In teaching today’s diverse society with its strict, mandated standards, I believe this alone makes it tough for teachers to instruct and students to perform let alone the many other issues facing education today. Yet, the reality is that teachers ARE faced with bigger issues and students are hit with issues of their own, making learning difficult and effecting their learning development. While there are countless issues facing education, I’ll name a few examples of global, theoretical and practical issues and discuss their effects.
Students in today’s culture aren’t receiving teachings on culture and global challenges as they should in order to strengthen knowledge on international perspectives. To be truly globalized, these teachings need to take place, but it’s difficult to support these educational changes when schools and the education system’s main focus are on instruction and basic skills testing. Through the lack of students’ global understanding, this has taken an effect on students’ learning development on globalization and the understanding of the world in which they live in. Truly, our students are the future of this nation and our democracy rests on the decision of its citizens (Smith & Czarra, 2003).
If the United States is to thrive in the world, the electorate must be equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and, most importantly, willingness to better understand and participate in international matters. (Smith & Czarra, 2003). In other words, the future of our nation and the citizens occupying it should be well versatile in all subject matters, even in international affairs. Understanding international matters is not the only thing students in our society are lacking in. According to a global education survey in 2012, the U.S. ranks 36th place in the subjects of math, reading and science amongst different international countries. The findings are part of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (or PISA) — a leading survey of education systems conducted every three years by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a grouping of the world’s richest economies (OECD, 2012). Not only is this data shocking, but it tells me that something in our education system isn’t working. In order for students to thrive academically in core subjects and improve students’ global understanding, I believe drastic evaluation in the each school system’s curriculum is necessary and reform in curriculum needs to take place. Although the results may not come immediately as we all hope, initiating change is better than sitting back and watching the U.S. slump in the global education survey.
Common Core Standards have affected U.S. public education since the adoption in July 2011. I believe because the CCSS are more rigorous, the CCSS demands a lot more from the teachers as well as the kids. Through this demand, it can be very stressful for teachers at times. For example, when the students in my classroom are in their literacy block, it used to be that we focused on specific skills, comprehension, writing, etc. Now, the CCSS requires much more out of the students. I have to begin looking at all angles and dimensions of the text, whereas before it was looking at one certain skill. The worry about using the CCSS is also geared towards special education students. In a Scholastic and Gates survey, forty percent of teachers say they worried about how students who are below grade level will keep up with the new standards, though, and more than a quarter worry about their special education students (Garland, 2014). These new standards can become problematic for special education students as it demands much more, especially if homeroom teachers aren’t receiving necessary teacher training on the CCSS to effectively teach their high needs students. A Washington State teacher told researchers, “I feel that my ability to be the best teacher possible for my students is most critically affected by the lack of professional time to adjust the curriculum to the Common Core” (Garland, 2004). I believe time to adjust to the new standards and training teachers to masterfully implement these standards are top priority. Without time and training, teachers will be lost in the dark and it’ll cost the students their learning development.
Another issue facing education is the No Child Left Behind program. While this program is intended to improve students’ success and potentially set students on track for grade level performance by 2014, studies show that NCLB is adversely doing the opposite. Standardized testing has not improved student achievement and “after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) passed in 2002, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) to 31st place in 2009, with a similar drop in science and no change in reading” (ProCon.org, 2014). Our nation has been fiercely using this program for decades with no proceeding results, yet policy makers continue to see that NCLB is favorable and will do good to our growing, complex society. Students all across the board in grade 3-8 are to take the standardized test, regardless of limited English proficiency or students who are on an Individualized Education Plan. To me, this seems unfair to those students who are still learning the English language and students with special needs. The idea of one-size-fits-all standards certainly does not apply in a circumstance like this. I believe this test alone can cause fear to students and give them the notion that they are unintelligent and in the long run could affect their learning development.
