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Perspectives: The State Of American Education

What steps can be taken to improve the American education system?

Does being an advocate for something mean that you are the best qualified person to oversee the national policies concerning this area of concern? Well, despite having almost three decades of experience in education advocacy, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (SoE) has learned in the most difficult way that it does not. From her controversial senate confirmation hearing in 2017 to her most recent interview on 60 Minutes, SoE DeVos has left many members of the American population concerned about her ability to raise the quality of American education from substandard and mediocre levels in some areas to a higher quality level as observed in other areas.

Can U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos provide a comprehensive plan to resurrect the American education system?

First, let’s have a moment of clarity. This is not an op-ed piece to condemn and criticize SoE DeVos in any way, shape, form, or fashion. Second, the topic of concern is the state of American education in comparison to other nations in a competitive global community. Without question, conducting a thorough review of the American educational system is huge task with insurmountable challenges. This requires a willingness to invest an adequate amount of time and resources to ascertain viable alternatives from various schools of thought which are reflective of evidence-based research and studies, not from a purely one-dimensional ideological stance. In consideration of this, the American people, along with those representing them in Washington, D.C., must ask, “Is SoE DeVos the person to undertake this challenge?”

On the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) website, there is a section which displays the most recent Nation’s Report Card for academic subjects ranging from civics, geography, and history to mathematics, reading, science and technology. The reports reveal the percentages of students in 4th, 8th and 12th grade and how they perform at three achievement levels, which include: 1) at or above basic, 2) at or above proficient, and 3) at advanced. After a review of several of the achievement levels, it became obvious that the lowest percentages were among students in the “at advanced level” (approximately 2% – 9 %) versus the highest percentages within the “at or above basic level” (approximately 45% – 86%). These scores were compiled from data during a period ranging from 2002 – 2015.

The Bush Administration introduced the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ in 2001.

As stated above, the available data represented is dated beginning back in 2002. This was subsequent to an educational initiative introduced during the Bush Administration (2001-2008) in 2001 entitled, “No Child Left Behind (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act)“, or more commonly known as, “the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001“. The “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” is a comprehensive piece of legislation intended to provide a much needed overhaul to the American educational system. While it covered various areas of concern believed to directly and indirectly impact educational outcomes, it primarily focused on the three subject areas of reading, mathematics, and science. Another area of note included provisions for teacher preparation to better facilitate the best educational practices within a competitive global community.

As the Nation’s Report Card data indicates, there was not substantial improvement reported during the period leading up to the Obama Administration (2009-2016). In 2010, the Obama Administration released a revision to the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” entitled, “The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act“. This piece of legislation was intended to empower educators to broaden the curriculum to include other subject areas (i.e., history, the arts, etc.) that took a secondary place to the three previously mentioned primary subject areas. It also invested additional funding into the development of better assessments that were intended to measure the essential complex skills needed to compete within the global community. However, as represented in the data above, the American educational institution still seems to fall short of the mark.

Former President Barack Obama signing the ‘Every Child Succeeds Act’ (ESSA) in 2015.

So where does this leave the American children and their prospects of receiving a high level of quality education that is equitable across all socio-economic lines? In 2017, President Trump submitted a budget proposal for congressional approval which would decrease the DoE’s budget drastically from the previous 2017 appropriation of $115 billion to $65 billion ($50 billion reduction overall). In consideration of this, it appears that SoE DeVos has been given an extremely difficult task which includes attempting to function effectively and efficiently in accordance with the President’s tentative educational budget for 2018 .

In the final analysis, the intention of the Trump Administration is to roll back federal regulations that allowed the federal government to have more authority in improving the nation’s educational sector. In addition, SoE DeVos is advocating for the possibility of reallocating federal funding to schools of choice. School choice, according to, “allows public education funds to follow students to the schools or services that best fit their needs“. The question that remains is, “What happens to the public educational institutions and students that are left behind in a school setting wherein funding has been reduced tremendously?


Sean Mungin, author of “The Thorn In The Flesh”

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12 Comments on Perspectives: The State Of American Education

  1. I so agree our education system is a mess and it’s just tragic. Well for schools in poorer areas that is, in the wealthier districts there are still some pretty outstanding ones and some very good teachers across all lines of income. Still, there is too much complacency for poor results, bad teachers, policy over progress etc…

    We probably disagree here, but I personally feel we should abolish the Dept of Education and bring control back to the state and local school districts with heavy investments but the states to fund charter schools and vouchers for poor kids to attend private schools.

    Definitely worth oohing some out fo the box conversations about. 🙂

    • Sean Mungin // March 14, 2018 at 21:33 // Reply

      Great response, Tricia. So if we were to abolish the DoE, who would provide oversight for the allocation of federal funding and how would we retrieve data concerning progress or the lack of progress? In addition, how would we be able to determine whether each student has received a comparable level of quality education? How would we be able to gauge whether the local school districts were providing the same curriculum across the broader spectrum which would allow the U.S. to produce proficient contributors to the global community and allow the nation to be equally, if not more competitive than other developed nations?

      • All great questions Sean to which I have to say I have no clue. I can say we got along for quite sometime without a DOE (until 1980 I think) and in my opinion would do better without it. It’s not constitutional either.

        States, cities and parents would be responsible for creating standards based on the needs and desires of their communities and it would be much easier to hold bureaucrats and poor teachers accountable, especially if control was taken from the unions.

        Of course a lot more study and details would be needed. Really though out of all the gobs of money and layer upon layer of bureaucracy the DOE has thrown at our schools, can we say it’s been for the better? I’d argue no.

        My humble opinion of course…;)

      • Sean Mungin // March 14, 2018 at 22:24 //

        True, we had several federal agencies that were responsible for it prior to 1980, and is not mandated by the Constitution. If there are no universal educational standards, how will we ensure that the education of the student will meet the needs of not only the local community, but those of the country as well? If there are no universal standards, everyone’s contribution to society could very well be found wanting. I completely agree that the results are less than desirable. This is where more dialogue is need to determine how best to reallocate federal funding to accommodate the needs of everyone invested in the educational process.

  2. Well I certainly didn’t mean to say “oohing”, lol! I don’t even know where that came from, should have said “having.”

    To partially answer your question about what will happen to public schools if funding decreases, I assume you mean if a strong voucher system gets put in place where families could use public funds to go to a private school. Schools would only lose funding in direct ration to the population of kids attending private schools with those funds. they shouldn’t need the same amount of money if the number of students attending is lower.

    • Sean Mungin // March 14, 2018 at 21:38 // Reply

      Lol…it happens sometimes…

      I would agree that if the attendance decreased, there would be less need for the previous level of funding. However, who determines what amount follows each student? Would one student receive a higher portion towards his/her education resulting from the school choice? Or would there be parameters established to determine how much each individual student would receive to ensure that each student’s educational quality level is comparable to others?

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