The United States education system and academic standards have been a hotly debated topic the last several decades. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, attempted to hold all states accountable for the performance of their schools with little assistance in determining how to improve poor-performing schools. NCLB expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing according to state standards, annual performance tracking, improving teacher qualifications, as well as changes in funding. The responsibility to develop academic standards and assessments was left up to the individual states. Fifteen years later, NCLB has been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and many states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Math.
I have yet to fully understand the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and how they differ from prior standards. CCSS seem to be the closest thing to national standards the United States has ever had. I think it’s a good thing to be able to evenly measure academic abilities of the majority of students in the U.S. (some states have not adopted CCSS, including Texas). At the same time, teachers need to quickly become familiar with the new standards so that they know what their students are responsible for learning. I struggle with knowing how much flexibility I will have as a future teacher. On one hand, I like the idea of knowing what I will need to teach, but on the other hand, enabling students to have a choice in what they are learning can be beneficial. According to Noddings (2006), educators have a choice to either work with the student’s internal motivations and interests with proper guidance, or to externally motivate them to provide incentive for them to learn what we think they should learn that will benefit them in the future. It is important for teachers to recognize student interests and encourage them, but at the same time make sure students learn critical academic skills that will open up more possibilities for their futures.
Another controversial topic is the use of computers and other electronic devices in schools. While computer games can help build social skills including collaboration, team work, and being part of a community, they can still be misused and deprive students of more enriching activities (Evans, 2008). According to Evans (2008), “as a result of increase time spent with computers, video games, and TV, the current generation of elementary students will experience an estimated 30 percent fewer face-to-face encounters than the previous generation” (p. 308). Learning through human interactions is so important, especially for preschool children. It is also important for older children to know how to use technology responsibly and ethically. Just a few weeks ago at a school I’m volunteering at, I saw students abusing their access to iPads in their math class. They were supposed to be playing math-related games, but several were on YouTube listening to music or generally wasting time on other applications. If not monitored, students will abuse electronic privileges, and it is our job as educators to teach them appropriate ways of interacting with them.
Evans, Dennis. (2008). Taking Sides: Clashing Views of Controversial Issues in Teaching and Educational Practice. 3rd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Noddings, Nel. (2006). Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.