Must Content Standards and Accountability Be in Conflict with Creativity?
The past two decades have seen a major and unrelenting call for more testing of students and more explicit and more detailed content standards that form the framework for such assessment. Although No Child Left Behind legislation has played a prominent role in recent educational policy formulations, federal mandates have not been the only force pushing for greater accountability (Fuhrman, 2001; Ladd, 1996). This movement includes both state initiatives and nongovernmental, nationwide efforts such as the Core Knowledge Foundation's Core Knowledge Sequence (Core Knowledge Foundation, 1998; Hirsch, 1987, 1991, 1996) and, most recently, the Common Core State Standards. Although this latter initiative, which has been adopted by almost all the states, was started and promoted heavily by the National Governors Association for Best Practices and the Council of Chief School Officers (2014a, 2014b, 2014c), it has become a very divisive political issue, even within the ranks of its supporters (American Federation of Teachers, 2013; Beghetto, Kaufman, & Baer, 2015; Porter, McMaken, Hwang, & Yang, 2011; Strauss, 2013). We will not argue the merit (or lack thereof) of either an increasing reliance on standardized testing or the wisdom of fine-grained, grade-by-grade content standards. That debate is ongoing, and for the moment we will take the current situation, and a near-term future that seems to be heading toward ever more explicit content standards, as a given that any educational goals or activities must acknowledge and (to some extent at least) accommodate. We will argue that these initiatives (both the focus on explicit and detailed content standards and the standardized test-based accountability to which these standards are often closely linked) need not doom the teaching and promotion of creativity in the classroom. Teaching for creativity and detailed required content standards can coexist quite comfortably, and although they may seem at times to be working at cross purposes (and indeed, this is sometimes the case), they just as often work synergistically, such that teaching for creativity helps meet content standards goals, and teaching detailed content knowledge can reinforce and enhance student creativity.