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New Education Legislation, Same Problems – edu|FOCUS
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New Education Legislation, Same Problems

So the president finally (finally!) signed legislation that ended the torment that was No Child Left Behind in favor of allowing states to take more control over education issues.  The new legislation, called Every Student Succeeds (White House Press Release here), also prohibits the government from implementing Common Core-esque requirements that force every single school system to fall in line based on the same criteria.  While there will be less emphasis on standardized testing, students in certain grades will still be subject to some standardized tests throughout their school career, as before.  The biggest differences are that the federal government no longer has any say in how to reprimand those schools who perform poorly, leaving it up to the states to take action as they see fit (with the exception of the schools who fall in the bottom 5%), the required yearly tests are more flexible in how they can be administered, and graduation rates are given more attention. President Obama himself referred to this as a “Christmas Miracle” since this rewrite was met with bipartisan support, but the real miracle would be actual progress in the education reform movement once the hoopla dies down.

While advocating power from the federal level down to the state level may work for some aspects, it isn’t necessarily true for everything.  Take for example other issues the nation is still struggling with, like gun laws, marriage rights, and reproductive rights.  There are still massive disagreements (both on the local and national level) on how these topics should be regulated, which is understandable when you have a large group of people from different backgrounds.  You can’t expect an owl to understand the plight of a stingray, although as humans you would think we could all come to some kind of understanding when it comes to basic human rights.

As far as education is concerned it seems as though the majority can at least agree that everyone deserves to go to school, but the concern stops there.  Seeing as how getting what’s considered a “good” education is largely based on financial stability, this makes education a class issue (and inadvertently a race issue).  As long as there is such a large gap between the upper and lower classes in the world, there will be conflicts when it comes to receiving and delegating finances.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post about the issues that arise with this new legislation (back when it was known as Every Child Achieves), including how children in poorer schools still can’t be accounted for in the same way that more affluent schools are, and that relying on testing to prove effectiveness can lead to big business like Pearson and McGraw Hill being the ones in control of your child’s education.  And these issues are still a potential problem, but it seems like that hasn’t quite hit the mainstream media as important to think about right now.  It’s election season, so anything having to do with politics is given the forefront, especially something that paints the government in a positive light, seeing as this was a moment of  bipartisan agreement.  You can bet that people will continue to look at this moment as successful just because it was passed, but when it took over a decade to get to this point, I personally don’t see a need for excessive celebration.  Not to say that this is a bad thing, it’s just that it’s only the first steps needed to see a major change.

Perhaps in putting education regulations into the states’ hands is a better solution, since children in south Texas have a different lifestyle from children in central California, which is different from children in eastern Pennsylvania, and so on.  But even within those regions there is are major differences in lifestyles as well, which means it doesn’t make a difference to Philadelphia area school districts whether their standards are being passed down from Washington, DC or Harrisburg, PA.  So once again, the biggest factor in education reform isn’t where the standards come from, but where the money comes from.  We won’t be able to close those achievement gaps if we don’t focus on the right ways to go about closing them: by making sure that those involved in the education process are those directly affected by it like educators, students, and parents.

I still think the best way to make sure that this new chapter (and any chapter) in education reform goes smoothly and is most beneficial to everyone is to continue to campaign for individual communities to step up and take action towards building a better learning environment for the future, and make sure that everyone realizes just how important getting a quality education really is for the good of the country.

What do you think, is the nation finally on it’s way toward equal education for all?  What are the next steps for us to take?

Tracey Woodard
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