Continuing on with the post I started yesterday, education in the 21st century is America's biggest hurdle to prosperity for future generations. The following excerpt is taken from a strategy document I created in 2007 called Education Strategy in the 21st Century. We must fix education, and we must do it now.
Yesterday I came across a video which featured Newt Gringrich. He too was talking about the problems we are faced with in public education. It fits nicely with this post, so here's the link -- Solutions for a Failing Education System.
Public education is in crisis, and the crisis seems to be worsening with each passing year. The crisis stems from the social, economic, and political forces that are demanding change from an institution inherently designed to resist change. Public education plays a specific role within American society by providing a foundational pillar that transmits culture, norms, and values from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, K-12 public education is not fulfilling this function in its current form. A massive overhaul of the entire structure is required, but best efforts to date are only providing a piecemeal approach that entails little more than band-aids, and it’s not enough. Like a child with arms crossed refusing to take the medicine that will make them better, pubic education is resistant to change in spite of all the evidence insisting that change is a must -- America’s future depends on it.
In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed as a major renovation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The act has received mixed reviews across the board. Some say the act places undue burdens on teachers and schools and should be repealed. Others simply argue the act needs major changes before it can really accomplish its’ goals. All seem to agree that more money must be spent, although America already spends more than any other first world nation and gets results that are nowhere near number one. Will more money really provide the solution?
Certainly there are problems with the NCLB legislation. As written, it places heavy emphasis on test results and this has lead many teachers to simply teach to the test -- this does not provide an education for America’s children. On the other hand, teachers and schools are threatened with heavy penalties when student performance is not demonstrated on state-mandated summative tests. What should teachers do when they are given the burdens, but they’re not provided with the necessary tools and training required to meet the demands of NCLB? How can teachers deliver education services in the classroom without the resources to do so?
While NCLB is many things, some good and some bad, there is one thing that it certainly is - - NCLB is an attempt by society through a legislative process to induce change within public education. Clearly, results from the children existing the education system prior to the passage of NCLB were unacceptable as a measure of preparedness for students who would live and work in a 21st century information society. Whereas the intent of the legislation may have been to improve student achievement in this regard, the actual implementation and realization of the intent has proven to be difficult and elusive.
Three major problems seem to obstruct the fulfillment of the intent of NCLB. First, NCLB requires major systemic changes within the social fabric of public education. Industrial society style education delivery models don’t support this type of change. An information society education delivery model is now required, and that model of delivery must be reflected in the classroom through the learning transaction between the teacher and each student. Second, teachers are now required to be not only teachers, but also lawyers and doctors. Unfortunately, the diversity in teacher skill sets required for 21st century education is increasing, and to make matters worse, teachers have not been given the tools and the training that will make them successful in the classroom in the delivery of education under a 21st century information society model. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the systemic changes required within public education can only occur with changes in attitudes and behaviors of those people within public education. That is to say, the problems within pubic education can only be solved from within public education. Accordingly, this can only be accomplished through the use of technological systems that provide for the free flow of information as reflected by an information society paradigm. In their current state, most education systems are riddled with design flaws that create major information and data challenges and prevent the free flow of information within the classroom as well as up and down the education enterprise. In short, these technological systems do not align with the needs and problems of a public education social system reflective of an information society paradigm.