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The American Education System Analysis Essay

“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to create a menace in society. “- Theodore Roosevelt. Education is a pillar of modern, post-industrial society. Education has been the crown jewel coveted by individuals looking to make their mark on society; such as Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. Education is also the means by which individuals have become enlightened, such as Martin Luther, instigator of the Protestant Reformation. Recently, the focus of education in our country has changed.

President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has weakened the once prized culture of American public schools, changing its focus from education to fabrication. This policy has damaged the American education system, weakening the nation’s position of education on the international level. Ironic since the policy was intended to keep our nation globally competitive (Klein). In order to remain competitive in this global economy, the United States must evaluate the state of our classrooms and subsequently break down the barriers hindering the potential of our nation’s education system.

Presidential administrations have emphasized the importance of public education for the past 20 years. The Clinton Administration boasted “higher standards” during Bill Clinton’s period in office, as well as “hiring quality teachers” and to “reduce class size”. The Clinton Administration introduced GEAR UP, a program to increase college availability to low income students economically as well as within schools on an educational basis.

Also, the administration introduced the e-rate and the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, both focusing on integrating technology into the school system (The Clinton… Opportunity). Overall, the Clinton administration passed a number of smaller, more focused set of education policies over Bill Clinton’s 8 years, quite the contrary to the next presidential administration. In 2001, President George W. Bush enacted the No Child Left Behind Act, about a year after his election.

According to Secretary of Education Condoleezza Rice, the primary focus of this sweeping policy was the following: holding high schools “accountable” for student success, improving schools with high poverty status, putting a “qualified” teacher in every classroom, raising the rigor of high school classes, and preparing students for the “future” and expanding the options of families. This term “accountable” references some of the following: using standardized tests to measure progress as well as using graduation rates to measure progress.

The policy also advocated a greater focus on the “post-educational career”, which was followed by a greater weight on reading and mathematics. After the enactment of the policy, core teachers were required to have more “qualifications” in order to acquire or retain their jobs. The primary means by which the Bush Administration planned to attain its achievement goal was through Title I funds. These are funds provided by the federal government concentrated on aiding the most racially, mentally and economically disadvantaged students in America (Klein).

In terms of the “accountability” issue, the administration introduced a means by which they could hold schools and teachers accountable: Adequate Yearly Progress measurement or AYP. This piece of the policy makes schools give annual reports on the progress of disadvantaged students (Rice). These reports have generally been beneath the new standards demanded by the policy. In the policy states are required to identify at least 5 percent of schools as “priority schools” and 10 percent as “focus schools”, both of which the policy states may require change in leadership (Klein).

It is important to note the general usage of the term “higher standards”. There is no requirement as to what “higher standards” are, nor are there uidelines as to how to determine these standards. This “loophole” of sorts has led to the fabrication crisis following the enactment of the policy. At this point in time, over a decade after the original implementation of NCLB, the effects on the culture of our school system has become apparent. Probably the most wellknown and most obvious of these changes is the increased emphasis on testing.

As previously stated, the policy insights the usage of standardized tests to measure the successes and weaknesses of students. However, this usage has become an overdependence. Presidents of the NEA and the PTA, two groups considerably involved in the public education system, believe that these tests identify problems but they do not provide any means to progress forwards. They also believe that this emphasis on testing does nothing to create a “critical, creative mind, a healthy body and an ethical character”, crucial to the success of our society and education system.

Also, they point out multiple ways in which the standardized test is a blanket statement of success. These tests fail to account for success in Advanced Placement courses and honors programs, as well as which students have had access to tutors and councilors (Garcia & Thornton). The second factor that these women believe the tests overlook is an entirely economic factor, to which the Bush Administration, and the Clinton Administration have praised themselves for overcoming. In reality, these barriers have not been overcome, because this testing emphasis, and the policy as a whole, fails to take them into account.

It treats the student whose primary concern is the ability to eat dinner the same as a student who is apprehensive about what type of Ferrari a student will get on his or her birthday. In addition to these frontrunners in education, over 100 teachers, parents, and educators, in an open letter to Senator Bernie Sanders, elaborated on the same concerns about NCLB: “NCLB ignores many of the skills and qualities vitally important to our 21st century economy, like problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork” (Strauss).

Those at the forefront of education, the teachers and parents, have almost universally agreed that the NCLB standardized tests discount crucial educational factors. It is time to change the emphasis from test readiness to life readiness, professionally and personally. The other major change in school culture the emphasis on testing has enacted is the removal of electives and unhealthy emphasis on reading and mathematics. This emphasis has narrowed public school curriculum, focusing on subjects only explicitly tested. Subjects overlooked include: social studies, languages, sciences or the arts (Klein).

This has caused the school culture to become less diverse in its practice, subsequently reducing the variety that students can learn, weakening our education system. Less diverse knowledge is not only dissolute for our economy, but our democracy as well. This emphasis on testing has stemmed to another change in our public school’s culture, lowering teacher morale and rising fear of faculty job loss. To start, NCLB placed a deadline for which every student in the country had to be proficient in both reading and math, which would be determined by a test, by 2010.

In addition, teachers were constantly at risk if they are not considered “highly qualified”, which was expected in all core subjects by 2006 (Klein). Thus, NCLB built the foundation for the education crisis accelerating as the 2010 deadline approached. As this deadline approached and schools could not meet the ridiculously unrealistic standards, the NCLB Act required schools to be held accountable. In this punishment, some schools were defunded (not allowed to receive title I funds), others forced to offer free tutoring, and some required to provide funds for families to relocate their students to neighboring schools.

Even more drastic, some districts were ordered to replace principals and teachers (Klein), scapegoating the faculty of schools for not meeting imposed standards. One can only imagine the distressed aura that seeped into the culture of public schools. Imagination is not necessary. As a son of a teacher and as a student who has personally navigated through the New York City school system, I know personally the distress of public schools in the early 2000s. With my mother being good friends with most of the faculty, including the principal, I was able to see directly the bedlam that ensued during this time.

Every year after ELA (English Language Arts) scores were released, hundreds of parents would call in a state of anxiety. After all, we had spent months preparing for the tests, and still a margin much greater than in past years had failed the tests. Naturally but not rightfully, many of the parents blamed the teachers, again scapegoated. Our principal endured a plethora of irritated parent calls. And so, each year teachers worried excessively about the test scores, because as Lily Garcia and Otha Thornton depict (Presidents of NEA and PTA), a single test score could instigate job loss.

Teachers can no longer focus on what they became teachers for; to teach students the skills they need in both public and private life. This change in priority has gone from substantive to cutthroat. As schools began to realize that standards could not be met by the 2010 deadline and AYP assessments reported growing failures, many resorted to finding loopholes in the system. By 2006, many states foresaw the impending failure that their schools were facing.

In an attempt to prevent this failure, legislation was introduced to allow several states to “include factors other than test scores when determining a school’s effectiveness”, which would prevent some failures (Strauss). The significance of this is the undermining of the basis of the policy, in that the standardized system used to judge schools has been seen as anything but pragmatic. Moreover, schools have been known to lower the standards of their tests, both high schools and elementary, in an attempt to make the threshold (Klein). This is yet another example of the inadvertent weakening of the education system on behalf of NCLB.

With this simplification of tests, adding of curves and lowering requirements to graduate, schools have acquired the ability to obtain the “polished resume”. This “resume” is a record that is admirable on paper, but is actually fabricated. The danger in this trend is that the actual “progress” is not concrete, providing an unstable and unrealistic assessment of our public schools. The policy yet again has been avoiding issues that it was intended to solve, and subsequently embedding the problems in our public education system deeper into its structure.

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