I've had a lot of parents ask, "What is the difference between ISI and USFSA Curriculums?" And I see this question a lot on various forums and Ask Boards. Here's my opinion on it:
ISI is Goal Oriented.
USFSA is Process Oriented.
Let's say the Goal is forward Crossovers... okay. This seems reasonable. It's a concrete thing; we can look at a skater and say, "Yes, she is doing forward crossovers."
But by focusing on the Goal/Element, we lose the Process. I've never stopped working on forward crossovers. Instead of just putting one foot over the other, now I have arm position, body position, free foot elevation and free foot turnout, placement and holding of the skating foot/free foot, and head position to think about. If my butt muscles hurt the day after, I know I did it right. Because Forward Crossover isn't itself a Goal, it is a part of the Process to a Progressive.
USFSA likes the Process of a Forward Crossover, because the process begins with "Glide on one foot," then "Glide on an FO edge on a circle," and finally, "Cross over." The Process makes it easier to graduate to a Progressive; since you're already so comfy on that FO edge, you're more willing to let it slide out behind you on that Progressive. It doesn't seem so insane when Coach has you try it.
ISI just goes for broke and says, "Cross over." And then is when we see kids gliding on a LFO and trying to cross Left over Right and getting confused and frustrated. ISI sets a list of given goals, and assumes that a skater will "connect the dots" so to speak, and intuitively Get the Process as they go. And some skaters can do this and do it very well. Others, like me, need more. This isn't saying one group is dumb and the other smart, it's simply that people learn differently.
I, for example, would have really appreciated some serious time devoted to two-foot turns before I spent six months struggling with FO3's. Now, I take a page from USFSA Basic Skills and spend time on Back to Forward Two Foot turns, just to get comfortable with the motion. I have no intention of repeating the same agony with Back 3's as I did with Forward 3's.
My old coach hated Shoot the Duck. Said it was useless and never had me practice it to any degree.
My new coach made Shoot the Duck as part of my warmup. I do them forwards and backwards on both feet.
Why the difference?
Sit Spins. Shoot the Duck is a part of the Process of doing a good Sit Spin. I knew this from the get-go, and practiced Shoot the Duck anyway, even though Old Coach told me not to bother.
Shoot The Duck is not itself a Goal, it is a part of the Process towards an element down the line.
In fact, one of Old Coach's Former Students called the Sit Spin the $3000 spin, she had so much trouble with it. Could it be that a critical part of the process (learning to do a solid one legged lateral squat in skates) had been omitted?
There are those who disagree with me. That's fine. I can agree to disagree. But I can say what has worked for me, and that's a Process Oriented method, one that doesn't focus on completion of individual steps and elements. Anyone can balance on one foot in skates. Not everyone can do Edge Pulls with ferocity, which is really the only way they get done. Anyone can do crossovers, not everyone can graduate that into pretty Crossrolls.
That having been said, this should answer another question I get asked, "What level are you?"
My rink operates with the ISI curriculum. I don't like it, so I try to operate outside of it. I'm not interested in testing through ISI. I'm gearing up to test USFSA Pre-Bronze MIF (and possibly Freeskate if I can get a Salchow and my spin happening with regularity) this year. I can do elements up to Adult Silver MIF, which is great but I need to get on this whole Jumping bandwagon pretty soon. My best jump right now is a Toe Loop.
So, the answer to that question is, "Don't know, don't care." I can skate pretty good, so let's go with that.