The Impact of K-20 Policies on Teachers: From Effectiveness to Attrition

The Impact of K-20 Policies on Teachers: From Effectiveness to Attrition

Amy L. Sedivy-Benton
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4249-2.ch006
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The publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983 as well as the progression to a global society has created a national concern for the quality of education in the United States. There has been a shift in education, from hands off from the national government to a move for a national curriculum that will assist in the improvement of our schools. Policies around education are ever changing, and this has an impact on the teachers who are currently in the profession as well as those who educate pre-service teachers. The chapter provides an overview of the unfolding of educational policy within the United States, discusses the current policies being implemented and their impact on the field of teaching. The chapter concludes with consideration of the impact of these policies and recommendations for future implementation.
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Each semester I start out asking my students why they want to become teachers. The majority of the students indicate that they want to make a difference, impact student’s lives in a way that theirs was lacking, or simply that they love kids and want to work with them. I admire their honestly and am fearful at how naive they are to the world of K-20 education. As we move full speed into the 21st Century, many things are changing, how we communicate, work and even how we learn are all major factors in how the United States will help shape and adjust to the ever changing economy. Sadly, there seems to be one reoccurring issue that has not ceased in the last decade, the ever-growing focus on the condition of education in the United States. With the global economy constantly being thrust into focus, our schools, teachers, and students are being compared to their counterparts across the world. On a consistent basis the United States scores at the bottom for both student achievement and teacher status.

In order to address this shortfall several federal programs have been put in place. With these programs there is a strong sense of immediacy to improve student learning from federal, state, and local agencies, regardless of the fact that systemic changes are things that take place over time, and the results on student test scores take even longer. This desire to see immediate change thrusts teachers into the spotlight, how effective they are in the classroom and where they received their training.

Teachers are continuously being put under additional stress from all levels of administration, federal, state, district, and school. Some teachers have noted that even after teaching for 15 years, the school administration still feels the need to stop by their classroom and micromanage their work, to ensure that the students they are teach score well on the latest test (Fazekas & Burns, 2011).

A recent report by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED, 2011) states that the quality of teachers is key to raising education standards; this means that not only those who are working with the K-12 realm, but also those in the beyond K-12 into the arena of teacher preparation. One of the main focus areas in education are the policies that are put forth around the issue of accountability. The accountability movement, frequently measured as students passing a state test, spans to all areas of education. The policies around this accountability movement drive a system where student scores are attached the measure of quality and success, for both the schools and the teachers, in addition to being tied to some type of financial reward.

According to Faber (2012):

We have an anti-teacher climate that has only worsened since 2010…The situation has only gotten worse, with layoffs, pay cuts, anti-union sentiment, program cuts and strict mandates that are part of federal education laws. If we are to make any reform or new initiative work in education, we have to create schools that are supportive, humane, dynamic, and creative.

While the federal mandates, such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Teacher Incentive Funds (TIF), or the more recent Race to the Top, are set out to help “cure” the ailments identified in education, they fail to take into consideration the impact these policies are having. Doing this would require policymakers to delve further into a teacher’s world and look at the broader institutional and community factors that must come into play while implementing these policies. Serious efforts to improve student achievement and compensation systems must be guided by the evidence that is available, rather than making uninformed decisions.

While there have been evaluation studies on the effectiveness of these programs (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Dee & Jacob, 2010) on student outcomes, further exploration needs to be conducted to fully determine the policy impact on teachers themselves and how they are withstanding the increased pressure on their chosen profession. The policies around K-20 education are creating a high-stress environment on teachers and stand the chance of having a negative effect on the retention of good teachers at all levels of education. With this evolution of policy at the federal level, there is a need to examine the potential impact on teaching both at the K-12 level and beyond K-12.

Key Terms in this Chapter

High-Stakes Testing: Tests that are in place that could have potential adverse consequences if failed. Such as not graduating, or obtaining licensure. Most recently, they have been used as a measure of teacher accountability.

Teacher Incentive Funds: A program created to develop and implement performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools.

Title I: Funding that is to go to schools that have a high-percentage of low-income families. However, it has changed in its time since 1970, now these funds are directly tied to meeting adequate yearly progress according to NCLB.

A Nation at Risk: A report that was printed in 1983 setting a precedent that America’s schools are failing. The report started a trend that led to additional policies that impacted K-20 education, including No Child Left Behind.

Common Core State Standards: Standards that 45 of the states have adopted. Intended to create standards that allow students to succeed beyond K-12 education, whether they choose to go into higher education or not. They are to also provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn

Elementary and Secondary Education Act: An act that was created in 1965 that was established to fund elementary and secondary education without any influence over a national curriculum; reauthorized every 5 years and is currently represented by NCLB.

No Child Left Behind: Stemming from A Nation at Risk , this Act created in 2001 created school reform based upon standards, with measures achievement that are tied to school funding.

Race to the Top: An initiative started by the White House Administration of entice states and districts to use creative ways to create reform around teaching and learning in schools.

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