Here are some more observations on the changes in our public schools, after talking to teachers and observing class room activities myself. I have been a teacher and substitute teacher for more than 8 years.
The Standardized Tests, that conservatives like to use to measure “success” in schools today and championed as part of the “new education reforms,” have been a thorn to teachers since they were implemented in 1994, when the Bill Clinton administration changed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
Teachers find themselves “teaching to the test” with students being forced to simply memorize facts and there is little actual teaching done to explain the material to them. There is no room for a teacher to expand on information and really explain it. Much of the time spent getting ready for these tests actually takes time away from classroom work.
The tests are not really that accurate. They vary from state to state, according to Mother Jones. They are designed by each state and states use them for any number of things, such as student evaluation, teacher evaluation and to decide whether or not to give public schools to charter schools.
In Kansas, they were designed to reflect the needs of businesses and not the overall needs of the students. The emphasis on math and science has encouraged schools to slacken on basic reading and writing skills. The National Assessment Governing Board reported, this month, that some 33 percent of eighth-grade students scored at the proficient level, which represents solid writing skills, as did 24 percent at grade 12.
Anything to do with culture; history, world cultures, music and art, is being scaled back. In a time when the world is becoming more integrated, schools are cutting down on foreign languages. Students and adults around them see education as a preparation for getting a job in society. But traditionally schools have tried to equip students to understand the world around them and give them a well-rounded education. The results to all this is a whole generation of students who will graduate as cultural illiterates who can’t explain their own culture to someone from another country.
It is really an insult to teachers to try and assess their abilities based on these tests’ scores. The tests were a mistake to begin with and to use them to evaluate a teacher is just plain stupid. Many who are for “education reform” want to lower wages for teachers and strip them of their unions and any rights they have. This is demeaning and it humiliates teachers in front of their students. This is not the encouragement teachers need to do their best. This is part of the conservative trend to treat workers in general as disposable entities that are easily replaceable and not all that valuable as individuals.
The real emphasis of the “education reform” crowd is education on the cheap. Eventually these people will get what they pay for. Teachers who do a dedicated job take more than just eight to five hours a day. Eventually society will find they threw away the better teachers hoping to do the job cheap and they will get what they pay for—a mediocre education by worn-down de-moralized teachers.