Public education system severely flawed

Duncan stated that high testing opt-out rates may lead to federal interference.
Duncan stated that high testing opt-out rates may lead to federal interference.

By Ellie Schuckman
Opinions Editor

For all of us here at the College, education is what got us to this point in our lives. For many, public education in particular is what we’ve all known since kindergarten. We’ve grown up learning from teachers who were once students, and we’ve sat in desks for hours on end waiting for the saving grace of the dismissal bell to ring. We’ve all aspired to be something, whether it’d be an astronaut, rockstar, police officer, doctor or even a teacher. However, with a rise in standardized testing, many have come to loathe the current education system, and some are now even opposed to becoming teachers at all.

This is wrong.

Education should be a form of expression for individuals, where they can learn and grow in an environment which does not force them to feel pressure to pass a test, but rather pressure to succeed to the best of their ability. Tests which inaccurately depict what students learn in the classroom should not judge an individual’s intelligence or negatively impact their learning.

The current education system has become flawed — with politicians who have no experience in classrooms crafting laws and passing legislation, barking orders and telling teachers how to do their job.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing  is a prime example.

From its commencement in mid-February, there has been strong backlash from parents, students and teachers alike regarding the true nature of the test. A part of the Common Core standards — goals set by government officials to regulate standards in English and mathematics across different states — students are now required to pass these strictly online tests. Inability to do so may result in penalties for teachers and could eventually negatively impact the students themselves.

In the meantime, teachers are slowly being forced to teach how to take a test instead of helping their students truly understand the material. While there needs to be some way to judge how well a teacher can do the job, basing his or her ability off of student test scores is not the answer. Some individuals simply have difficulty grasping concepts, to no fault of their educator.

Outraged when the tests first began, some students opted out of taking it, sending politicians, who fought to implement the new exams into a rage.

New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe stated last week that districts which have less than 95 percent of their students take the exams may start to lose state funding, according to nj.com. Under the federal No Child left Behind law, public schools are required to have at least 95 percent participation in annual state tests. However, New Jersey schools have not lost federal funding for lack of participation in the past.

According to the U.S. Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, the federal government is required to intervene if states do not respond to the opt-outs. Nearly 15 percent of high school juniors in the Garden State refused to take PARCC, according to nj.com.

Instead of cutting funding and worrying about the number of students taking the tests, these political figures should be questioning, “why?”

Why are students and parents so against taking the tests? Why is there so much backlash? Why are the teachers unhappy?

Our education system has become so intertwined with politics and people who have no idea what it takes for students to actually succeed and what struggles teachers face on a regular basis that the entire point of having federal regulations has missed the mark.

Whatever happened to students learning basic math and grammar skills in simple fashion? Why must teachers have to follow such strict guidelines through the Common Core instead of diverting from the plan to benefit individual student needs?

Politicians don’t appear to see that what they are doing is negatively affecting us, the students, the ones they swore to help.

According to a survey by the Condition of Future Educators, just 5 percent of the 1.85 million students who took the ACTs in 2014 now want to pursue a degree in education. This is an all-time low, down from the previous record of 7 percent set in 2010.

While this may not be an accurate number of those who wish to teach, it still shows a decreasing interest in the profession. From the outside, teachers are often viewed as either lazy, only working from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. while relaxing for several months off over the summer, or as having a job with low pay and high-stress. In reality, teachers devote countless hours outside of the classroom to their students all year round, while spending their personal money to provide students with necessary instruments to succeed, all because they want the best for them.

Either way, with their pay possibly now being judged on how well their students perform on tests which have not much to do with the material they are learning in school, students do not wish to do as our teachers once did and aspire to become an educator.

This is only hurting the future of our world, and teachers should not be the ones at fault. That blame is left to the politicians.