The School Principal: State Standards versus Creativity

Article excerpt

The principal of the school has a plethora of challenges in the offing. He/she must abide by state laws when implementing state standards of instruction. These are handed down from the state and not selected on the local school level. State mandated objectives need to be adapted to be on the developmental level of the Involved learner. Learning opportunities chosen for implementing these objectives need to follow research from the psychology of learning. Thus, among other considerations, the learning opportunities need to be interesting, meaningful, and purposeful. Each student then needs to achieve as optimally as possible.

There is much written in professional educational journals about principals who carefully tow the line in implementing state mandates in the curriculum as compared to those who stress creative methods of instruction to achieve state wide goals of instruction. How much conformity to state mandated curricular objectives should there be in teaching/learning, as compared to novel, unique objectives in teaching and learning? The purpose of this paper is to examine both points of view and offer solutions to the dilemma. Conformity to what is mandated can be quite different as compared to a principal who is continually seeking unique ways to provide for individual differences in the classroom in order to improve the curriculum.

Statewide Mandates and the School Principal

Higher standards and expectations in having students achieve objectives is common to many states in the US. The prevailing beliefs are that students are achieving very minimally in the public schools. With statewide objectives stressed for students to achieve in the classroom, achievement will be upped. Teachers also need to expect more of learners. The pay off will come in terms of higher test scores within a state. Generally, the tests are written under the supervision of the state department of education. Student achievement may then be quickly scored with the tests having multiple choice test items. Machine scoring can make for large numbers of tests being scored rapidly.

Learning opportunities for students are to be aligned with the state mandated objectives. The teacher then selects the learning opportunities. Teaching quality is measured by student test results and scores. Generally, the scores are provided in terms of percentiles, although standard deviations, stanines, quartile deviations, and grade equivalents may also be used to indicate student achievement. Principals may be such strong advocates of students doing well on tests that little room is left for creative and critical thinking as well as problem solving experiences. Rather, rote learning, memorization of subject matter, and "what is on the test" may make up the total curriculum.

These principals believe that:

1. teachers need to stick to the basics in teaching so that students may do well on mandated tests.

2. teachers may need to stress rote learning if this is what it takes for high test results to come about from students.

3. teachers should refrain from covering student questions, which may not assist the latter in achieving higher test scores.

4. teachers should be assisted by the principal only, on what might be on the state mandated test.

5. teachers should not try out new ideas in teaching unless they help up student test scores.

6. teachers should not emphasize any subject matter not aligned with the state mandated test.

7. teachers need to be motivated to stick to items that may be related to what is on the sate mandated test.

8. teachers must realize that high test scores indicate high student achievement.

9. teachers need to face up to the reality that high test scores are equated with good teaching by the lay public.

10. teachers need to be remunerated for their services based on test results of students. Teacher accountability for high student test scores is to be equated with the proficient teacher (Ediger, 1999, 233-240). …