August 18, 2018

Is Education Changing for the Better?

Trump and DeVos

Photo courtesy of abin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty

by Kelsey Dass ’18

Opinion Staff

“Common Core is a disaster,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at the American Enterprise Institute conference on Jan. 16. “At the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.”

For the past eight years, the Common Core State Standards have been the guidebook to educating the youth of America. All programs and curriculums created have been tiered to meet the needs addressed by the initiative.   

The Common Core State Standards were designed with the thought of achievement scores, numbers, and rank for all learners. With the anticipation of its extinction, the teachers of America are asking, “what comes next?”

Countries across the globe are constantly in competition, ranging anywhere from inventions to governmental policies, yet the U.S. insists on being defined as the best. In order to be the best, we must be the smartest.

The question: how do we become the smartest? 

The answer is education.

The Common Core State Standards are, as stated as its initiative, “preparing America’s students for success.” In order to do so, they provide a clear set of expectations of what needs to be learned in the areas of English language arts and mathematics per grade level. Ranging from kindergarten to high school, teachers must create, design, and implement lessons that are geared towards meeting these standards.

In addition, it is not just what the children are doing, it is also how they are doing it. Listening and oral and written communication are all standards for success, and the quality of their ability to do so is seen as either proficient or not proficient.

DeVos believes the Common Core no longer serves a purpose, and more importantly, never has. 

Fifteen people created the Common Core State Standards and none of these creators had more than three years of classroom teaching experience. Many of these people support the profitable testing industries, such as The College Board.

The list could go on and on, and it consistently reflects the idea that we are not thinking of students as human beings. Could a machine or robot succeed at all of the standardized expectations brought forth by the Common Core? Of course! However, we are human beings, and the reason why we are not “racing to the top” is the clear disconnect between the core curriculum and varying abilities of children.

DeVos has called for change and will further focus on pursuing individualized instruction, which is essential to the development of learners, especially in the area of special education. Individualized education plans (IEPs), have created a world in which all children can learn and succeed.

DeVos makes valid points in that area; however, her idea of individualized instruction is directed towards technology-based learning. Therefore, instead of walking into a classroom and watching children interact and converse, their eyes will be glued to a computer screen. While this allows for each individual child to focus and achieve in their own way and at their own pace, is this truly the most effective route to take overall?

Melissa Gavin ’18, who studies elementary and special education, said, “In a diverse classroom, technology can help to differentiate lessons and tier them towards student’s individual needs. Math programs like Zearn and IXL are helping my students master concepts that they might miss in a whole group lesson.”

On the other hand, there is immense fear that the growing use and push for technology will not only eliminate teaching jobs but could also immensely change the nature of teacher-student relationships.

Allison Woodruff ’18 notes this fear, saying, “I believe education should be used as a tool to enhance teaching such as Chromebooks for text to speech and iPads for close point models. However, we should not completely rely on technology to the extent that teachers are not needed as much.”

Going forward, how will the sole use of technology in education transfer to college? Providence College prides itself on its meaningful use of discussion based classroom settings. Every week for two years we spent two and a half hours discussing and analyzing historical, literary, philosophical, and theological texts. What will happen to the art of discussion, and how will PC approach the monumental change we are going to see in education? 

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