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Rifts deepen over direction education in the U.S.

May 8, 2013 by

By Michele McNeil –

In statehouses and cities across the country, battles are raging over the direction of education policy—from the standards that will shape what students learn to how test results will be used to judge a teacher’s performance.

Students and teachers, in passive resistance, are refusing to take and give standardized tests. Protesters have marched to the White House over what they see as the privatization of the nation’s schools. Professional and citizen lobbyists are packing hearings in state capitols to argue that the federal government is trying to dictate curricula through the use of common standards.

Indiana public school principal Ryan Russell sits in on the fifth-grade classroom of Jen Hess for a three- to five-minute “walk through” evaluation of her class.

New advocacy groups, meanwhile, are taking their fight city to city by pouring record sums of money into school board races.

Not since the battles over school desegregation has the debate about public education been so intense and polarized, observers say, for rarely before has an institution that historically is slow to change been forced to deal with so much change at once.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia are implementing the Common Core State Standards, and nearly as many are developing common tests that are expected to debut in 2014-15.

More than three dozen states are working on incorporating student test scores into evaluations of teachers and principals.

And a majority of states are creating new accountability systems as part of the flexibility federal officials are offering through No Child Left Behind Act waivers.

All this change—and more—in education is happening against a backdrop of rapidly shifting demographics, technology that is changing lives at blazing speeds, and an economy still recovering from the Great Recession.

At the same time, education is caught in a push for state and federal budget austerity and faces a Congress so gripped by gridlock that some educators are wondering if the withering Elementary and Secondary Education Act will ever get rewritten.

“As the country has become more polarized and the inability to compromise has become seen as a badge of honor, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’d see a more polemical debate in education, because it reflects the rest of the country,” said Joshua Starr, the superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Md.

via Rifts deepen over direction education in the U.S. | Hechinger Report.

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