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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 16, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsProgressive Pundit

US education needs reform

The U.S. education system encompasses over 50 million children. The federal government has continued to push new programs to improve the system that are quickly overturned as failures. To ensure American children are getting an adequate education, Congress needs to bring people invested in education together in order to find a program that will work in the long term.

There is an ongoing debate about whether the national government should even be intervening in education policy at all. Education is traditionally overseen by local and state governments. However, this leads to inequality because richer municipalities can afford to pay more for their schools, while poor communities are left with underfunded schools. To make sure that all American children are getting an adequate education, regardless of class, some kind of federal regulations are necessary.

The past few national education policies have been marked by failure. No Child Left Behind, a policy passed in 2001, attempted to improve education by setting national standards. This was criticized for punishing schools that did not meet the standards instead of helping them.  Common Core Standards, which attempted to create a nationwide set of standards for education, is criticized for the rigorous testing that goes along with it; a 2014 Gallup poll showed 72 percent of teachers were against Common Core computer tests.  

The latest education policy, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was passed by Congress in 2015 with bipartisan support. ESSA attempts to give states more autonomy over their schools.  However, there is no guarantee that states will prioritize protecting disadvantaged and underperforming students when they are given control.

Our education policy is currently failing kids. Schools should be preparing kids for their adult lives, yet nearly half of high school graduates are not considered college- or career-ready. The best way to fix the education system is to stop ranking schools and teachers solely based on standardized tests and to stop punishing underfunded schools when they do not meet standards.

Instead, education policy should focus on helping failing schools improve so they can pass any standards and have graduates that are career and college ready. Teachers also need to be supported in order for their students to succeed. Finally, assessments should be limited to make sure students are learning how to think for themselves instead of just being taught to answer test questions.