The United States forms many bodies and federal agencies to ensure the functioning of society and the rights of people. US Department of Education is one of the federal agents whose goal is to provide every US citizen with a decent level of education; however, some problems are not easy to solve. One of these challenges which remain unsolved is ensuring a high quality of education for all students in schools since federal acts have some conflicting points that prevent this purpose.
US Department of Education is a federal agency created to help governments of states in providing Americans with their constitutional rights. The mission of this agency is to “foster educational excellence and to ensure equal access to educational opportunity for all” (“U.S. Department of Education,” n.d., par. 1.). The agency is guided by many laws and acts that cover different levels of education from preschool to post-graduate, as well as various social groups to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens. One of the most uncertain laws was the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which was replaced in 2015 by an improved version of The Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) Act (“Every Student Succeeds Act,” n.d.). However, despite the improvement and elimination of some controversial issues, the act still causes a lot of conflict and debate in society.
The goal of these laws is to identify weaknesses in schools’ work and their elimination to ensure a high quality of education for every child. For this purpose, every school had to conduct standardized testing of such skills as reading and mathematics for children to assess their level of knowledge. This method should help identify students with low academic performance and offer them a transition to another school with a higher level of education or additional classes (Jones, n.d). However, the NCLB Act applied punitive measures to schools and teachers, in which students showed poor results, which led to students’ fear of tests and precise preparation for them. Schools closed, and teachers were fired instead of helping them improve their performance (Paul, 2020). This law caused a lot of indignation among teachers, parents, and students, since lessons did not bring necessary knowledge to children but were only aimed at obtaining scores for the tests (Paul, 2020). In addition, federal control reduced the flexibility of the states in the education system, and excessive bureaucracy did not increase the level of education in schools but limited the knowledge of children.
The main stakeholders in the process of implementing this reform are the federal and state governments, school administrators and teachers, parents, and students. Besides, such agencies as Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Literacy Information and Communication System are supportive in the process of education improvement (U.S. Department of Education,” n.d.). Although formally, all parties strive for the same goal, they offer different solutions in the process of its implementation. The main interest of the federal agency is to strengthen control to identify and eliminate weaknesses in the education system. The state government also needs to control schools but have freedom of action from the federal government. The administration and teachers are interested in the students’ intelligence, but they have to focus on formal performance. Parents and students want to reduce the pressure on getting grades but gain knowledge. The ESSA Act partially solved this problem as it increased the freedom of states in determining measures for improving education and encourages the participation of parents in these processes (Jones, n.d). However, there are still some disadvantages of this legal act.
The primary purpose of the act is to help students with low academic performance and low income receive educational assistance. For example, a student’s parents may request a child’s transfer to another school if they think that the current level of education is not high enough, and he or she may receive additional educational courses (Jones, n.d.). However, preferences are given to low-income families and children with educational problems; thus, a student with average grades has less chance of free courses. On the one hand, such measures are logical, since the state cannot satisfy everyone’s needs; however, children with an average level of knowledge can be “doomed” to remain at this level all their lives and miss their chance of going to college.
Moreover, each state determines the tests that are required to test knowledge, so they may unevenly evaluate students from different states. Tests also focus on several disciplines, such as mathematics and reading, which makes children with a predisposition to other subjects feel deprived. For this reason, many parents favor marking down standardized tests and creating a new knowledge assessment system (Carey, 2019). However, the current system is beneficial for some politicians as it is a convenient method of budget distribution and control. Such a system is also useful for business structures as they can open private schools that take into account the interests of parents and students, or prepare a new generation of workers in certain areas. Consequently, a conflict of interest arises between representatives of the authorities, for whom the system for assessing the quality of education is profitable, and parents and students who want to receive knowledge consistent with the realities of the modern world.
In conclusion, while the US Department of Education tries to improve the quality of school education, laws and methods of work still have many shortcomings. The current ESSA Act helps children from low-income families strengthen their academic skills, but the testing system forces many American schools to teach the necessary knowledge for assessments but not real life. Thus, the Department of Education initiative is useful, but ways of achieving a high quality of education in the country need to be improved.
Carey, K. (2019). Warren’s education plan, and why high-stakes testing seems here to stay. The New York Times. Web.
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). (n.d.). Web.
Jones, L. (Ed.). (n.d). The difference between the Every Student Succeeds Act and No Child Left Behind. Understood. Web.
Paul, A.M. (2020). Diane Ravitch declares the education reform movement dead. The New York Times. Web.
U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Web.