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Effects of Pressure for Standards of Achievement on Teachers and Students
Politicians keep teachers at the forefront of their election campaigns by focusing on the concept that teachers are responsible for student achievement. Politicians are not just those who hold elected office. School administrators are politicians who walk fine lines between parents, state and local school boards and requirements, teachers and students. Effectively, this means that administrators act as all things to all people, but usually they are no one. Students act out because the instructional levels may be inadequate or the teacher may have problems with discipline. Since teachers have no resource within a classroom or school for the student in action, nothing happens. Students quickly learn to avoid onerous tasks they cannot perform. Teachers don’t feel supported by administrators when students act out. Students don’t learn if they’re not in the classroom, and suspensions and expulsions count on the school’s federal report card. Teachers don’t feel supported by administrators who like parents who may have invalid or questionable complaints based on student reports.
Teachers in schools classified as “in crisis” are doing everything they can to keep their jobs. They do whatever the state and hired consultants tell them to do. They spent time on documentation (lesson plans, frequent notes, behavior records, and data collection) and expanded instructional time spent on reading and math. The district may extend the school day and/or school year, requiring students not to spend more time doing what they cannot do. There are training demands for teachers that are in the form of professional development days and in-service or continuing education requirements for certification. The net result is that what is “new” is actually the “old” recycled with new buzzwords. There are the internal blame-game tactics in the ranks: high school teachers blaming high school teachers who blame elementary teachers who blame preschool or parents. Administrators blame parents and/or teachers. Parents blame administrators and teachers. No one blames the students, but that is another matter.
For students, the pressures manifest themselves in different ways. They are taught reading skills at an earlier age when they may not be developmentally ready for instruction. They have longer and more frequent instructional periods in reading and/or math. Since more time is needed for “core” instruction, this means that time is taken from recess or social time (such as shortened lunches) and specialized content areas (social studies, computer science, library , physical education, art and music). primary schools). Students whose interests or talents do not include reading and/or math do not enjoy school. As students begin reading instruction in kindergarten, instruction in readiness skills has been shortened or ignored. Without preparation skills, students often struggle with reading because there is no foundation to build on. Typically, students who struggle in school display aggressive behavior, often escalating out of frustration and inability to perform. This behavioral cycle begins in primary school and extends to secondary school. Students resort to “escapism” in many forms: truancy, disciplinary actions to avoid assignments, substance use, early sexual activity and pregnancy, formal or informal dropout.
What does all this mean?
The net result of federal and state pressures on schools is that no one is happy in or with schools. Successful schools that have their own issues of validity dominate the news and decisions that are made at all levels of education. Real learning, when information or processes are mastered, often occurs incidentally within discussions and application situations or problems. Schools must focus on preparing students to become self-sufficient and responsible adults. The pressures on education as it currently exists mean that students have fewer options for learning the right skills to prepare for the workplace. Yes, we need education reform, but doing more of the same, for longer periods of time and at more challenging performance levels is not the smart way to build our future workforce.
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