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Educational Trends – Heavily Negative, Sprinkled Positive
The past two decades have brought many changes to the world of education, some positive, most negative. With regard to the latter, perhaps most telling is that the United States continues to lag behind other countries in science, reading, and math. Many factors contribute to this drop. For example, there continues to be a wide socio-economic divide with increasing numbers of students living in poverty. Poor students cannot be expected to learn if their basic needs are not met. Just as the socio-economic status gap widens, so does the achievement gap. Minority students tend to lag behind their peers at universities.
Politicians have not improved the American education system. For example, politicians and supporters of the No Child Left Behind Act strongly promote standardized testing. Standardized testing perpetuates clustering, so lower socioeconomic students are tracked into lower performing groups. Standardized tests encourage rote learning rather than deep learning of concepts.
Many politicians insist on taking away teachers’ rights. For example, many politicians want merit pay for teachers. Merit pay does not take into account the natural composition of classes. In other words, some classes inherently have lower performing students. Consequently, test scores would be lower and therefore salaries lower. Another example of being against teachers’ rights is what happened recently in Wisconsin. Its governor canceled collective bargaining, effectively eliminating better working conditions and seniority. If the United States follows this trend, the United States cannot be expected to retain and hire phenomenal teachers.
The weakening economy has hurt education. Many programs have been cut or reduced, such as foreign languages. Cutting foreign language teaching is foolish because languages help us to compete in a global market. Other countries require students to learn a second language from an early age, the United States lags behind. In addition, class sizes have increased. The student-teacher ratio has deteriorated, creating havoc for teachers and less personal time with students.
Another factor greatly affecting education is that of technology. Technology has been both a blessing and a curse. As for the curse, technology may play a role in widening the achievement gap. Those who are socio-economically disadvantaged have less access to technology. Technology is a huge expense for districts. Thanks to technologies such as cameras on phones and texting, student cheating has become more sophisticated and harder to detect.
When it comes to the benefits of technology, students can search for topics at the touch of a button. Never before has learning about a subject been so easily accessible. Computer programs help students learn new skills. Computer programs for teachers allow educators to diversify lesson plans and help keep grades accurate.
A beneficial educational movement, character education, responds to a negative trend, societal incivility. Character education is a school-wide effort to teach students to be part of a community by encouraging positive character traits, e.g. honesty, dependability, perseverance, hard work , etc.
Education will never run out of trends. Education is a reflection of society and vice versa. As mentioned above, incivility created character education. Technology creates various learning experiences. The positives mingle with the negatives. It may seem that the negatives far outnumber the positives. This may be the case, but over time trends can change. Hopefully the trends favor the United States again so that we can once again be the leader in education.
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