Education Reform

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Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience to think about education reform and to inspire them to enact changes in our education system. Central Idea: While education reform has been around since the inception of formal education, the past 30 years have seen many changes that are at the very least counter-productive to effective learning for children and teaching for educators and at worst, devastating to the moral of children and their enjoyment of the learning process. Real education reform would take into account that children learn in different ways, and testing is not a true measure of how well a teacher does their job, or how much a child knows.

Introduction

1. How many of you had a senior class with a 100% graduation rate? 90%? 80%? 70%? Less than 70%? I graduated in 1985, tenth in my class. There were 500 kids in my senior class, and all but three of us graduated. That’s over a 99% graduation rate. Yet, we had been told just two years prior that our schools were not doing their jobs, and that we would be the first generation that would not exceed our parents’ generation educationally. What does that say about your generation? Is it your fault? Or your teachers or parents? Is it because of or in spite of education reform?

2. Today I will speak to you about education reform. First, I will discuss a bit of the history of reform, especially in the latter half of the 20th century. Next, I will speak about how the reform of today is actually hurting both students and teachers, and creating problems for future generations. Finally, I will talk about some possible solutions to give teachers more autonomy in teaching and children more joy and interest in learning.

3. I am qualified to speak about this topic because of my own experiences with education reform, the past ten years of extensive research I have done on this subject, and the papers I have written about it.

(Transition: Let me begin by giving you a brief history of education reform.)

Body

1. Education reform is nothing new. A look at the history of public schools in the United States shows accountability standards have been around for nearly 200 years. Who is accountable to whom and for what have changed, but the basic premise has been in place a long time. In 1897, Dr. Joseph Mayer Rice began the push for standardized achievement tests to evaluate curriculum and instruction. While unsuccessful at first, by World War I school boards across the nation were using achievement tests in elementary and secondary schools. Accountability was placed on the administrators, superintendents, and the school boards. Until just after the Second World War, schools in modern buildings with sufficient rooms, desks, and textbooks for students, qualified teachers, and indoor plumbing were viewed as good schools.

A. With the launch of Sputnik by the Soviets, education standards in America began to change. The upheaval of the 1950s and 1960s gave way to higher standards and the onus of accountability was beginning to shift to teachers. B. In The Schools our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards”, published in 1999, Alfie Kohn writes that by the end of the 1970s, two thirds of the states had mandated that high school students had to pass minimum competency tests to graduate. C. The 1983 report A Nation at Risk states “…the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur—others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments. “ Reforms continued through the 1980s and 1990s, but it wasn’t until the much maligned No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2002...
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