Magazine article National Forum

New Frames for an Underfined Future

Magazine article National Forum

New Frames for an Underfined Future

Article excerpt

Changes precipitated by the information age have created the expectation in society that instantaneous solutions are available to address perceived and real problems. Each improvement in computers and in information systems heightens the demand for immediacy, whether in a cure for a headache or for service in a restaurant. That expectation has spilled into the educational enterprise with a vengeance. The calls for accountability and complaints about the outcomes of both precollegiate and higher education reflect the widespread dissemination of educational test data, lack of public understanding of test score interpretation, the increasing demand for enhanced exit skills for students entering the work place, and a desire for immediate address to perceived and real weaknesses within American education.

The question of whether or not all charges leveled at education and educators are valid is moot. The fact is that educators are being critiqued as a class and as individuals. Change in instruction and curriculum is being demanded. Assessment is a watchword in all aspects of the educational enterprise, and no resistance or argument short of raising test scores and improving the quality and readiness of graduates in reading and mathematics, as well as other subject areas, will silence critics or their demands for change.

Truly, costs are an issue as schools and universities strive to remain on the so-called "cutting edge" of technology, teacher skills, software, and facilities. Changes in educational programs, of course, take time and money. But these excuses hold no charm for the public or for those clients (students) and consumers (the society as a whole) who receive our product. Ironically, unless improvements are made, it is likely that money will not be forthcoming to support schools. Already, university courses are being offered via distance learning and the internet. Additionally, the charter school movement reflects the seriousness of the public and of our state governments that students and dollars go only to those institutions which produce educated graduates.

Unless schools and universities respond to the questions which continue to be raised about all aspects of education in the United States, the driver of education will not be the educator's assessment of needs and consequent prescription for meeting them. The driver will continue to be the marketplace, and the voice of trained educators will be all but silenced in educational decisionmaking. If we do not analyze the issues and needs in preK-12 education and address them in the preparation of educators and students, we may find ourselves without students. We may also find that those hired by successful schools come to the classroom in greater and greater numbers by alternative routes, not through the usual teacher/ administrator licensure process.

With the predicted shortages of teachers and other educational professionals within the next ten years, we need to expeditiously identify and train individuals who can fill these roles competently within our nation's schools. Competence in this context implies the instructional skills necessary to address the needs of all students regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnic background. Competence implies the ability to map, align, and plan curriculum. Competence demands that teachers have enough depth and breadth of knowledge in their fields to teach the full range of students, from the most gifted to those most in need of individual instruction and remediation, and that all of these students be held to a high standard of achievement. Finally, competence demands that we educators engage all parents and communities in the educational process by communicating once again with them, sharing information on ways in which they may enhance learning by their children, and insisting on their support in the daily reinforcement activities that can take place only at home and that improve not only learning skills but also a primary learning tool, the memory. …

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