I was infuriated by an article that I read on the http://educationwonk.blogspot.com website through my RSS feed. It was a blog entitled "Note To U.S. Dept. of Ed: Improve Thyself." It reported on a presentation given by the Secretary of the Department of Education, Arne Duncan, speaking on a lapse of quality education amongst our colleges and universities to turn out quality teachers to educate out youth. Quite the contrary, in my experience at Mercyhurst, I feel I have been well-educated and that I have been made aware of the "realities" of the classroom before entering one. The "realities" I speak of is the lack of funding, support, and belief in our society that a child, first and foremost, must be held in a higher regard; moreover, our government's greatest mission is to pour resources into schools, cirriculums, and teacher salaries in order to promote good teaching. I have been continuously appalled by the accounts of missing teachers that used to be in place when I was in school due to the lack of funding such as librarians, reading teachers, phys ed, and many more. Just last week my Intermediate Lit teacher told us that there are no reading teachers in the middle schools and that the burden of teaching the fundamentals of reading and comprehension has been placed on the content teachers. I thought I was going to completely lose my mind. It's no wonder student's abilities are falling down and that there are more children falling under the spectrum of Special Education. Children cannot be expected to perform in a skill they are not given the rudimentary basics and practice in, nor should a content teacher be forced to teach something they did not prepare to teach in their college training.
The Department of Education certainly needs to take a closer look at their erroneous beliefs and stop putting the blame on student failure on overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated teachers and the institutions they hailed from. I haven't even addressed some other very relevant causes to student failure that Arne Duncan blatantly ignored. The expectations of teachers in our current education system are growing in tasks, assessments, notes on every child, meetings, incorporating IEP's in with regular ed instruction, counseling of parents and students, not to mention the role of disciplinarian on very little support of many student guardians and parents. Let's add to that the fact that our society believes in Pennsylvania that a child and school's abilities are measured by an assessment test with no explanation to what they have based their stats against to evaluate achievement. Yet we will take class instruction and practice of learning concepts away to drill students to be able to answer and take these tests-creating ridiculous amounts of pressure on a population of children that already experience more anxiety in their lives than I ever dreamed of in all of my 36 years of life.
Of course, let us discuss the fact that school buildings are crumbling across the Untied States, particularly in Pennsylvania. Children are being forced to learn in less than acceptable learning environments and atmospheres. Lack of supplies, especially computer and Internet access plagues our nation- yet we are concerned about making student's computer savvy. Really? How do we accomplish that with a lack of computers and positive learning environments.
Arne Duncan and the Department of Education, as well as our society, need to take a long, hard look at the priorities. Children must come first if we ever expect future generations to succeed. Stop playing the blame game and begin fueling the universities and public education in order for teachers to be able to educate.