Education 3


Education 3 Essay, Research Paper

According to “A Nation at Risk”, the American education system has declined due to a ”

rising tide of mediocrity” in our schools. States such as New York have responded to the

findings and recommendations of the report by implementing such strategies as the

“Regents Action Plan” and the “New Compact for Learning”.

In the early 1980’s, President Regan ordered a national commission to study our

education system. The findings of this commission were that, compared with other

industrialized nations, our education system is grossly inadequate in meeting the

standards of education that many other countries have developed. At one time, America

was the world leader in technology, service, and industry, but overconfidence based on

a historical belief in our superiority has caused our nation to fall behind the rapidly

growing competitive market in the world with regard to education. The report in some

respects is an unfair comparison of our education system, which does not have a

national standard for goals, curriculum, or regulations, with other countries that do, but

the findings nevertheless reflect the need for change. Our education system at this time

is regulated by states which implement their own curriculum, set their own goals and

have their own requirements for teacher preparation. Combined with this is the fact that

we have lowered our expectations in these areas, thus we are not providing an equal or

quality education to all students across the country. The commission findings generated

recommendations to improve the content of education and raise the standards of

student achievement, particularly in testing, increase the time spent on education and

provide incentives to encourage more individuals to enter the field of education as well

as improving teacher preparation.

N.Y. State responded to these recommendations by first implementing the Regents

Action Plan; an eight year plan designed to raise the standards of education. This plan

changed the requirements for graduation by raising the number of credits needed for

graduation, raising the number of required core curriculum classes such as social

studies, and introduced technology and computer science. The plan also introduced the

Regents Minimum Competency Tests, which requires a student to pass tests in five

major categories; math, science, reading, writing, and two areas of social studies.

Although the plan achieved many of its goals in raising standards of education in N.Y.

State, the general consensus is that we need to continue to improve our education

system rather than being satisfied with the achievements we have made thus far.

Therefore, N.Y. adopted “The New Compact for Learning”. This plan is based on the

principles that all children can learn. The focus of education should be on results and

teachers should aim for mastery, not minimum competency. Education should be

provided for all children and authority with accountability should be given to educators

and success should be rewarded with necessary changes being made to reduce failures.

This plan calls for curriculum to be devised in order to meet the needs of students so

that they will be fully functional in society upon graduation, rather than just being able to

graduate. Districts within the state have been given the authority to devise their own

curriculum, but are held accountable by the state so that each district meets the states

goals that have been established. Teachers are encouraged to challenge students to

reach their full potential, rather than minimum competency. In this regard, tracking of

students is being eliminated so that all students will be challenged, rather than just those

who are gifted. Similarly, success should be rewarded with recognition and incentives to

further encourage progress for districts, teachers and students while others who are not

as accomplished are provided remedial training or resources in order to help them

achieve success.

It is difficult to determine whether our country on the whole has responded to the

concerns that “A Nation at Risk” presented. Clearly though, N.Y. State has taken

measures over the last ten years to improve its own education system. In many respects

the state has accomplished much of what it set out to do, but the need to continue to

improve is still present. Certainly, if America is determined to regain its superiority in the

world, education, the foundation of our future, needs to be priority number one.

Teachers often develop academic expectations of students based on characteristics

that are unrelated to academic progress. These expectations can affect the way

educators present themselves toward the student, causing an alteration in the way our

students learn, and thus causing an overall degeneration in the potential growth of the


Expectations affect students in many ways, not just academically, but in the form of

mental and social deprivation which causes a lack of self-esteem. When educators

receive information about students, mostly even before the student walks into their

classroom, from past test scores, IEP’s, and past teachers, it tends to alter the way we

look at the students potential for growth. This foundation of expectation is then

transformed on to our method of instruction.

One basic fallout from these expectations is the amount of time educators spend in

communicating with students. We tend to speak more directly to students who excel,

talking in more matures tone of voice, treating them more like a grown-up than we do to

the students who are already labeled underachievers. This can give the student an

added incentive to either progress or regress due to the amount of stimulation that they


As educators we tend to take the exceptional students “under our wing”. We tend to

offer knowledge in situations to help push the good students, in comparison to moving

on to the next task for the others. We also tend to critique the work of our god students

more positively than the others, offering challenges to the answers they have given.

The most obvious characteristic that educators present to the students is in the area

of body language and facial expression. We tend to present ourselves in a more

professional manner to our good students, speaking more clearly and with a stronger

tone of voice. We tend to stand more upright, in a more powerful stance, than to the

slouching effect we give to the underachievers. The head shakes, glancing with our

eyes, hand gestures, and posture all contribute to the way we look at certain students

based on our first impressions which came before we even knew the student.

