Biggest Changes in a Decade Greet Students

September 3, 2013

Millions of students heading back to school are finding significant changes in the curriculum and battles over how teachers are evaluated, as the biggest revamps of U.S. public education in a decade work their way into classrooms, says the Wall Street Journal.

Most states are implementing tougher math and reading standards known as Common Core, while teacher evaluations increasingly are linked to student test scores or other measures of achievement. Meantime, traditional public schools face unprecedented competition from charter and private schools.

Supporters say the overhauls will help make U.S. students more competitive with pupils abroad. But others worry that the sheer volume and far-reaching nature of the new policies is too much, too fast. Already, the changes have sparked pushback.

  • North Carolina teachers marched on the state capitol last month to protest lawmakers' efforts to end automatic pay increases for teachers who obtain master's degrees and plans to let children use tax dollars to attend private schools.
  • In Texas, the birthplace of the student-testing movement, parents prodded legislators to scale back standardized testing of high schoolers.
  • And some Indiana school boards passed resolutions opposing the state's policy of giving schools letter grades from A to F after media reports showed officials tinkered with the formula in part to boost a charter school's grade.

Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers union, predicted more turmoil as many states plan to roll out tougher standardized exams in 2015.

The last few years have seen dramatic changes in the U.S. education system, chiefly spurred by Republican governors and President Barack Obama. The president's Race to the Top education initiative offered $4.35 billion to cash-starved states to adopt policies such as linking test scores to teacher evaluations and expanding charter schools, which are public schools run by outside groups.

  • Meantime, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core math and language arts standards, which lay out what students should know at each grade level.
  • More than 40 states have agreed to link teacher evaluations to test scores or other student achievement measures, and four plan to rescind the licenses of some teachers who fail to make the grade.

Source: Stephanie Banchero and Arian Campo-Flores, "Biggest Changes in a Decade Greet Students," Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2013.

 

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