American Education is provided mainly by the government, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. At the primary and secondary school levels, curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through locally elected school boards with jurisdiction over school districts. School districts can be (but are not always) coextensive with counties or municipalities. Educational standards and standardized testing decisions are usually made by the states through acts of the state legislature and governor, and decisions of the state departments of education.
Education of the learning disabled, blind, deaf, and emotionally disturbed is structured to adhere as closely as possible to the same experience received by normal students. Blind and deaf students usually have separate classes in which they spend most of their day, but may sit in on normal classes with guides or interpreters. The learning disabled often attend for the same amount of time as other students; however, they also usually spend most of their day in separate classrooms, commonly known as special education or special ed; here they often receive extra instruction or perform easier work.
The goal of these programs, however, is to try and bring everyone up to the same standard and provide equal opportunity to those students who are challenged. Some students are identified early on as having dyslexia or being significantly slower learners than other students. The federal government supports the standards developed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. The law mandates that schools must accommodate students with disabilities as defined by the act, and specifies methods for funding the sometimes large costs of providing them with the necessary facilities.
Larger districts are often able to provide more adequate and quality care for those with special needs. It was noted that the country has a low literacy rate as compared with other developed countries, with a reading literacy rate at 86-98% of the population over age 15, while ranking below average in science and mathematics understanding. The poor performance has pushed public and private efforts such as the No Child Left Behind Act.
In addition, the ratio of college-educated adults entering the workforce to general population (33%) is slightly below the mean of other developed countries (35%) and rate of participation of the labor force in continuing education is high. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, all American states must test students in public schools statewide to ensure that they are achieving the desired level of minimum education, such as on the Regents Examinations in New York or the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA); students being educated at home or in private schools are not included.
The Act also requires that students and schools show “adequate yearly progress. ” This means they must show some improvement each year. Although these tests may have revealed the results of student learning, they may have little value to help strengthen the students’ academic weakness. For example, in most states, the results of the testing would not be known until six months later. At that time, the students have been promoted to the next grade or entering a new school.
The students are not given a chance to review the questions and their own answers but their percentile of the test results as compare to their own peers. There are several undesirable phenomena seen in the administration of the testing. In Illinois, for example, the state government delegates the printing and distribution of the test questions and booklets to private companies . There are questions about the security of the tests through this management.
In 2006, some school districts did not receive the test questions until after other school districts had finished the tests weeks later. During high school, students, usually in their junior (That is, third) year (11th grade), may take one or more standardized tests depending on their postsecondary education preferences and their local graduation requirements. In theory, these tests evaluate the overall level of knowledge and learning aptitude of the students. The SAT and ACT are the most common standardized tests that students take when applying to college.
A student may take the SAT, ACT, or both depending upon the college the student plans to apply to for admission. Most competitive schools also require two or three SAT Subject Tests, (formerly known as SAT IIs), which are shorter exams that focus strictly on a particular subject matter. However, all these tests serve little to no purpose for students who do not move on to postsecondary education, so they can usually be skipped without affecting one’s ability to graduate
However, many conservatives believe that American public education is in poor shape today because of cultural and social trends, most beginning in the 1960s, which destroyed classroom discipline, the moral basis for education, and a national consensus on what students should learn. There is some truth in this proposition, but ultimately it fails to explain why American students do not possess the communication and computational skills they need today to succeed in college or in the working world. By any standard, California students are observed to be not performing up to their full abilities.
While some within the public school system claim that poor performance is due to inadequate government spending on education, more in-depth research demonstrates that such is not the case. The Pacific Research Institute’s California Index of Leading Education Indicators compiles data on the performance of students in California’s public education system. The findings in the Index reveal that poor student performance is the result not of too few taxpayer dollars, but of poor policy decisions by government education officials.
Reform blockers of the American political system advantages those who prefer the status quo, which is why so little has changed in American education Twenty years ago “A Nation at Risk” set off alarms about the quality of America’s schools, and ever since our country has been caught up in a frenzy of education reform. But the frenzy hasn’t produced much, After untold billions of dollars and lofty reform packages too numerous to list, very little has been accomplished. Why such disappointing results?
Many factors are no doubt responsible, but much of the answer rests with the politics of education. The problem is that, with rare exceptions, reforms that make it through the political process tend to be those that are acceptable to establish. Terry M. Moe , Mar 22, 2003 Further more he stated that “the teachers unions have more influence over the public schools than any other group in American society. They influence schools from the bottom up, through collective bargaining activities that shape virtually every aspect of school organization.
And they influence schools from the top down, through political activities that shape government policy. They are the 800-pound gorillas of public education. Yet the American public is largely unaware of how influential they are–and how much they impede efforts to improve public schools. The problem is not that the unions are somehow bad or ill-intentioned. They aren’t. The problem is that when they simply do what all organizations do–pursue their own interests–they are inevitably led to do things that are not in the best interests of children.
To appreciate why this is so, consider the parallel to business firms. No one claims that these organizations are in business to promote the public interest. They are in business to make money, and this is the fundamental interest that drives their behavior”. Terry M. Moe | Jan 22, 2005. The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 13 On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math test (last administered in 1996), 54 percent of California fourth graders scored below a basic ability level.
