Current Educational Issues That Cross Subject Matter Boundaries

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson takes a look at some major issues that are currently being discussed by teachers across all content areas, including Common Core State Standards, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and school funding challenges.

Educational Issues

Regardless of what grade level or content area you teach, certain educational issues impact all teachers. Some current educational topics that you should be familiar with include Common Core State Standards, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and funding issues. Let's find out more about these current issues that cross subject matter boundaries.

Common Core State Standards

To promote higher standards for U.S. students in a competitive, global marketplace, state leaders began to support a common set of rigorous standards for all students nationwide. Currently, the majority of the states have adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that require students to use higher-order thinking skills to justify the reasons behind their solutions.

Beyond academic benefits, these standards are intended to provide more consistency for students who move from one place to another. Further, they enable professional development, curriculum, and monitoring tools to be developed for a wider audience, reducing state costs.

Sounds great, right? But CCSS has not been well-received by some because adjustments are difficult. Teachers and parents often feel uncomfortable with new instructional methods that they do not understand. During a time when we are already facing a teacher shortage, change tends to add to teacher stress.

Other objections to CCS include:

  • The degree of rigor is inappropriate for younger students.
  • States accustomed to high standards feel as if their standards are being lowered.
  • Subjects other than reading and math may be shortchanged or continue to have misaligned standards across the nation.
  • Textbooks that are currently in classrooms may not be aligned to the new standards.

Every Student Succeeds Act

All teachers today have become accustomed to the high-stakes testing that resulted from legislation designed to ensure educational accountability. In January of 2002, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush. In December of 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Barack Obama to replace No Child Left Behind.

ESSA, like NCLB, requires annual state testing for accountability purposes, but gives more power to the states to determine student performance targets and interventions. Each state selects and adopts the curriculum that will be taught and tested at each grade level. Then the state contracts with a testing company to provide a standardized test that matches the curriculum standards for that state, which may be defined partly by CCSS. Testing opt-out laws may be developed by the state as long as at least 95 percent of students test. This enables schools to protect severely disabled children from being forced to endure annual testing.

In addition to test scores, states may consider other factors as indicators of school effectiveness, such as school climate, graduation rates, and advanced coursework. Together, test scores and other factors determine a school's rank in the state. Under ESSA, the state chooses supports and interventions for schools in the bottom 5 percent with dedicated federal funds for turn-around initiatives. ESSA ensures that resources are available from quality early childhood programs through professional development for teachers and school leaders.

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