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Each generation of Americans has surpassed its parents in education and literacy.  But with the education crisis we face today, many do not realize that the education skills of one generation will not even come close to that of their parents.

  • 50% of all adults in America are functionally illiterate by the simplest tests of everyday reading writing and comprehension.
  • 60% of American youth have dropped out of school or barely graduated with 7th grade education.
  • Average achievement of high school students on most standardized test is now lower than 26 years ago.
  • Of the top 18 industrialized nations, U.S. students ranked last on the standardized tests.
  • Standard Achievement test scores have fallen 80 points since 1960
  • Between 1975 and 1980 remedial mathematics courses in public 4-year colleges increased by 72% and now constitute one-quarter of all mathematics courses taught in those institutions.

Today, nearly 70% of inner city 4th graders are unable to read at a basic level on national reading tests.  Our high school seniors trail students in Cyprus and South Africa on international math tests.  And nearly a third of our college freshmen find they must take a remedial course before they are able to even begin regular college level courses.

Federal policy has strongly influenced America’s schools.  Over the years Congress has created hundreds of programs intended to address problems in education without asking whether or not the programs produce results or knowing their impact on local needs.  This program for every problem solution has begun to add up, so much so that there are hundreds of education programs spread across 39 federal agencies at a cost of $120 billion a year.  Yet, after spending billions of dollars on education, we have fallen short in meeting our goals for educational excellence.  The academic achievement gap between rich and poor is not only wide, but still growing.

No Child Left Behind was implemented to help students achieve higher test scores and be educated to his or her full potential.  It affects what students are taught, the test they have to take, the training of their teachers and the way money is spent on education.  The standard for achievement tests has been reduced to bring scores up.  This rewards students more while the student actually learn less.  Students are actually at a disadvantage.  Under NCLB, standardized test scores are assessed by student’s proficiency in reading and math.  Educators are teaching according to this test.  So much time is spent on the test that the needs of individual children are falling by the wayside.  The focus is reading and computation at the expense of all their other essential skills such as comprehenson, analysis, problem solving and drawing conclusions.  Taking the results of one test is really a disservice to our students.  It excludes students who could succeed or excel in other areas.

NCLB’s advocates say the landmark law holds schools accountable, empowers parents and is helping to close the achievement gap in America’s schools.  Many critics, including those who agree with the law’s goals argue that it is a “one size fits all” approach to education that over emphasizes testing and doesn’t provide enough money to schools to achieve success. As stricter testing requirements and penalties have taken effect, several states have rebelled, challenging the law in legislatures and the courts. In response, the U.S. Department of Education has given greater latitude to some districts and states in satisfying the law’s provisions.  Than, in turn has drawn criticism that the federal goverment has gone too far and weakened the law so much that it can’t achieve its goals.

States are required to set targets for overall achievement and for specific categories of students, such as English language learners or economically disadvantaged students.  these targets determine whether the  school makes adequate yearly progress, or AYP, as measured by state standardized tests.  A school can fail even  if it is making substantial progress for most of its students-if one category of students cannot meet the standards. The goal is for every student in public school to be proficient in reading and math by 2014.  students must be tested annually in reading and math in grades 3-8 and at least once in grades 10-12. Students must be tested in science in a least one grade in elementary, middle and high school.  Schools that don’t meet goals for their overall student bodies or specific categories of students are sanctioned.

Teachers must be highly qualified to teach core academic subjects in every classroom.  Specifically an elementary school teacher must have a bachelor’s degree and pass a rigorous test in core curriculum areas.  Middle and high school teachers must show they are competent in the subjects they teach by passing a test or by completing an academic major, graduate degree or comparable coursework.  Research including a 2006 study of 3 states by the think tankEducation Trust, shows that students in schools with a large percentage of minority and low-income students are more likely to be taught by teachers who are inexperienced and lack a major or minor in the subjects they teach.  The teacher qualification provisions of NCLB are aimed at insuring that schools where students tend to need the most help employ teachers who are qualified to provide it.  states have struggled to meet this goal.  The law covers other teaching staff, too.  Most teachers aids and other paraprofessionals are now required to complere 2 years of college or an equivalent type of training.

The nonprofit independent center of education policy releases annual report cards on NCLB.  The organization which advocates for public schools, surveyed education officials in 50 states and gave the law a mixed report card in 2006.  the center concluded that as a result of the law:

  • Districts are better aligning classroom teaching with state academic standards
  • Principals and teachers are making better use of test results to improve teaching
  • Scores on states tests are higher in large majority of states and school districts
  • Teachers report high stress levels and poor staff morale because of the pressure to improve scores
  • Most school districts are cutting back on Social studies, science, art or other subjects to make more time for reading and math, the subjects that are tested.
  • The effect on achivement gaps between groups of students of different races or ethnicities in unclear.  While most states and districts reported that the achievement gap in test results had narrowed or stayed the same. The centers own case studies did not find the same results.  As a result, the study concluded it is impossible to reach an overall conclusion about achievement gaps.

