Common Core Standards is the latest in a long line of federal policies which have turned American education into an albatross for educators, parents, and citizens. Refusing to admit that federal policies fail our children, the Obama administration claims that the American educational system has been failing mainly because too few teachers were top students in high school and because too many teacher-prep programs are inadequate. Among the proposed solutions is to attract minority teachers to meet future educational needs of students.
However, during the 1960s, most universities required applicants to the college of education to have a “B” average. In those days, most women became teachers or nurses because few other fields were open to them. Although the best and the brightest students often became teachers, educators and the educational system were accused of failing our students.
During the late 1960s, Augsburg College in Minnesota had a high percentage of graduates who obtained a teaching contract because local administrators found Augsburg graduates to be well prepared for the classroom. Administrators were eager to hire Augsburg graduates. Therefore, many students chose to earn their teaching degree from Augsburg College.
However, federally supported programs like Benjamin Bloom’s Behavior Modification were not focusing on academics. Much class time was spent trying to change a child’s attitudes and behaviors. Intelligent, highly trained teachers could not override the federal regulations and legislation that was imposed upon the classroom. The situation became so bad that A Nation at Risk was commissioned to investigate the problem.
Today, according to the Obama administration, the solution is for the government to attract the best and brightest students to the teaching profession to be molded by federally designed teacher-preparation programs. According to Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, a successful educational system will result once the 1.6 million teachers anticipated to retire have been replaced with those who have been trained by college programs shaped by The Obama Administration’s Plan for Teacher Education Reform and Improvement also known as Our Future, Our Teachers.
Mr. Duncan explains that once the Obama-trained teachers fill the classrooms, “we can transform public education in this country and finally begin to deliver an excellent education for every child.” If a transformed educational system means one in which the teachers have been trained by colleges to accept federal mandates without reservation, irreparable harm will follow for the American student, economy, and political system.
The Obama plan complains that too few teachers seek certification to teach at the high school level, but his plan ignores the disincentives which result because a teaching license is often limited to the state in which it was earned and has value primarily within the teaching profession. However, a degree earned in a specific subject, such as math or English, typically qualifies that person for a wide range of careers in any state. A certified teacher has much less flexibility than someone with a degree in a specific subject.
Because colleges prepare more teachers for elementary schools than necessary to fill the available jobs, the Obama plan provides dollars to persuade some of these applicants to prepare to teach the upper grades.
The real focus of Our Future, Our Teachers is to use federal dollars for scholarships for the next generation of a “teaching workforce that reflects the diversity of our students.” The plan explains that “with a student body that is increasingly black or Hispanic being taught by a teaching force that remains predominantly white,” there must be more minority teachers. The remedy proposed will provide lucrative grants to minorities who are willing to become teachers. The program will provide significant funding to teacher-preparation programs provided by colleges that attract minority students.
If the Obama administration successfully federalizes teacher-preparation programs, competition based on achievement will be removed from the educational system. People develop a loyalty to those who pay for their education making dissent unlikely. Teachers will no longer be selected for their passion or for their preparation. New teachers will be those attracted by promises of a free college degree. Political policies will shape the federal definition of merit to qualify for student loans and for teacher certification.
The current level of federal intervention in the PreK-college educational system has already damaged the system. A grassroots revolt to push federal intervention out of the educational system is necessary to preserve hope for reform.