Our Declining Education SystemAccording to “A Nation at Risk”, the American education system has declined dueto a ” rising tide of mediocrity” in our schools. States such as New York haveresponded to the findings and recommendations of the report by implementing suchstrategies as the “Regents Action Plan” and the “New Compact for Learning”.In the early 1980’s, President Regan ordered a national commission to studyour education system. The findings of this commission were that, compared withother industrialized nations, our education system is grossly inadequate inmeeting the standards of education that many other countries have developed. Atone time, America was the world leader in technology, service, and industry, butoverconfidence based on a historical belief in our superiority has caused ournation to fall behind the rapidly growing competitive market in the world withregard to education. The report in some respects is an unfair comparison of oureducation system, which does not have a national standard for goals, curriculum,or regulations, with other countries that do, but the findings neverthelessreflect the need for change. Our education system at this time is regulated bystates which implement their own curriculum, set their own goals and have theirown requirements for teacher preparation.
Combined with this is the fact thatwe have lowered our expectations in these areas, thus we are not providing anequal or quality education to all students across the country. The commissionfindings generated recommendations to improve the content of education and raisethe standards of student achievement, particularly in testing, increase the timespent on education and provide incentives to encourage more individuals to enterthe field of education as well as improving teacher preparation.N.Y. State responded to these recommendations by first implementing theRegents Action Plan; an eight year plan designed to raise the standards ofeducation. This plan changed the requirements for graduation by raising thenumber of credits needed for graduation, raising the number of required corecurriculum classes such as social studies, and introduced technology andcomputer 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 achievedmany of its goals in raising standards of education in N.Y. State, the generalconsensus is that we need to continue to improve our education system ratherthan being satisfied with the achievements we have made thus far.Therefore, N.Y. adopted “The New Compact for Learning”. This plan is basedon the principles that all children can learn.
The focus of education should beon results and teachers should aim for mastery, not minimum competency.Education should be provided for all children and authority with accountabilityshould be given to educators and success should be rewarded with necessarychanges being made to reduce failures. This plan calls for curriculum to bedevised in order to meet the needs of students so that they will be fullyfunctional in society upon graduation, rather than just being able to graduate.
Districts within the state have been given the authority to devise their owncurriculum, but are held accountable by the state so that each district meetsthe states goals that have been established. Teachers are encouraged tochallenge students to reach their full potential, rather than minimum competency.In this regard, tracking of students is being eliminated so that all studentswill be challenged, rather than just those who are gifted. Similarly, successshould be rewarded with recognition and incentives to further encourage progressfor districts, teachers and students while others who are not as accomplishedare provided remedial training or resources in order to help them achievesuccess.It is difficult to determine whether our country on the whole has respondedto the concerns that “A Nation at Risk” presented. Clearly though, N.Y.
Statehas 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, butthe need to continue to improve is still present. Certainly, if America isdetermined to regain its superiority in the world, education, the foundation ofour future, needs to be priority number one.Teachers often develop academic expectations of students based oncharacteristics that are unrelated to academic progress. These expectations canaffect the way educators present themselves toward the student, causing analteration in the way our students learn, and thus causing an