Education Reform Leaves More Questions Than Answers

I’ve really debated about whether to jump in the ring with an opinion on this subject of student assessment. It’s become a serious and wide-reaching issue that impacts much more than teachers. It’s about students. It’s about communities. It’s about my own kids.

Via Gates Foundation @ Flickr Creative Commons

Via Gates Foundation @ Flickr Creative Commons

First, I want to reiterate that just like everything on this blog, this is MY OPINION and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school or staff.

The History of Education

During the Industrial Revolution, education in the United States was forced to change. Prior to this point in our history, most people worked in either agriculture or as skilled craftsmen. They lived and often worked as a family. Kids began working as soon as they were physically able.

During the Industrial Revolution, able bodied workers needed to be able to learn a task and be able to reproduce it at a quick pace. This brought about significant change in education. Students were penalized with “zeros” for not meeting deadlines. Teachers were the keepers of information and the “floor managers” who kept things running smoothly. Assessments were based on a simple scale of proficiency (A-F). And like the assembly lines they would one day work in, classroom desks were aligned in rows.

Until now, not much has changed. Admittedly, public education has historically been the slowest segment of our culture to accept and implement change. Most schools are still lecture based, using rows of desks, and assessing with a standard A-F grading scale.

Thanks to the internet, things are changing again. The Technology Revolution is changing the way that we gain information and the way we create new innovations.

Additionally, as we move from the Baby Boomers to the Millenials who are now in the workforce and leadership positions, the expectations on the way work and communication are accomplished are also changing. Focus is shifting from individuals to teams…from resumes to digital footprints.

The Problem

The problem lies in that we are currently in the middle of the shift. We’re preparing students for jobs that are yet to be created. To make sure they are ready for a world we can not yet see, we begin changing one thing after another, hoping it makes a difference.

Every school has poor teachers, so we change evaluation systems to try to get them out. What we find are teachers who may struggle to make the shift in reaching Millenials or who have never been trained to communicate and create with the latest technology, but they are willing to learn.

The focus of work is less on reproducing and more on problem solving and creation. This leads us to change the standards. Unrealistic legislative acts and interstate competition to be on the cutting edge has forced states to adopt standards without totally thinking them through.

Thought was not adequately given to training both practicing and aspiring teachers and administrators on the different communication styles of a new generation.

Lastly, if we’re changing the standards, we must make sure that we adjust our assessments as well. The problem is, we have yet to agree on where we are going. Individual states have ideas, but have to meet certain federal requirements.

The Solution

While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, let me pose some questions, because together, we can come up with something better than we can alone.

  1. Has government and legislative intervention improved or hindered schools during this shift?
  2. Are schools talking to area businesses about the challenges they see in their line of work for the next 5-10 years?
  3. If such emphasis is put on school choice, what would be the harm or benefit of schools exercising choice on things like a) length of the school day/calendar, b) standards that will be taught, c) assessments that are used.

QUESTION: How would you answer each of these questions? Whether you’re an educator, a parent, or a businessperson, I’d love to hear your perspective on this subject.


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