Problems in Education and Society

According to "A Nation at Risk", the American education system

has declined due to a "rising tide of mediocrity" in our schools.

States such as New York have responded to the findings and

recommendations of the report by implementing such strategies as the

"Regents Action Plan" and the "New Compact for Learning".

In the early 1980?s, President Regan ordered a national

commission to study our education system. The findings of this

commission were that, compared with other industrialized nations, our

education system is grossly inadequate in meeting the ezdards of

education that many other countries have developed. At one time,

America was the world leader in technology, service, and industry, but

overconfidence based on a historical belief in our superiority has

caused our nation to fall behind the rapidly growing competitive

market in the world with regard to education. The report in some

respects is an unfair comparison of our education system, which does

not have a national ezdard for goals, curriculum, or regulations,

with other countries that do, but the findings nevertheless reflect

the need for change. Our education system at this time is regulated

by states which implement their own curriculum, set their own goals

and have their own requirements for teacher preparation. Combined

with this is the fact that we have lowered our expectations in these

areas, thus we are not providing an equal or quality education to all

students across the country. The commission findings generated

recommendations to improve the content of education and raise the

ezdards of student achievement, particularly in testing, increase

the time spent on education and provide incentives to encourage more

individuals to enter the field of education as well as improving

teacher preparation.

N.Y. State responded to these recommendations by first

implementing the Regents Action Plan; an eight year plan designed to

raise the ezdards of education. This plan changed the requirements

for graduation by raising the number of credits needed for graduation,

raising the number of required core curriculum classes such as social

studies, and introduced technology and computer science. The plan

also introduced the Regents Minimum Competency Tests, which requires a

student to pass tests in five major categories; math, science,

reading, writing, and two areas of social studies. Although the plan

achieved many of its goals in raising ezdards of education in N.Y.

State, the general consensus is that we need to continue to improve

our education system rather than being satisfied with the achievements

we have made thus far.

Therefore, N.Y. adopted "The New Compact for Learning". This

plan is based on the principles that all children can learn. The

focus of education should be on results and teachers should aim for

mastery, not minimum competency. Education should be provided for all

children and authority with accountability should be given to

educators and success should be rewarded with necessary changes being

made to reduce failures. This plan calls for curriculum to be devised

in order to meet the needs of students so that they will be fully

functional in society upon graduation, rather than just being able to

graduate. Districts within the state have been given the authority to

devise their own curriculum, but are held accountable by the state so

that each district meets the states goals that have been established.

Teachers are encouraged to challenge students to reach their full

potential, rather than minimum competency. In this regard, tracking

of students is being eliminated so that all students will be

challenged, rather than just those who are gifted. Similarly, success

should be rewarded with recognition and incentives to further

encourage progress for districts, teachers and students while others

who are not as accomplished are provided remedial training or

resources in order to help them achieve success.

It is difficult to determine whether our country on the whole

has responded to the concerns that "A Nation at Risk" presented.

Clearly though, N.Y. State has taken measures over the last ten years

to improve its own education system. In many respects the state has

accomplished much of what it set out to do, but the need to continue

to improve is still present. Certainly, if America is determined to

regain its superiority in the world, education, the foundation of our

future, needs to be priority number one.

Teachers often develop academic expectations of students

based on characteristics that are unrelated to