subjects such as English Language Arts and Math. Many educators will unfortunately handle this by attacking each standard individually. Instead, the best remedy is integration and interdisciplinary instruction. For example, reading literacy can be integrated into a chemistry lesson regarding mining practices.
While the notion that standardized learning may limit localization holds some weight, it is in the hands of the educator to decide to what extent. Standardization and localization do not have to be mutually exclusive. A purpose of the Common Core State Standards is to allow a middle-ground that encourages personalization and unique differentiation that drives home in-depth learning.