In a harsher report The Civil Rights Report, formerly  known as the Harvard civil rights Project concluded in 2006 that NCLB is failing to close the achievement gap, won’t make its 2014 goals and has not significantly improved reading and math achievement.  Federal education officials dispute these conclusions.

Sources:

http://www.greatschools.net/egi-bin/showarticle/ca/205

http://downtownweb.com/k-12-education/crisis.htm

http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/links/toolbox/nclb.html

http://www.ed.gov.pubs/NatAtRisk/risk.html

I believed the NCLB act was a great idea as long as it accomplished what it is set out to do.  I don’t agree with the idea of focusing on a certain area or subject and the expense of another.  All subjects should be addressed and handled with the same dedication and determination.  Early childhood development plays a part and can help make a difference in a child’s learning abilities but it is not always affordable.  NCLB act has a few shortcomings that can be detrimental to our educational system.  A reformed NCLB act is crucial, not just our students are at stake but our nations educational system.  Pres-elect Obama has a great plan on NCLB, including early Childhood Education that begins at birth.  If you have not veiwed Obama’s plan on education and reforming NCLB go to http://www.barackobama.com/issues/education

1.  What are your thoughts on No Child Left Behind?  Is it a help or hinderance?  Why?

2 what do you think are key factors that would improve this nations educational system or educational crisis?

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United States Education

US Education Compared to Other Developed Nations

Compared to other nations United States spends more per student; however the average science and math score of U.S. students lagged behind. A number of nations are doing a better job than the US in getting young people through school. The United States is falling when it comes to international education rankings.

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See this link for a full report of a study done by OECD.

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://mwhodges.home.att.net/science_undergrad_intl.gif&imgrefurl=http://mwhodges.home.att.net/education-c.htm&usg=__NBogDKOOn-0vvxORVwYv7vC1uTA=&h=348&w=437&sz=9&hl=en&start=1&um=1&tbnid=c2jJOS39gjMUnM:&tbnh=100&tbnw=126&prev=/images%3Fq%3Deducation%2Bcompared%2Bto%2Bother%2Bnations%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den

Joe mentioned in his comment that his daughter out performed her classmates in a public school after attending private school for four years. My son also went to private school for a while and then public. The differences between the two are enormous; from the quality of the education, to the way the children are required to dress and attitude of the school’s staff. US education system substantially favors those who can afford the best schools and who can afford to go to college. Then, the US economy holds the largest rewards for those who have graduated from college, and the biggest penalties for those who do not complete high school, providing few outlets or second chances to cross that gap upon leaving school. Other developed countries appear to be rapidly expanding their university-educated, but without the education spending and income disparities of the US.

I believe it’s important to provide quality education to the entire American people and not just a few who can afford it. We’re hearing a lot these days about the coming shortage of skilled workers. The world is changing and we need an education system to produce the knowledge workers needed to compete in a digitized global economy.

Here’s an article on why the US must reform education in order to compete in the world: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_/ai_n21075798

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)

This act was signed by President Bush aiming to improve the performance of US primary and secondary schools by increasing the standards of accountability for states, school districts, and schools their children will attend.

v Each state was to create assessments that measures what children know and learn in reading and math in grades 3-8. Student progress and achievement are measured according to tests that are given to every child, every year.

v NCLB is to empower parents, citizens, educators, administrators and policymakers with data from those annual assessments. The data will be available in annual report cards on school performance and on statewide progress reports. They will give parents information about the quality of their children’s schools, the qualifications of teachers, and their children’s progress in key subjects.

v NCLB offered most local school districts in America the freedom to transfer up to 50 percent of the federal dollars they receive among several education programs without separate approval. NCLB gave local school officials serving rural schools and districts more flexibility and a greater say in how federal funds are used in their schools. NCLB was to create meaningful options for parents whose children are trapped in failing schools and make these options available:

1. Public School Choice: Parents with children in failing schools would be allowed to transfer their child to a better-performing public or charter school immediately after a school is identified as failing.

2. Supplemental Services: Federal Title I funds (approximately $500 to $1,000 per child) can be used to provide supplemental educational services – including tutoring, after school services, and summer school programs – for children in failing schools.

3. Charter Schools: NCLB expands federal support for charter schools by giving parents, educators and interested community leaders greater opportunities to create charter schools.

v In addition to specific funds for teacher quality, NCLB gave local schools new freedom to make spending decisions with up to 50 percent of the non-Title I funds they receive. With this new freedom, local school districts were able to use additional funds for hiring new teachers, increasing teacher pay, improving teacher training and development or other uses.

Link to complete information on the No Child Left Behind Act: http://www.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml

Since the No Child Left Behind law took effect it has had a sweeping impact on U.S. public school classrooms. It affects what students are taught, the tests they take, the training of their teachers and the way money is spent on education.

Debate rages over whether the law is an effective way to improve academic achievement. Click here to see the critics’ arguments: http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/4439

Obama’s views on education

Obama states he plans to reform the No Child Left Behind Act, invest in early education and make college affordable. Listen to what Obama has to say:

Do you think the values and cultures of this country affect the education system? How?