One major way we can avoid these pitfalls and eliminate unfair expectations that help

produce failure in our students is to restrict the past information on the students to a

need to know basis. Instead of telling the teacher how the student did on past

examinations, just present them with the curricula that the student must learn during the

time they spend in that class. This enables the educator to formulate their own opinions

of that student. Also, instead of doing the IEP meetings during the middle of the year,

we should wait till the end of the semester to inform the educators of certain aspects of

the student instead of giving them all the information earlier in the year.

Finally, it is up to the educator himself to evaluate their own teaching methods to be

able to recognize, and change, the way they present themselves to the entire class. To

be able to know what we are doing, and how we are doing it, at different times in the day

is crucial to the aura we present to the students.

Schools are often blamed for the ills of society, yet society has a major impact on our

education system. The problems that schools are facing today are certainly connected

to the problems that are society faces, including drugs, violence, and the changing of our

family structure. There are many methods that schools have begun to use in order to

deal with the problems they are faced with and still offer the best possible education to

our youth.

The use of drugs in the general population has become a very serious problem in

society and within the school system. There are two aspects to drug use that teachers

are having to deal with now. The first is in trying to teach the new generation of crack

babies that are now entering the schools. These students have extremely low attention

spans and can be very disruptive in class. Early intervention programs designed to

target these children and focus on behavior management within the school setting have

been effective in preparing these students for school. Educators have also identified

drug use among students as one of the most significant problems that our schools face

today. According to the text, the rate of drug use among students has declined in last

few years, but recently there has been an increase in alcohol abuse among teenagers.

Intervention programs such as APPLE, (a school based rehabilitation facility) have been

implemented in many schools with the cooperation of school counselors and community

agencies to treat drug using teenagers. Other programs, such as D.A.R.E have been

implemented in many elementary schools to provide education about drugs to young


Violence, both in society and in the school system has also been identified as a

serious problem. The influx of weapons in schools creates a dangerous situation for

teachers, administrators and other students. One remedy for this problem has been

introduced in many public city schools; the use of metal detectors. While this method is

not foolproof it does send the message that violence will not be tolerated in schools and

that severe measures will be implemented in order to curb it. Educators are also being

trained to identify those students who may be violent and to provide non-violent crisis

intervention. It is an undeniable fact that our society has a serious problem concerning

violence and that the violence on the streets is certainly connected to the violence in the

schools. It seems questionable that even these measures will significantly reduce the

problem in schools, but certainly the process of teaching can continue in a less stressful

atmosphere by having these measures in place.

Unfortunately, there are other problems such as the changing family structure

that do not have such clear cut solutions. Some of the problems that teachers are faced

with concerning the family include poverty, single parent homes, abuse and/or neglect

and homelessness.

Statistics state that 41% of single, female headed households live below the

poverty level and that students who live in single parent homes score lower on

achievement tests, particularly boys whose mothers are the head of the household.

Obviously, single parent families are a fact in our society today, given the rising rate of

divorce and single women having children, and it is true that this change is having a

severe effect on students today, but this should not effect the quality of education that is

provided, but rather, encourage educators to be more aware of the difficulties these

students face in order to adapt their teaching style, as well as the curriculum to reach

these students.

Similarly, child abuse and/or neglect has become a major issue in society and

schools. It is not clear whether there is a rise in the occurrences of abuse or whether

better awareness has increased the statistics, but it cannot be argued that this a

significant problem and one that effects those educators who have to help students who

are either abused or neglected. Strict regulations concerning the accountability of

teachers regarding the reporting of child abuse or neglect are in effect. Teachers are

required to be trained on the ability to identify abuse. Community agencies, shelters and

child welfare agencies have begun working in conjunction with schools in order to deal

with the problem with as little disruption in the student’s education as possible.

Homelessness is another major problem in our society. The rate of homeless

people has grown significantly since the early 1980’s deinstitutionalization movement

and more recently due to the rising unemployment rate have led to more families and

children being homeless than ever before. This social problem has become a significant

problem for educators. Low achievement, which may be in part due to low attendance

as a result of a transient lifestyle, physical problems associated with living on the streets

and child abuse are all issues that educators are confronted with when working with

students who are homeless. Unfortunately, because of the lack of government funds,

this problem continues to grow in America. On the other hand, schools have begun to

deal with this problem by hiring additional counselors, some who work specifically to

coordinate service with shelters in order provide assistance to these families and more

precisely to the children. This effort clearly demonstrates that educators are genuinely

concerned about providing education to all children.

Clearly our schools and society face the same problems. It has become

necessary for all people, not just educators, to be more aware of the problems. Although

some intervention programs have been implemented and in some cases are very

successful, it is becoming more apparent that these problems are going to continue and

will have a direct consequence on our future in this country. Unfortunately, we as a

society tend to look for the “quick fix” to our problems without realizing the

consequences for the future. Our society need to understand that the schools are not

responsible for the cause of these problems or the solutions, but rather, all aspects of

society, including schools, are intertwined and need to collectively work together if we

are ever to make progress toward resolving these problems in the long run.

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