onThe Need for Federal Government Involvement in Education Reformby____________Political Science 2301Federal and State GovernmentOVERVIEWFor centuries, generations of families have congregated in the same community orin the same general region of the country. Children grew up expecting to earn aliving much like their fathers and mothers or other adults in their community. Any advanced skills they required beyond the three R’s (Readin’, Ritin’ andRithmatik) were determined by the local community and incorporated into thecurriculum of the local schools. These advanced skills were taught to the up-and-coming generation so they could become a vital part of their community. Thelast several decades has greatly expanded the bounds of the community toalmost anywhere in the country or anywhere in the world for that matter.
Advances in transportation and communication has made the world a much smallerplace then the world we knew as children. The skills our children need torealize parents’ perpetual dream of their children having a better life are nolonger limited to those seen in the local area. It is becoming more and moreapparent that the education system of yesterday cannot adequately preparestudents for life and work in the 21st Century. These concerns have promptedpeople across the country to take a hard look at our education system and toorganize their efforts to chance the education system as we know it.
WHAT’S HAPPENING OUT THERE?There are two major movements in recent years whose focus is to enhance theeducation of future generations. The Standards movement focuses oneducational content and raising the standards of traditional teaching andmeasurement means and methods. The Outcome Based Education (OBE) movement isexploring new ways of designing education and changing the way we measure theeffectiveness of education by focusing on results or outcomes. STANDARDS MOVEMENTIn September 1989, President Bush and the nation’s governors called anEducation Summit in Charlottesville, Virginia. At this summit, President Bushand the nation s governors, including then-governor Bill Clinton, agreed on sixbroad goals for education to be reached by the year 2000. Two of those goals (3and 4) related specifically to academic achievement:* Goal 3: By the year 2000, American students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter including English,mathematics, science, history, and geography; and every school in America willensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be preparedfor responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in ourmodern economy.
* Goal 4: By the year 2000, U. S. students will be first in the world in scienceand mathematics achievement. Soon after the summit, two groups were established to implement the neweducational goals: the National Education Goals Panel (NEGP) and the NationalCouncil on Education Standards and Testing (NCEST). Together, these two groupswere charged with addressing unprecedented questions regarding Americaneducation such as: What is the subject matter to be addressed? What types ofassessments should be used? What standards of performance should be set?The summit and its aftermath engendered a flurry of activity fromnational subject matter organizations to establish standards in their respectiveareas. Many of these groups looked for guidance from the National Council ofTeachers of Mathematics who publishing the Curriculum and Evaluation Standardsfor School Mathematics in 1989.
The NCTM standards redefined the study of mathso that topics and concepts would be introduced at an earlier age, and studentswould view math as a relevant problem-solving discipline rather than as a set ofobscure formulas to be memorized. The National Science Teachers Associationand the American Association for the Advancement of Science quickly launchedindependent attempts to identify standards in science. Efforts soon followed inthe fields of civics, dance, theater, music, art, language arts, history, andsocial studies, to name a few. OUTCOME BASED EDUCATION MOVEMENTThe decade of the 80s brought numerous education reforms, but few ofthem were a dramatic shift from what has gone on before. Outcome-basededucation (OBE) is one of those that is new, even revolutionary, and is nowbeing promoted as the panacea for America’s educational woes.
This reform hasbeen driven by educators in response to demands for greater accountability bytaxpayers and as a vehicle for breaking with traditional ideas about how weteach our children. If implemented, this approach to curriculum developmentcould change our schools more than any other reform proposal in the last thirtyyears. The focus of past and present curriculum has been on content, on theknowledge to be acquired by each student. Our language, literature, history,customs, traditions, and morals, often called Western civilization, dominatedthe learning process through secondary school.
