New education rules a good first step

In a speech on Sept. 23, President Obama gave a speech linking economic recovery with improved educational standards by proposing additional measures to reform the public school system. “We have to pick up our game,” he said, noting that America has fallen to 16th in the world in terms of percentage of college diplomas earned by its citizens. Some of the reforms include using a waiver system to give more power to the states to control curriculum and make improvements.

Specifically, the plan is to move away from the No Child Left Behind Act, including provisions to circumvent the act’s 2014 deadline for nationwide academic proficiency. Other requirements, such as preparing students for post-high school plans and creating evaluative benchmarks for teachers, are required for the waiver to be accepted.

We at Student Life support this plan. The American education system needs a serious overhaul. As students and soon-to-be graduates, we understand the value of a good education. We would, however, like to propose a few changes that we hope to see.

We realize that testing will never be the best indicator of academic performance. The ability to fill in bubbles on a Scantron does not necessarily indicate critical thinking skills or academic potential. However, as an indicator of performance overall, the tests do have merit and standardized testing is the only way to track student performance on a large scale. But, we believe standardized testing can be improved significantly. One of those improvements can be requiring testing on more subjects.

At Wash. U., pre-meds and English majors alike understand the importance of a solid science-based education. Tests should evaluate basic knowledge of the sciences because with science education comes innovation and global influence. The American Jobs Act will create new science labs in schools across the country, hopefully improving science curriculum and fostering future advances. No Child Left Behind should put the same emphasis on science.

The president consistently says that the U.S. needs to be better at math and science, but No Child Left Behind requires testing only on math and reading. The country would be better served if education funding for school districts was linked to the sciences as well.

While we recognize that widespread change cannot come from the president alone, he can only do so much with an executive order. While his changes will hopefully bring a beneficial change to the law, a real overhaul is needed in Congress to repair our failing schools. The price to really improve our schools can be incredibly daunting, but we have to keep in mind the future payoff. A country with a better-educated populace is more likely to compete, and more likely to grow. As students, we should bear in mind how imperative a good education is not only to individual success, but also to the success of America as a whole. The economy might be the top concern on everyone’s minds in the next election, but if you look past the next five years, the education and the economy are inextricably linked.

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