Education Equality Education Matters

By Darrel Nerove

Education is a core topic that matters to Americans and addressing the educational issues in America today will have lasting effects for many generations.  Our school systems must not only be required to adequately prepare students for the job market, but they must also prepare students to have meaningful dialog on American Values topics.  

America Matters will address those issues that our current education system is facing and how we can improve the structure and the delivery of education to maximize the benefits for all Americans.  Following are a few areas that many feel need education reform.  Each of these topics will be addressed in much more detail in upcoming posts.  Likewise, America Matters seeks your input into the issues that the American Education System faces today and in the future.  The issues identified are addressed from both K-12 and college perspectives.  However, we must understand that education at all levels is a critical topic that must be addressed.  

We owe it to our children to ensure  the education they receive in Elementary School through High School prepares them for college and the job market, and that they remain competitive globally.  Among the key topics needing reform and further dialog at the K-12 level are school funding, school choice, and classroom attributes (such as classroom size and teacher involvement, family and health issues, technology in the classroom, standardized tests, curriculum, and the structure of the Department of Education).

Each of these topics deserve much more attention and will be addressed further in upcoming articles.  However, the top topics that are generating much attention today include standardized assessments and factors that strongly impact the ability of our teachers to provide quality education.  Following are very brief explanations of these topics.

Standardized assessments are valuable and serve a purpose.  However, they generate significant disagreements.  Most people do not have issue with the standardized assessment itself, but they have issue with the implementation of the standardized assessments and the negative effects that ensue.  The standardized assessments are important to measure student competencies, teacher performance, and the effectiveness of the curriculum.  However, people often complain, rightfully so, that teachers spend too much time in classes conducting test preparation.  Yes, that creates problems.  First and foremost, time spent on test preparation is time not spent on other activities that are in the curriculum (or activities that should be in the curriculum).  It is understandable that teachers spend so much time on test preparation, since their performance evaluation often hinges on the aggregate results from their class.  Thus, such high-stakes standardized tests create an atmosphere where excessive test preparation is conducted.  

Other factors that need discussion and reform and questions that need to be addressed include adequate school funding, adequate pay for teachers, classroom size (student to teacher ratios and what to do when classroom sizes become too large), and teachers involvement in the student’s progress  (i.e. sufficient feedback and other involvement).  If the answer is No for any of these questions, then what needs to change and can we come to an agreement on how that change should be implemented?

There are many issues at the college level that need our attention.  At the very core, we need to assess the degree to which our college programs prepare graduates for the job market.  Should we place more emphasis on the traditional college education versus vocational training?  Should we have a different college structure for students desiring only vocational training?  Does there need to be more focus on workforce development?  How do colleges align their curriculum with the workforce requirements?  

Many are concerned about the role of accrediting agencies in higher education today.  How much involvement and oversight is needed in regards to holding colleges accountable for job placement and graduation rates?

How much assurance is there that the skills obtained at one college in a given degree are the same or similar to the skills obtained at another college (given the same degree)?  The general purpose of college programs is to prepare graduates for the workforce.  This implies that a company hiring a graduate has obtained certain skills and that hiring company can factor that into their employee training and development programs.  If the skills obtained at one college versus another college are significantly different, the ability of a hiring company to develop effective training and development programs is negated.

Again, there are many issues at both the K-12 and college levels that need reform; much more dialog and agreement on how to fix the issues; and direct action to implement change to provide a better educational experience for our children, which is an investment in their future and the future of our country.