Our Declining Education System
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
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