Public education today is not only quickly deteriorating, but also has become so test-driven that the United States is losing teachers in droves. In Indianapolis, the largest school corporation in Indiana – Indianapolis Public Schools – saw a mass exodus of teachers in the past two years. They had over 200 teachers retire or leave their school system during the months of May and June of 2014.
What caused the masses to leave? Low paying salaries, difficult working conditions due to lack of support from administration and lack of support with student discipline. Teachers are either obtaining jobs in the suburbs or are changing careers. There are advertisements in newspapers, online, magazines and even interstate billboards trying to recruit teachers to teach in public schools. There are even signing bonuses for some school corporations.
How do I know?
I am a teacher in Indiana. Well, I was. In May, I left my teaching job of 20 years because my heart was not in it. I was frustrated.
It was not the students that made the job intolerable. Administration has changed over the past two decades. Parents held their children accountable. Students respected adults. Academics were more important that sports. State governments supported education fiscally and politically.
Indiana and standardized testing
Indiana has had major complications in their standardized test for years. Changes have been made to improve the system, yet have garnered much criticism from teachers, parents and students. What was a bad situation was made worse due to the state governments refusal to listen to State Superintendent Glenda Ritz.
While this is a highly volatile subject, many teachers feel that the government's indifference to the State Superintendent is more political than educational. Glenda Ritz was elected in a grassroots election that shocked the Republican party and gubernatorial incomer. Since being in office, her effectiveness as the education chief has been thwarted with legislation that essentially will take away the importance of that office and allows for more government involvement.
Due to the conflict, Indiana has seen changes in the test, complications with the test, and failures with the test.
Some examples of the changes include the following:
- More rigorous tests without providing additional material to teachers
- Teacher merit pay for passing test scores
- Teacher pay reduced or no increment for poor student test scores
- Test on a computer platform
- Serious issues with computerized tests with extended issues of the test server being "down" and having to start and restart the test
- Lag on the computer affecting student scores and ability to take an uninterrupted test
- Incorrect testing/failed test across the state that caused Indiana Legislature to act
- Failures of the standardized test that affected the A-F grade rating of schools and districts
- Current legislative bill proposing to ignore the entire 2015 state standardized test
- Current legislative bill proposing the A-F grade system be overhauled for the 2015 year due to state-wide testing failure
Standardized testing takes away from education
Schools are so consumed with test scores and maintaining their grade rating with the State of Indiana, they have ignored their clientele, the students. Administrations focus on the whole instead of the individual, which negates what education should be.
Students are slipping through the cracks because the focus is not on individual achievement or improvement. Instead of making sure that students have complete mastery of their subjects, they are pushed through subject matter because the length of time on lessons is shorter due to testing deadlines.
They are supposed to measure student knowledge and mastery of the subjects involved. Indiana even passed legislation that now allows teacher salary and bonuses can be based on test results for the students.This has created an even more hostile environment to make sure that students have learned what will be on the test.
It is frustrating. Teachers find that there is less time to cover traditional subject matter to ensure that test material has been covered.
Pro-parent or pro-education
Due to the necessity of school success on test scores, they have allowed for other areas to become issues. Local school administration or principals are indifferent regarding the state of individual student academic success.
Helicopter parents have created a new normal as they argue with teachers, principals and administration to correct issues and grades with their children. With society being addicted to social media and being overly litigious, administration is quickly becoming pro-parent instead of supporting their teachers to avoid any sort of bad "press." Image over results. Entitlement and elitism prevail.
While the results of the standardized tests cannot be altered by administration and parents, the emphasis on test success and ratings create an environment of incredible competition by teacher, student, parent, and actual achievement of the student has been muted. Instead, it creates an environment where achievement is being measured by parent involvement vs. actual student work.
Education – Finland vs. United States
To repair this, we need to find models that work. Finland has an amazing educational model with scores improving exponentially. Students are thriving in less time with harder classes and better experiences. While schools have to wait on our federal government to revoke some laws and policies, more should be done at the state and local levels to ensure students are receiving the education they need and deserve.
Equality in education is lacking even among communities in the same area – but that is a topic for another time.