Political Decisions Determinant Academic Standards
Every citizen is entitled to a natural right of education. The nature of education in a country depends on government policies. The policies determine the content students are supposed to learn, when they should be assessed, parents’ participation in educational matters, inclusion in education, and funding of particular subjects. Also, it is the responsibility of the government to know how students are faring. Therefore, the government needs to make sound decisions since they affect education.
Political decisions determine academic standards. The government sets rules on what students should learn in respective academic levels. Under the ‘Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)’, every state should set own education standards and coursework for schools, which is the content to teach students depending on their grades. This law requires states to develop assessments that ‘challenge’ the students’ proficiency in reading, mathematics, and science, meaning that states should prepare students to succeed in higher academic levels. Also, these standards must apply to all students including slow learners and thinkers (Everystudentsucceedsact.org, n.d.). Thus, the academic standards are determined by the state.
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Additionally, the government sets rules on what is to be taught in schools. Under ESSA, states should develop ‘challenging’ reading, mathematics, and science tests. To meet the ESSA requirements, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) demands fourth and eighth graders from all states to do NAEP reading and mathematics assessments. This is done after every two years as a requirement to receive federal aid. States that do not participate in NAEP will not be sanctioned or those that participate will not receive any rewards. However, participation in NAEP for other subjects and grades is voluntary (National Assessment Governing Board, 2017). The Mississippi Curriculum Test, Second Edition (MCT2) complies with the requires of ESSA by assessing Mississippi third to eighth graders on reading, language arts, and mathematics (Jackson, 2014). Mississippi uses these results to improve instructions and accelerate student achievement. Therefore, subjects such as reading and mathematics are taught and assessed in U.S. schools to comply with the federal requirement.
Education-related decisions by the government also influence the time of assessing students. Under ESSA, states must test students although the number and type of tests depend on the grade. The learner’s skills in mathematics and reading are tested once in a year in third to eighth graders, as well as once in high school. In science, students in the grade, middle, and high school are assessed once. In case of unavoidable circumstances, few students may be given alternative tests different from that administered by the state. Only a few students with mental disabilities may do alternative assessments (Everystudentsucceedsact.org, n.d.).
The main NAEP exams are done in winter from January to March. After fourth and eighth graders do the mandatory reading and mathematics examinations, the results are often reported within six months. Other NAEP results are released one year after administration of the tests. The 13-year-olds do the long-term trend assessments in the fall, while the 9-year-olds and the 17-year-olds do these assessments during winter and spring, respectively. Results of long-term assessments are often reported one year after their administration (National Assessment Governing Board, 2017). Thus, although schools can offer random tests to assesses their students’ proficiency in certain areas, the time of administering main state and national exams is determined by states and the government.
The government puts in place rules that hold schools accountable for their performance. For example, under ESSA, schools are accountable for their academic performance. This means that states should develop plans to identify underperforming schools. Under the ESSA policy, states should include the following academic indicators in the accountability plans: the number of students completing high school, learners’ proficiency in English, and academic achievement and progress. The other academic indicator though optional is the method for measuring learning quality or learner’s success, which can be done using one or multiple ways. For example, states may measure kindergarten readiness, discipline rates, chronic absenteeism or even college readiness (Everystudentsucceedsact.org, n.d.). Schools can perform the way they want. But who should hold them accountable for poor performance? The government plays a critical role in identifying undeforming schools and takes necessary actions.
An essential aspect of education is inclusion. Inclusion allows students with special needs to interact with the non-special needs ones. Although inclusion rejects segregation, it uses special facilities to separable disabled and non-disabled students. Inclusion is important because all students become part of their communities and develop a sense of belonging and become better prepared in society as they enter adulthood (Zgaga & GmbH, 2019). Political decision-making contributes to achieving inclusion in education. To ensure NAEP fully represents the nation, students selected to participate in NAEP exams are English learners and those with disabilities. The inclusion and accommodation policy of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) is meant to minimize bias, promote fair comparisons and ensure more students participate in NAEP (National Assessment Governing Board, 2017). Hence, political policies aid to remove divides based on disability or any other factor thereby improving inclusion in education.
The government can subsidize education in several forms, including funding some subjects where performance is low. ESSA funds some optional reading and literacy programs including two essential reading and literacy programs for learners weak in these areas. States receive grants under ESSA’s Literacy Education Grant Program. In 2016, ESSA dispatched $160 million to aid schools to teach the language. Schools use these funds to purchase tools necessary for sharpening the children reading and literacy skills such as reading fluency and decoding (Everystudentsucceedsact.org, n.d.). Therefore, the government can facilitate learning in certain subjects by funding them.
Furthermore, some policies require a parent’s participation in children’s education. Parents may give their opinions on how the government is dealing with academic goals and recommend changes. The ESSA policy requires states to allow parents to participate in evaluating the accountability for schools. The parents give inputs that ensure schools consider children with special needs. According to ESSA, there are two areas where parents’ participation is required. First, parents should evaluate and give opinions on how the state and district are tackling accountability and helping students with special needs to catch up with the non-special need’s ones. Second, parents should be allowed to give their views on the report cards developed by their state and school district (Everystudentsucceedsact.org, n.d.). This informs the public about school performance. Thus, parents have a role to play in improving how the state deals with education.
The government has different roles to play including providing legal frameworks, stabilizing the economy, and providing security to its people. The legal framework includes educational matters. The government makes decisions that affect the nature of education in a country. It makes decisions on coursework content, assessment of learners, parents’ participation, social inclusion, accountability of schools, and funding on particular subjects, which all affect education.
- Everystudentsucceedsact.org. (n.d.). The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Retrieved from www.everystudentsucceedsact.org: http://www.everystudentsucceedsact.org/
- Jackson. (2014, August 26). Statewide test results available for public viewing. Retrieved from Mississippi Department of Education: https://www.mdek12.org/OCGR/statewide-test-results-available-for-public-viewing
- National Assessment Governing Board. (2017). What Is NAEP? Retrieved from www.nagb.gov: https://www.nagb.gov/about-naep/what-is-naep.html
- Zgaga, P., & GmbH, P. L. (2019). Inclusion in education: Reconsidering limits, identifying possibilities. Berlin Peter Lang GmbH: Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften.