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A Nation in Decline

North Carolina anxiously awaits its grades. State law (General Statute 115C-83.15now (2013-2014 school year) directs the State Board of Education (my former employer) to award each of the state’s public schools a grade, A-F.  80% of the calculated score is based on standardized test scores.

This is, to this citizen, further evidence of the arrogance of North Carolina’s pompously conservative law makers.  Is their goal, to improve the state’s public schools, when there actions are designed to make it easier for parents to judge their community schools at the same time that they continue to cut staff and instructional materials?  

An October 2013 NC Policy Watch article itemized the effects of state’s education budget (2013-2014), as reported by 34 local mostly conservative news outlets in 34 NC towns.  Among other degradations to North Carolina children, the cuts totaled the loss of 364 more teachers, 901 more teacher assistants and $8,226,774 for textbooks and instructional materials.

By coincidence a publication just released by the Southern Education Foundation reports that students in American schools, who qualify for free and reduced lunches, now outnumber those who do not. 51% of U.S. public school students are low income children.  Of North Carolina’s Students, 53% are low income, and to our south, 58% of South Carolina and 60% of Georgia public school students are low income.

I especially appreciated the statement made by SEF Vice President Steve Suitts.

“No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness…  Their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future. Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low income students – students with the largest needs and usually with the least support — the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline…”

Comments

  • Hunter Reid

    Hi my name isnHunter arid and I am a student at the university of south Alabama. I agree that our nation does need to do more for low income students. Not only to help our nation become smarter but also for the sake of our teachers. If a teachers class room doesn’t succeed on state test the teacher pays for it ultimately by losing their job.

    • Mahmoud Ihmeidan

      Hi, my name is Mahmoud Ihmeidan and I am a teacher in the state of Arkansas. I agree with you 100 percent about how our nation needs to do more to help low income students, not only does our country need to help low income students but they need to help all schools in general don’t you think? So many teacher leave their careers because the pay does not support their family enough and that is not fair to the students who need some of these great teachers, so I think that teacher income needs to be raised for all the work that a teacher does don’t you think?

  • Samantha Bond

    This sort of thing infuriates me. If a school does poorly on state testing, its funding is cut; remind me again, how does this help? Oh right, it doesn’t. Cutting funding to already-struggling schools does nothing but reinforce classism and the notion that social institutions such as racism, sexism, and prejudice of any form do not affect a person’s success. To punish poorly-performing schools who typically have a higher percentage of low-income students is beyond ridiculous; it is counterproductive. Essentially what is being said is, “You can’t perform miracles and instantly turn disadvantaged students into top-performing Ivy League shoe-ins? We’re cutting your funding. You’re a waste of time and money.”
    When over 50% of American public school students are low-income, it is time to seriously reconsider the process of funding allocations and the biases and prejudices ingrained deeply within them. No student, whether they be living in poverty or wealth, should be denied access to a high-quality education because they cannot keep up with arbitrary educational policies made by legislators who in all likelihood have never bothered to speak to an educator or get input from those who live out the consequences of these financial choices every single day.

    • Marie Rodriguez

      I agree with you Samantha. It is heartbreaking to see the funding in education continue to get cut. A lot of pressure is being put on teachers because of mandated state tests. Most of them are resorting to teach the test and limit the amount of teaching on other important subjects.

  • Christy Salyer

    True these types of setbacks do not help low performing school’s situation. However, I believe the bigger picture is to begin thinking about what resources we do have and try not to focus so much on cutbacks. They can be viewed as an obstacle that needs to be overcome. If I were a principal leading in one of the low income schools, I would use the strongest resource that is crucial to improving student learning and that is the synergistic ideas of a group of teachers. I would encourage teachers to work in teams to write grants to fund programs that would help increase student learning. Teacher leaders in the school can brainstorm and work on overcoming any obstacles that low performing schools face.

    • Jeffrey Hunt

      I think we can all agree that there is a decline
      in the educational system. Part of that is the system we have been given to
      operate within…no child left behind. However, that system is coming to an end
      soon, which will hopefully provide teachers more freedoms within their
      professions. Cutbacks on teachers and learning resources are only getting
      worse. You make a good point when you say to focus on the what we do have
      available, and a group of great minds working together can accomplish a lot. My
      concern is that brainstorming will continue to be a response to an evaporating
      pool of options available. At what point does a change have to be made? At what
      point does action need to be taken by creative minds to instigate change? Am I
      the guy with a plan to initiate change right now, unfortunately not. I am only
      asking the question and keeping my ears open for the person that does. Teachers
      are amazingly passionate people who truly care about what we do, but how many
      amazing teachers are we losing due to this declining situation? The answer is
      too many. I think that some form of public education to recreate the image of
      public schools and what teachers do is a good place to start. Recently,
      teaching has been grossly underappreciated and misunderstood as a profession.
      Changing the public view would have a huge impact and reflect with support.

  • shawnee smith

    I teach at the high school level in Utah. Utah undoubtedly has a difficult time funding K-12 education. Utah ranks last in the nation per pupil spending. I teach in a low income community where the challenges these kids face stretch far beyond the classroom. The general public and law makers for that matter have no idea what we or our students face on a daily basis. I understand the method behind holding teacher’s accountable for the learning that is taking place in schools. However, there are so many variables that factor into the success of a child. Viewing the situation from the perspective of a teacher might shed some light on the magnitude of the problem. The entire system is so flawed. We spend all of this time encouraging the implementation of innovating and engaging learning opportunities, while standardized tests are thrown at these kids left and right. So much of our instructional time is taken from us, ironically for students to prove proficient in our subjects. Many teachers feel pressured to teach to the test, which in the end does a disservice to our kids as well. When schools don’t show adequate progress, rather than offering greater support or strategies for improvement, the students are the ones who suffer by receiving less funding. For the most part, people who enter in to this profession are in it for all the right reasons. We want to make a difference in the lives of our students in an effort to effect positive social change. The problem is that we are powerless when it comes to the laws that are put in place to support our students. Those in power to create change need to shift their priorities.


Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
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Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
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Raw Materials for the Mind
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