In the last few decades, different policies have been formulated to address educational standards in schools in many countries and states. One of the most critical issues has been the unending debate on the advantages and limitations of some policies employed by schools in the United States (Ravenscroft, 2007). Many different suggestions continue to be made to address the changing needs of modern-day education and employment in America (Kohn, 2009). In the context of the open system approach, this paper reviews and provides a summary of six different articles on educational reforms across five different states. Overall, open system approach encompasses various elements that are interdependent and useful in bringing about change in a system or an organization. To this end, this paper contextualizes schools the same way Kegan and Wagner (2012) sees social systems as different units working together to attain specific goals.
A Summary of Views Expressed in the Articles
The article, White House Report: Race to the Top Setting the Pace for Gains across the Education System, reflects on a number of system issues. The article underscores cases of a few of the useful approaches used to better prepare learners for future careers and gainful employment. The strategy dubbed Race to the Top in Massachusetts and Tennessee focuses on creating more opportunities as presently being rolled out by training more middle and high school teachers as well as investing in curriculum models to improve language proficiency among learners. Although Race to the Top approach has not been implemented fully, the outcomes of the collaboration between the federal and local governments, in addressing education needs, is already evident in many states. Taken together, the article justifies the impact that Setting the Pace initiative is doing in raising standards, supporting teachers and helping poorly performing students.
The other article, Olympia Acts on Three Education Priorities, focuses on bills passed by the State Board Education. The bills are tailored around the expansion of math and science-based vocational training, measures to reduce learning gaps brought by summer holidays as well as a framework to authorize a 24-credit career that is equivalent to college graduation thresholds. Specifically, a well-thought out calendar is viewed as an effective measure to deal with learning time that is lost during summer. In addition, the bill, as brought out in the article, embraces a holistic measure to provide students with useful opportunities to make decisions in taking science and math-oriented courses. Just as important, too, the bill affords education overseers the opportunity to establish a task force to re-examine the setbacks of implementing the 24-credit diploma for learners with special requirements.
In addition, the article, State Stands by Common Core Education Standards, explores the reasons why Florida educational leaders support the set out benchmarks for public schools. Although there have been protests against arts and math standards as supported by the state, seen as a precursor to poor quality learning results, testing companies are likely to benefit if the Second Core strategy is implemented. However, it seems the state’s strong support for it stems from what the measure would require students to do in the course of learning. In the end, some amendments, including a name change, have been proposed. Related to these aspects is what is contained in the article Common Core Standards to Change State’s Education Landscape. Briefly, the article details the potential changes of educational curriculum in Connecticut. Teachers and other educational stakeholders are already developing new school curriculum and re-training instructors on the proposed strategies. Although there is opposition to some of the proposed changes, which have been implemented in other states such as Massachusetts, most commentators believe they will raise educational standards.
On the other hand, the article, Education Officials May Scrap MCAS Test, outlines the reasons why education leaders of Massachusetts are bent on doing away with the current MCAS tests in Mathematics and English. The already developed proposals aim at revising the present testing system in a way that schools within the state are required to change various curriculums so that whatever is tested in exam is covered in the classroom.
Specific Recommendations to Reduce Resistance against the Proposed/Enacted Changes
Various measures should be taken to deal with the registered oppositions against the proposals made in the six different articles, of course, in the context of the open system theory. One of them is that the use of student laptops with uniform curriculum across different states ought to be adopted. While this recommendation might appear controversial, a number of commentators in the education sector have recommended that this course of action should be implemented to equip learners with similar skills required for the ever-changing socio-economic needs in various states in America (Ravenscroft, 2007). In any case, Kegan and Wagner (2012) believe that schools like any other open system ought to structure themselves with other ‘‘forces’’ across the world. However, although making use of laptop computers has benefits, substituting textbooks with them does not provide the solution to the ever-deteriorating educational levels in Connecticut and Tennessee (Kohn, 2009).
There are many advantages and disadvantages of using laptop computers for learners and teachers. When viewed critically, however, personal laptop computers enable learners to access up-to-date reading materials with ease (Ravenscroft, 2007). The challenge that must generate debates is their insufficient bearing to the present world economy that requires evaluation-centered education. In spite of this inadequacy, the use of laptop computers could help in mitigating resource-related resistance seen in Florida. This is because computers help educational instructors in making immediate responses whenever learners are challenged by assigned tasks. Related to the open system theory are the aspects of output and competencies (Lunenburg, 2010). These considerations allow teachers to determine how a learner performs in a subject within a limited time-period (Kohn, 2009). Indeed, most critics of the proposal may concur that a laptop computer enhances responsiveness in learning processes.
The second recommendation (in the case of Connecticut and Florida) is the implementation of a testing strategy that minimizes unintended outcomes. In a way, the critical issue that has brought the opposition to the proposed math and language testing standards resides in the extent to which the suggestions made do not promote an educational culture that enhances the creation of responsive ideas among learners (Ravenscroft, 2007). Perhaps, a follow-up educational measure should be put in place to address the competence of learners and instructors to employ the formulated guidelines (Kohn, 2009). According to Kegan and Wagner (2012), such a measure must factor in the social, political and economic situations in which the schools administrators operate. Seemingly, the Second Core plan does not address the short-term academic traditions already being seen in graduates by most of its opponents. This is because the measure does not seem adequate to establish the kind of learning resources relevant to most learners and teachers in schools. In this regard, the plan should entail detailed frameworks to increase a student’s ability to be creative and be able develop the required social skills (Ravenscroft, 2007).
The other way to minimize opposition to the recommendation of overhauling testing standards in Connecticut and Florida is to introduce standardized testing strategies that are already being implemented in other states. This suggestion stems from the open system theory that requires that inputs must undergo a transformation process (Lunenburg, 2010). In an arguably influential article, Kohn (2009) agrees that the use of standardized tests in schools has some indispensable advantages, including bringing about harmony in educational policies. While they are limited in terms of their ability to evaluate achievements, standardized tests have been instrumental in making accurate decisions on whether a child is ready for school or not (and will be useful for the parents opposing measures being rolled out in Florida). Just as noted by Moll (2004), the use of standardized tests would enable teachers to make follow-ups to gauge student performance in instructional groups and resolve when it is necessary to arrange for exceptional tuition. This will resolve the worry of test models that educational stakeholders are worried about in both Connecticut and Florida. Besides, it addresses the problem of scarce resources (Kohn, 2009).
In conclusion, the reforms needed in schools ought to be evaluated with the understanding that schools are open-social systems that operate to attain similar goals. In other words, school reforms and the measures for reformation must be based on what the environment offers. The basic elements of open systems, including transformation processes, outputs, feedback and context cannot be ignored. Noticeably, various recommendations suggested address the widespread deteriorating quality of graduates and the relevant strategies to promote easier ways to access academic resources and enhance creative-centered education. Put baldly, the measures must encourage the employment of different integrative measures of teaching and reading.
Kohn, A. (2009). Technology and its victims in schools. Journal of Education, 23 (2), 453-465.
Kegan, R., & Wagner, T. (2006). Change leadership: A practical guide to transforming our schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lunenburg, F. (2010). Schools as open systems. Journal of Schooling, 1(1), 1-5.
Moll, M. (2004). Passing the test: The false promises of standardized testing. Ottawa: Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives.
Ravenscroft, A. (2007). Promoting thinking and conceptual change with digital dialogue games. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23 (2), 453-465.
Zwick, R. (2004). Re-thinking the SAT: The future of standardized testing in university admissions. New York: Routledge-Falmer.