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Education Reform Trends

Reviewed by Jon Konen, District Superintendent

Education in The Election Cycle

With every political election come promises from candidates of policy changes and reforms in public areas to better benefit the people of the United States. These policies are usually meant to create opportunity for all, guarantee that people receive equal rights and to ensure that the country’s money is spent in the most beneficial and effective ways. Social programs, gun control and terrorism are all topics recently debated during election years, but education remains a topic with every upcoming election.

There is a constant concern for students when it comes to having adequately trained teachers in the classroom. The role of a teacher is not to only give lessons and grade homework, but teachers must be able to manage a classroom of children, take note of each individual’s needs, and tailor the lessons to the needs of the classroom while ensuring the lessons meet requirements of the state–all while delivering content in multiple formats and tracking student progress.

This is no easy task, and it’s no wonder that teachers must be properly trained to handle the responsibilities of the classroom! The continued need to meeting evolving education requirements is on-going, with regular in-services held to update teachers of the latest requirements and reforms. Elected officials are keen to this, and may choose to implement or augment teaching requirements based on local, state and federal changes, especially during and around election time.

Below are some of the hot button issues in education that you may see addressed by those running for public office in 2016. As a teacher, or teaching student, we recommend that you do your own research to decide where you stand on the issues and learn more about how they may affect you and your students.

  • With a shortage of teachers across the nation, many states are offering alternative teacher certification programs. These programs allow college graduates with degrees in areas other than teaching to earn teacher certification. These alternative teaching certificates are earned after completing training in curriculum, common core standards and lesson planning.
  • While these programs help employ college graduates and fill teacher vacancies where they are in demand, they are not required to follow any certain criteria, which makes them a regular target of debate. However, all teachers from these programs must pass exams and obtain classroom experience before receiving their certification.
  • Common core standards are part of the training content and certification tests for all teachers and remain a huge topic of debate in education. Teachers and legislators often have opposing views regarding common core standards and this may continue to influence change in our nation’s education systems.
  • School districts and states receive federal funding based on overall student scores on exams focused around these standards. Some teachers argue that these standards severely restrict the formats in which they teach and time spent in the classroom on the material. These standards require students to be tested on material at certain time frames set by federal guidelines, assuming all students will be at the same level or retain the same amount of information. Some teachers argue that teaching to these timelines does not allow for students to learn at different paces and for teachers to spend more time covering lessons for those who may be struggling.Candidates are increasingly being tasked to address these concerns while simultaneously devising ways to maintain federal education funding and adequate resources in classrooms.
    • Another hot topic involving public school systems in recent years, which is still gaining momentum, is that of school lunches. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, created the ‘Let’s Move’ campaign in 2010 to address childhood obesity and nutrition in children. One of the focus points of the campaign was addressing and increasing the nutritional value of school lunches, while encouraging kids to get active.
    • Health and wellness in public education settings continues to be a topic that is garnering attention, especially in local elections in 2016.
    • Not only is K-12 education getting attention by political candidates; higher education is being discussed as well. Discussions of making post-secondary education more affordable and obtainable for people, and mention of the already mounting student debt owed by many current students and graduates are current topics.
    • Each president has addressed post-secondary education costs in terms addressing federal grants, government-backed student loans and loan consolidation. These issues are still talking points from the local platform to the national scene, and it is important to stay informed, especially if you are obtaining your own higher education.

    Education remains one of the most valued rights in the United States, as evidenced by the development of public school systems in the 19th century. The U.S. presently offers many citizen the opportunity to get a post-secondary education and access to financial aid reinforcing the essential nature of education.

    With all the improvements in schools and education resources over the last century, we have come a long way to providing our nation with the schools and systems that work best. That said, there is still work to be done in creating an equal yet effective public education system, and paying attention to elected leaders and the ever evolving education trends is essential.

    Stay informed, educate yourself, and remember to focus on the issues that affect you most as you learn more about candidates and education trends in 2016.