If students learned theinformation and performed well on tests and assignments, they received creditfor the course and moved on to the next class. The point here is that thecurriculum centered on the content to be learned; its purpose was to produceacademically competent students. The daily schedule in a school was organizedaround the content. Each hour was devoted to a given topic; some studentsresponded well to the instruction, and some did not. Outcome-based education will change the focus of schools from thecontent to the student. Three facts drive this new approach to creating schoolcurricula:* Fact 1: All students can learn and succeed, but not on the same day or in thesame way.
* Fact 2: Each success by a student breeds more success. * Fact 3: Schools control the conditions of success. In other words, students are seen as totally malleable creatures. If wecreate the right environment, any student can be prepared for any academic orvocational career. The key is to custom fit the schools to each student’slearning style and abilities.
The resulting schools will be vastly different from the ones recentgenerations attended. Yearly and daily schedules will change, teachingresponsibilities will change, classroom activities will change, the evaluationof student performance will change, and most importantly, our perception of whatit means to be an educated person will change. Common Arguments in Favor of Outcome-Based Education* Promotes high expectations and greater learning for all students. * Prepares students for life and work in the 21st Century.
* Fosters more authentic forms of assessment (i. e. , students write to show theyknow how to use English well, or complete math problems to demonstrate theirability to solve problems). * Encourages decision making regarding curriculum, teaching methods, schoolstructure and management at each school or district level. Common Arguments Against Outcome-Based Education* Conflicts with admission requirements and practices of most colleges anduniversities, which rely on credit hours and standardized test scores* Some outcomes focus too much on feelings, values, attitudes and beliefs, andnot enough on the attainment of factual knowledge* Relies on subjective evaluation, rather than objective tests and measurements. * Undermines local control.
NATIONAL STANDARDSBoth the Standards movement and OBE movement have particularstrengths and weaknesses. Their means and methods are different however, theirobjective is the same — To improve the education of future generations. Weall remember the profound statements our parents repeated to us as we grew up. One of my favorites was, You can’t get anywhere if you’re not moving. Yearscan be spent arguing if OBE is better then Standards and vice versa.
Theyboth are heading toward the same destination so let’s get moving and we’ll argueon the way. It is time for the Federal Government to take the lead and start thenation down the road. One of the fundamental principles of our nation should bethe paramount concern of this Government body. EQUALITY! In this case equalityis achieved through standards. STANDARDS IN EDUCATIONGeneral standards in education have existed formally for over a centurybut as time went on, local school systems have expanded their curriculum to meetthe needs of the local community.
National standards must be established toalleviate variances from community to community and state to state in order forall citizens to have an equal chance in the global society. THE NEED FOR CURRICULUM STANDARDSFrom the 1940s until the mid-1970s, the emphasis on serving theinterests of individual children generated a expansion of the number of coursesthat constituted the high school curriculum. By the mid 1970s, the U. S. Officeof Education reported that more than 2,100 different courses were being offeredin American high schools. The content covered and the manner in which time isspent was at one time fairly uniform in American education, today there islittle consistency in how much time students spend on a given subject or theknowledge and skills covered within that subject area.
THE NEED FOR EVALUATION STANDARDSPerhaps the most compelling argument for organizing educational reformaround standards is the shift in emphasis from what schools put into the processof schooling to what we get out of schools that is, a shift from educationalinputs to educational outputs. Chester Finn describes this shift inperspective in terms of an emerging paradigm for education. Under the old conception education was thought of as process and system,effort and intention, investment and hope. To improve education meant to tryharder, to engage in more activity, to magnify one’s plans, to give people moreservices, and to become more efficient in delivering them.
Under the new definition, now struggling to be born, education is theresult achieved, the learning that takes root when the process has beeneffective. Only if the process succeeds and learning occurs will we say thateducation happened. The U. S. Office of Education was commissioned by Congressto conduct a major study of the quality of educational opportunity.
