Fall Before Racing to the Top!

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As education officials confirmed the obvious degradation of state education standards in the US and as more concerns are voiced regarding the government-wooed raise of academic bar, ProfEssays.com shares its own views on the problem and ways to its possible solution.

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Excursus in Historia.

No one would doubt that education level and academic demands were incomparably higher about a century ago than they are now. This is not to do with the typical senile lamenting that the grass was greener and the beer was cheaper far long ago, but it’s quite the fact supported by historical data. In the last decade of 1800s, for instance, only one student in 10 attended high school (though the figure was higher in New England), so education was accessible to only the best and the brightest (and the richest to certain extent).

Yet, starting from 1920s the education standards engaged into what seems now an incessant fall. What was the main reason of it? The answer is simple: centralization. Years of centralization of authority, district consolidations, the rise of state education bureaucracies and federal intrusions into the study process have led education standards into what they are now. So, will the pretty words and money incentives of government officials really improve or only worsen the situation?

Barely two months after the governors and state school principals released their final recommendations for national education standards (dealing with English and math), 27 states have already adopted them and about a dozen more are going to do so in the next two weeks.

It was a bit of a sudden, but expected in some way. Their support has surprised many, including the author, given the long-standing tradition of states’ relative educational isolation. The tradition is apparently coming to an end, though, especially given the recent Obama’s Administration Race to the Top Program. It stipulates that states adopting the standards by Aug. 2 would win points in the competition for a share of the $3.4 billion to be awarded in September. Well, what won’t you do for money, as they say?

Reporters say that even Massachusetts that has traditionally been credited for its best education system nationwide is intended to adopt the standards this week. New York signed up on Monday, joining Connecticut, New Jersey and other signers, though it is yet uncertain when actual implementation is to take place.

The event has already caused extremely positive reaction of many education officials, with Arne Duncan, the Education Secretary, being “ecstatic”. Yet, some fear this may lead to the “Race to Adopt”, which is dangerous if states do not find money to implement the adopted standards.

What now?

It was already shown what centralization efforts had done with the state education, however it is clear that blunt denying is not an option now, so the question “what should we do?” remains open. On one hand, it is clear that some states deliberately downgraded their standards not to be penalized under the notorious No Child Left Behind Act. But on the other, American students are now far behind the required minimum in their test scores that are necessary to be prepared to college and, consequently, to compete in their future careers.

The new standards still receive mixed views from American experts and think tanks.

“I doubt them very much. Although this time they were developed by states themselves, there is no guarantee they won’t find the same fate No Child Left Behind Act did”, – said Matthew Barney, former TA and ProfEssays.com economic expert.

On the other part, Achieve Inc., an education reform group, found the common core standards “more rigorous and coherent”. WestEd, a research group that evaluated the standards for the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, found them comparable.

The new common core standards lay out detailed expectations of different academic skills and knowledge students should possess at the end of each grade. States that adopt them are eligible to additional standards, provided the common core account for at least 85 per cent of English and math standards.

While it is clear that new standards do not bring immediate change, this is quite a positive trend as long as it goes on with no deviations from the original idea. It’s understandable we’ll have to wait for the results for quite long while states reform their teacher training, classroom teaching methods, textbooks, testing etc. Still policy makers should not forget that there is no better way to ensure economic stability of the nation than to invest into its younger generations education.