What do you think can be done to encourage higher academic achievement among students?

If we are less competitive educationally, will be become less competitive economically?

What changes would you recommend to the No Child Left Behind Act?

What do you think about Obama’s video on education?

For whatever reasons, I’m unable to insert the links to the articles Dr. Russell handed out in class. The URLs follow below. I guess you’ll need to cut and past them into the search bar, unless Joe would be so good as to add the hyperlinks..

Obama and Iraq by Robert Dreyfuss

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/378887/print

Power Play by Robert Kagan

http://carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=print&id=20438


Class disscussion

The following are questions based on one of the two articles that Dr. Russell handed out in class last week.

1. Robert Kagan compares today’s “realists” with the realists of an earlier era. According to Kagan, in what fundamental ways do the two groups differ from one another?

2. With which group of realists does Kagan seem to agree? In other words, which group, according to Kagan, seem to have a better understanding of the basis of international politics and the how and why individual nations relate to one another the way they do?

3. According to Kagan, what was the relationship of the older generation of “realists” to democracy and democratic movements abroad?

4. To what does Kagan attribute the “global shift toward liberal democracy”?

5. Kagan concludes by approvingly quoting the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr from six decades ago: “the world problem cannot be solved if America does not accept its full share of responsibility in solving it.” Kagan, however, does not explicitly state what that “problem(s)” is for us today. Nor does he define what “responsibility” actually means in this context. Can you infer from Kagan’s article what he would identify as the “problem” and how he would define America’s “responsibility” in solving it?

6. What do you see as the “problem(s)” on the world stage, and what do you see as American’s “responsibility” in solving it?

The following questions are based on one of the two articles that Dr. Russell passed out in class last week.

1. Although as Dreyfuss argues, “Obama catapulted over Hillary Clinton in the primaries because he mobilized antiwar voters against her,” he nonetheless suggests that Obama might not have an antiwar mandate now as the new President. What are some of the reasons Dreyfuss offers to support his position? Which of these do you consider most important?

2. What does Dreyfuss suggest Obama could and should have done differently to ensure that he would have an antiwar mandate once he assumes office?

3. Do you agree with Dreyfuss? In other words, do you think Obama still has a mandate to end the war in Iraq? Or did he squander that political capital in the course of the presidential campaign?

The U.S. is a country built of immigrants. So how come it’s so hard to become a legal resident? Some people have to wait outside the US for years and have to go through an obstacle course of impossible bureaucracy. Families are torn apart and separated often for years.

Here are some stories of people trying to follow the rules and doing it the right way. http://news.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/11/share-your-immigration-story/index.html

It almost feels like people are getting punished for playing by the rules. No wonder that there are estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Both candidates didn’t really talk about the topic of immigration during their campaigns. In the final presidential campaign the word immigration came up only once and not as a topic point. McCain: You’re running ads that misportray completely my position on immigration. So the fact is that Sen. Obama is spending unprecedented — unprecedented in the history of American politics, going back to the beginning, amounts of money in negative attack ads on me.(CNN.com)

But let’s have a look at how the two candidates approach this problem on their websites.

Obama’s policy on immigration:

He wants:

  • to overhaul the immigration system and bureaucracy.
  • to encourage people to come out of the shadows and create a fair system to do so.
  • that illegal immigrants to learn English, pay a fine and start their process of becoming legal citizens.
  • to put more resources in securing the boarders.
  • to crack down on employers employing undocumented workers (BarakObama.com).

Barack Obama believes that politics have to be put aside for this issue.Everybody, Democrats and Republicans, have to make an effort to fix this situation together. (My opinion: It’s a good thought,but what are the chances?!?)

McCain’s policy on immigration:

McCain has some of the same ideas than Obama. He wants to reform the system with a two-step program.

  • The first step for him would be to secure the boarders with fences and more resources.
  • Than he wants to “implement a secure, accurate, and reliable electronic employment verification system to ensure that individuals are screened for work eligibility in a real-time fashion.”
  • Also part of his plan is to prosecute employers that continue hiring undocumented workers and
  • also to ensure that all undocumented aliens either leave or follow the path to legal residence (JohnMcCain.com)

There is also of course the concern of American citizens that the “illegals are taking their jobs away” That is not true. “According to Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer at the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center, in 2005 unauthorized immigrants made up about 4.9 percent of the labor force, or about 7.2 million workers out of 148 million” (NYtimes.com). Many illegal immigrants have jobs Americans don’t want. 

1,What is your opinion about immigration- illegal and legal? 

2,What are your thoughts about Obama’s plan for integrating illegal immigrants by making it possible for them to obtain legal residency or citizenship?

Sources:

http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/issues/ImmigrationFactSheet.pdf

http://www.johnmccain.com/informing/issues/68db8157-d301-4e22-baf7-a70dd8416efa.htm 

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/05/17/questions-and-answers-immigration/

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/15/debate.transcript/index.html