The average test score of those taking the fourth-grade math surpassed only the average scores of students in Louisiana and Mississippi. While the 1994 NAEP reading test, the average test score of California fourth graders ranked at the very bottom of all states, tied for last with Louisiana. Not only did 59 percent of all California fourth graders score “below basic,” an even more appalling 71 percent of African American fourth graders and 81 percent of Hipic fourth graders scored below basic.
Interesting performance indicator is the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores of public versus private high school students. From 1987 to 1995, the average verbal score of public high school SAT takers in California dropped from 421 to 412 (with a low of 408) in 1994, while public school SAT math scores stayed constant at 485. Over that same time period, however, the average verbal score of parochial high school SAT takers increased from 432 to 442, while parochial school math scores increased from 464 to 484.
Similarly, both the average verbal and math scores of independent private school SAT takers increased during that period. (See Figure 1. ) The public and private school systems seem to be headed in opposite directions, which is why school vouchers are becoming a more attractive option. The rhetoric of school reform often ignores the crucial role of individual decisions (by students, by parents, by business owners, by educators) in determining educational outcomes. You can lead a horse to water, the old adage goes, but you can’t make him drink.
It’s a folksy way of imparting an important individualist truth. Providing students opportunities at school does not guarantee success if students watch television rather than do their homework – and parents let them. By assuming that any set of reform ideas can magically create a well-educated citizenry, we oversell the role of policy-making. Education requires initiative, a trait notoriously difficult to create or impose. American business leaders began to see a decentralized, “patchwork” education system as a liability in international competition. U. S.
manufacturers, especially, saw the rise of Germany as a significant economic threat and sought to imitate that country’s new system of state-run trade schools. In 1905, the National Association of Manufacturers editorialized that “the nation that wins success in competition with other nations must train its youths in the arts of production and distribution. ” German education, it concluded, was “at once the admiration and fear of all countries. ” American business, together with the growing labor movement, pressed Congress to dramatically expand federal spending on education, especially for vocational instruction.
Also, business and education leaders began to apply new principles of industrial organization to education, such as top-down organization and a “factory-floor” model in which administrators, teachers, and students all had a place in producing a standardized “final product. ” These leaders created professional bureaucracies to devise and implement policy. Perhaps the most important boosters of America’s new public education system were what we might today call “cultural conservatives. ” The turn of the century, after all, was a time of tremendous immigration.
As more and more immigrants arrived in America, bringing with them a plethora of languages, cultural traditions, and religious beliefs, American political leaders foresaw the potential dangers of Balkanization. The public education system, once designed primarily to impart skills and knowledge, took on a far more political and social role. It was to provide a common culture and a means of inculcating new Americans with democratic values. Public schools, in other words, were to be a high-pressure “melting pot” to help America avoid the dismal fate of other multi-national polities.
American political leaders were all too familiar with the Balkan Wars of the early 1900s, and were intent on avoiding a similar fate. Educators today lack the tools for dealing with unruly children thanks to two supreme court decisions of the late 1960’s and 1970’s. The bureaucratic lament that curriculums need to be revised, salaries should be raised, money should be poured into the system, teachers are not qualified, teachers salaries should be tied to students’ performances, are not the reasons for students not learning. Rather it is a lack of discipline in the classroom.
One decision declared that schools do not have ‘absolute authority’ over their students and the other that a school had violated students’ ‘free speech’ by suspending them for not adhering to the school’s dress code. To compound the situation students have learned quickly that if a school official does something they do not like they can sue or just threaten to sue with sometimes very telling results. More importantly, the ever-present threat of lawsuits transforms a teacher from an active, authority figure into a fearful, hapless, down-trodden passive public servant.
Discipline is key to learning and acquiring skills to be prepared for the rigorous task of facing the world. It certainly was in place and largely effective before the tumultuous ’60’s came along and “discipline” became sinister in connotation. Today classroom disruption is no longer of the mundane sort – feet on the desk, loud talking, noise-making and fighting. Schools are now dealing with sex offenders, pistol packing students, cursing, students and/or parents fighting with teachers and litigation, all of which undermine the teaching profession.
When discipline goes out of the window, the pillars of civility get pushed aside. The universal moral values of self-control, self- respect, and respect for others and for property cease to exist. The door is flung wide open for all types of self-serving stress. Counselors, psychologists, psychoanalysts, television commentators, lawyers and many charlatans too, first on the scene of every school tragedy, screaming the blindingly obvious, blaming one parent, two parents, dysfunctional and functional, poor and not so poor families for the troubles of society’s young, and creating more chaos than calm in the lives of the young.
The Solution There was a time when schools were counted always for stability, discipline, knowledge, caring and shaping the minds of young people. In addition, schools forged cohesive societies with very clear-shared values that conferred a sense of worth on all. That sense of worth could be revisited by a restoration of discipline; by teachers and parents working together, to make educating children their number one priority in life; by a system that instills character and spirituality and equips each student with cultural skills.
The quest for social improvement and for making societies better rests with the future generation and if students are to have a sense of social responsibility and desire to live up to social obligations, then they must be armed with a real education premised on discipline. The alternative is not to be savoured. References Judy Gelbrich, OSU . 1999 – School of Education. Section II – American Education Part 1. Colonial America Patricia Caton (562) Technical Contact: [email protected] edu 951- 4807 Peter Sacks, Standardized Minds: The High Price of America’s Testing Culture
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