Alongside with NCLB, the “achievement gap” is also an issue facing education as well. Even through NCLB, it brought greater awareness of racial disparities and to rising concern about other kinds of achievement gaps. The attention led to more targeted interventions for different groups of students, but had not closed most achievement gaps to an appreciable degree a decade of the law passed (Education Week, 2004). The issue of achievement gap is especially concerning to teachers with non-affluent and/or black and Hispanic students because of the troubling performance gaps. Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress reveal that black and Hispanic students have made great improvements in reading and math, yet there was still a gap that divided them from their white peers. (NCES, 2000). The lagging performance can definitely affect the learning development of minority students as these students are faced with peer pressure and having to catch up with their peers.
A rising issue that has faced education for a long time is budget shortage. Here in Washington State, our K-12 schools are feeling the effects of this issue. Tacoma Public Schools being one of the schools that are affected, are reaching out to the public on ideas of which program to keep, and which to terminate to save on funding’s and balance the district’s budget. Tacoma Public Schools faces a potential estimated $12 million budget deficit over the next four to five years depending on state funding. As part of a multi-year budget plan, Tacoma Public Schools expects to have to reduce spending by a total of approximately $12 million spread over the next four to five years. In addition, the district anticipated drawing down the district’s reserve funds each year to offset deeper cuts to staff, programs and services (Tacoma Public Schools, 2012). To close the $12 million budget gap, I believe the reality is that Tacoma Public Schools will keep core academic subjects and testing priority and eliminate extracurricular activities such as student-led clubs, special foreign classes to help students acquire a second language and other related services. Extracurricular activities are a part of students’ everyday life. They play important roles in student’s lives. They have positive effects on student’s lives by improving behavior, school performance, school completion, positive aspects to make successful adults, and social aspects (Massoni, 2011). When we cut out extracurricular activities, we are cutting out the social aspects and the affects it has on students. Other public schools nationwide are facing similar situations. This is just a simple look at what’s happening in Washington State.
Lastly, students dealing with issues of their own at home such as growing up in poverty can have a detrimental effect on students’ performance in school. Students of poverty typically get inadequate health care and nutrition, having fewer educational resources in the home and in the neighborhood, and moving frequently-all factors known to depress school performance (Viadero, 2000). Of all that poverty students’ lack, I believe lacking basic resources at home can really affect their performance at school. Having basic educational resources at home means students can practice a skill in various core subjects on their own, at their own pace, and at a time they choose. When these resources are not apparent at home, acquiring a skill is achieved slower and more difficult without the rote practice at home. Learning becomes a slower process for students of poverty because of the lack of practice. Performance can also be attributed to school absences, tardiness rates, and incidents of illness in class, rates of undiagnosed and/or untreated health problems or disabilities (Jensen, 2009). Teachers may see students as uncaring or uninterested; when the real issue is that they’re not in class enough to keep up. (Jensen, 2009). These are common issues for students living in poverty.
Again, while there are many, many more issues facing education, just a handful have been selected to highlight global, theoretical and practical issues and their effects on education and learning development.
ASCD on Global Education, Andrew F. Smith & Fredrick R. Czarra
Brown, S. (2013, December 03). Shanghai teens top international education ranking, oecd says.
Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/03/world/asia/pisa-education-study/
District budget outlook 2012. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.tacoma.k12.wa.us/information/Pages/District-Budget-Outlook- 2012.aspx
Education Week, “Achievement Gap,” August 3, 2004.
Garland, S. (2014, January 26). Hope and anxiety:what do teachers think about the common core standards?. Retrieved from http://hechingerreport.org/content/hope-and-anxiety-what-do-teachers-think-about-the-common-core-standards_14897/
Massoni, Erin (2011) “Positive Effects of Extra Curricular Activities on Students,”ESSAI: Vol. 9, Article 27.
Available at: http://dc.cod.edu/essai/vol9/iss1/27
ProCon.org. (2014, February 5). Standardized Tests ProCon.org. Retrieved from http://standardizedtests.procon.org/
Teaching with Poverty in Mind, Eric Jensen, ASCD, 2009
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, “Digest of Education Statistics,” 2000.