The resultwas the celebrated Coleman Report (after chief author and researcher, JamesColeman), which was released in 1966. The report concluded that input variablesmight not actually have all that much to do with educational equality whenequality was conceived of in terms of what students actually learned as opposedto the time, money, and energy that were expended. In summary, the new, more efficient and accountable view of education isoutput-based. Outputs defined in terms of specific student learnings, in termsof specific standards. THE NEED FOR GRADING STANDARDSMost assume that grades are precise indicators of what students know andcan do with a subject area. In addition, most people assume that currentgrading practices are the result of a careful study of the most effective waysof reporting achievement and progress.
In fact, current grading practicesdeveloped in a fairly serendipitous way. Mark Durm provides a detaileddescription of the history of grading practices in America, beginning in the1780s when Yale University first started using a four-point scale. By 1897,Mount Holyoke College began using the letter grade system that is so widely usedin education today. For the most part, this 100-year-old system is still in place today. Unfortunately, even though the system has been in place for a century, there isstill not much agreement as to the exact meaning of letter grades.
This wasrather dramatically illustrated in a nationwide study by Robinson ; Craver(1988) that involved over 800 school districts randomly drawn from the 11,305school districts with 300 or more students. One of their major conclusions wasthat districts stress different elements in their grades. While all districts include academic achievement, they also includeother significant elements such as effort, behavior, and attendance. There isgreat discrepancy in the factors teachers consider when they construct grades. We have a situation in which grades given by one teacher might mean somethingentirely different from grades given by another teacher even though the teachersare presiding over two identical classes with identical students who doidentical work. Where one teacher might count effort and cooperation as 25% ofa grade, another teacher might not count these variables at all.
CONCLUSIONNearly all countries we want to emulate rely on policies and structuresthat are fundamentally standards based in nature. For example, in their studyof standards-setting efforts in other countries, Resnick and Nolan (1995) notethat Many countries whose schools have achieved academic excellence have anational curriculum. Many educators maintain that a single curriculumnaturally leads to high performance, but the fact that the United States valueslocal control of schools precludes such a national curriculum. Although they caution that a well articulated national curriculum is nota guarantee of high academic achievement, Resnick and Nolan offer some powerfulillustrations of the effectiveness of identifying academic standards andaligning curriculum and assessments with those standards.
France is aparticularly salient example:* In texts and exams, the influence of the national curriculum is obvious. Forexample, a French math text for 16-year-olds begins by spelling out the nationalcurriculum for* the year so that all 16-year-olds know what they are expected to study. Thebook’s similar table of contents shows that the text developers referred to thecurriculum. * Moreover, the text makes frequent references to math exams the regional schooldistricts have given in the past. Students practice on these exams to help themprepare for the exam they will face; they know where to concentrate to meet thestandard. (p.
9)In a similar vein, a report published by NESIC, the National EducationStandards and Improvement Council (1993), details the highly centralized mannerin which standards are established in other countries. For example, in China,standards are set for the entire country and for all levels of the school systemby the State Education Commission in Beijing. In England, standard setting wasconsidered the responsibility of local schools until 1988, when the EducationReform Act mandated and outlined the process for establishing a nationalcurriculum. The School Examinations and Assessment Council was established tocarry out this process. In Japan, the ministry of education in Tokyo(Manibushi) sets the standards for schools, but allows each of the 47prefectures (Ken) some latitude in adapting those standards.
According to the NESIC report, Most countries embody their contentstandards in curriculum guides issued by the ministries of education or theirequivalents. (pc-51) Additionally, A national examination system provides afurther mechanism for setting standards through specifications of examinations,syllabuses and regulations, preparations of tests, grading of answers, andestablishment of cutoff points. (pc-51)If our children are to survive and excel in the emerging global society,we must give them the tools they need to compete. Whether future generationsreceive these tools via the Standards movement or the OBE movement isirrelevant.
It is how well our children can compete with other countries of theworld that will insure the United States remains a world leader, a nation unitedand strong. If this is not a role for the Federal Government, I don’t know whatis?