Problems in Education and Society

According to "A Nation at Risk", the American education system
has declined due to a "rising tide of mediocrity" in our schools.
States such as New York have responded to the findings and
recommendations of the report by implementing such strategies as the
"Regents Action Plan" and the "New Compact for Learning".
In the early 1980’s, President Regan ordered a national
commission to study our education system. The findings of this
commission were that, compared with other industrialized nations, our
education system is grossly inadequate in meeting the ezdards of
education that many other countries have developed. At one time,
America was the world leader in technology, service, and industry, but
overconfidence based on a historical belief in our superiority has
caused our nation to fall behind the rapidly growing competitive
market in the world with regard to education. The report in some
respects is an unfair comparison of our education system, which does
not have a national ezdard for goals, curriculum, or regulations,
with other countries that do, but the findings nevertheless reflect
the need for change. Our education system at this time is regulated
by states which implement their own curriculum, set their own goals
and have their own requirements for teacher preparation. Combined
with this is the fact that we have lowered our expectations in these
areas, thus we are not providing an equal or quality education to all
students across the country. The commission findings generated
recommendations to improve the content of education and raise the
ezdards of student achievement, particularly in testing, increase
the time spent on education and provide incentives to encourage more
individuals to enter the field of education as well as improving
teacher preparation.
N.Y. State responded to these recommendations by first
implementing the Regents Action Plan; an eight year plan designed to
raise the ezdards of education. This plan changed the requirements
for graduation by raising the number of credits needed for graduation,
raising the number of required core curriculum classes such as social
studies, and introduced technology and computer science. The plan
also introduced the Regents Minimum Competency Tests, which requires a
student to pass tests in five major categories; math, science,
reading, writing, and two areas of social studies. Although the plan
achieved many of its goals in raising ezdards of education in N.Y.
State, the general consensus is that we need to continue to improve
our education system rather than being satisfied with the achievements
we have made thus far.
Therefore, N.Y. adopted "The New Compact for Learning". This
plan is based on the principles that all children can learn. The
focus of education should be on results and teachers should aim for
mastery, not minimum competency. Education should be provided for all
children and authority with accountability should be given to
educators and success should be rewarded with necessary changes being
made to reduce failures. This plan calls for curriculum to be devised
in order to meet the needs of students so that they will be fully
functional in society upon graduation, rather than just being able to
graduate. Districts within the state have been given the authority to
devise their own curriculum, but are held accountable by the state so
that each district meets the states goals that have been established.
Teachers are encouraged to challenge students to reach their full
potential, rather than minimum competency. In this regard, tracking
of students is being eliminated so that all students will be
challenged, rather than just those who are gifted. Similarly, success
should be rewarded with recognition and incentives to further
encourage progress for districts, teachers and students while others
who are not as accomplished are provided remedial training or
resources in order to help them achieve success.
It is difficult to determine whether our country on the whole
has responded to the concerns that "A Nation at Risk" presented.
Clearly though, N.Y. State has taken measures over the last ten years
to improve its own education system. In many respects the state has
accomplished much of what it set out to do, but the need to continue
to improve is still present. Certainly, if America is determined to
regain its superiority in the world, education, the foundation of our