There are many different factors that affect the issue of inequality in public schools in the United States of America. Although the nature of the public school system has changed dramatically in the past century, the public school system in the United States is not free from the issues of the past.
One of the major issues facing publics schools today is the issue of economic inequality. Schools are generally funded by property taxes, and property taxes are always higher in areas that are more wealthy. As a result, schools in wealthy areas receive better funding and are generally more successful on a basic level than those in poorer communities.
This issue is compounded by the fact that poorer communities have fewer resources available to children, such as a lack of preschool options for parents. Preschool opportunities have been linked with greater chances of academic success later in a student’s career; poor families and underprivileged youth, therefore, start off life at a disadvantage, only to watch that disadvantage grow over time as the gap in their educational opportunities widens.
In the past, children were taught a basic curriculum that consisted of reading, writing, and arithmetic; this was known as the “Common School Era.” During this time, it was easier for a child to obtain a comprehensive education because the amount of knowledge being taught was different than it is today. The Common School Era ended in the early 1900s, with the standardization of education along regional, statewide, and then federal boundaries.
Many people believe that the end of the Common School Era was a positive change for education, and in many ways, it has been. The end of local schools and the nationalization of schools has led to the standardization of curriculum, and the introduction of educational standards for teachers. However, some contend that the standardization of curriculum has gone too far, and that today, the No Child Left Behind Act is the cumulation of the issues caused by the end of the Common School Era.
The No Child Left Behind Act was introduced into law by President Bush during his time in office. It is an Act that implements a standardized test that is required for all students in the nation; this test is required for schools to take to get funding from the federal government. Schools that underperform on the test are often penalized by not receiving funding or not receiving as much funding; schools that perform well get more funding and are better prepared for the following year.
There are a few issues with the No Child Left Behind Act that must be rectified. First, the incentive of funding means that teachers often depart from important aspects of their curriculum to “teach to the test.” This means that they often forego interesting or creative projects to ensure that their students perform to par on the test.
Second, it has never been conclusively shown that standardized testing has any real correlation with a student’s knowledge or ability. Students who perform well on the standardized test may perform well in school, or they may perform badly; it has little to do with the test. There is no inherent enriching value in the test itself. Lastly, utilizing funding as an incentive is a terrible way to ensure that underperforming schools perform well. Instead, it encourages cheating from the teachers, and almost always ensures that schools that begin to fail will continue to fail, as gifted teachers will leave the school system and migrate elsewhere to teach.
The school system in America has many problems, but the No Child Left Behind Act has made them much, much worse. Without serious educational reform and the removal of standardized testing from the curriculum, underperforming schools will continue to underperform and the educational gap between the wealthy and the poor will continue to grow.
Dee, Thomas S., and Brian Jacob. "The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Student Achievement." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 30.3 (2011): 418-46. Web.
Trolian, Teniell L., and Kristen S. Fouts. "No Child Left Behind: Implications for College Student Learning." American College Personnel Association 2011: n. pag. Wiley Online Library. Web.