Special Education Reform
Over the last 100 years there have been many different reforms to the educational system. With these changes the country has seen many positive changes and many negative changes due to these reforms. Some of the most influential changes have occurred because of No Child Left Behind, the Montessori Movement, IDEA, The Technology Movement, and Inclusion. This paper will address each of these and clarify the positive changes, those that may not be positive, and what changes still need to be made to bring America back to the forefront in the world of education.
The positive changes seen in the United States educational system since these reforms have been put into place have made a tremendous impact. With No Child Left Behind, the teachers and the schools are being held at a higher quality of standards to where educators and schools have to make sure that the children are reaching the state’s goals (Aske, Connolly, & Corman, 2013). This is a good thing because teachers are required to ensure that they are being the best educators that they can be; but also that they are trying to find different ways to teach student, some that may be considered “outside the box” in order to ensure that the students are grasping the concepts being taught. Some of the biggest things NCLB did to impact education include the assessment of student achievement; the public being able to access information regarding student/school performance (which increases public accountability); and laws that provides parents with personal choice in the schools their children attend (Aske, et al., 2013).
Another positive that has occurred in the education system is with the Technology Movement and that with the technology the students are learning new skills that they would not have without the technology. “Correspondingly, opportunities to learn and teach are expanded far beyond what would have been possible without the current revolution in technology” (Flair, 2014, page 12). The final positive thing that has come out of educational reforms is with the Montessori Movement. The Montessori Movement has made a major impact on how teachers are trained. When teachers first started out teaching they did not have any training, but once the Montessori Movement came about the teachers were given training on how to create teacher materials, and how to make things better for the students to where they understood what they were learning (Kayili & Ari, 2011). “The basis of the Montessori education is to make child independent and prepare the most suitable environment to support child’s development” (Kayili, et al., 2011, pg. 2105).
With every change that happens in this world there are always some drawbacks or negative repercussions. Within the educational system there have been several in recent years. With No Child Left Behind, the teachers are being held to a higher standard and when they do not meet that standard they are at risk of losing their jobs or at least losing some pay. “According to NCLB, schools are expected to increase their performance for all students on an annual basis” (Tavakolian & Howell, 2012, pg. 72). This may seem entirely positive, but it does not take into account the educators who are given high case loads of students with special needs, English Language Learning needs, behavior problems, or students with high socioeconomic needs. These groups of students have historically been lower performers and while they definitely need to be taught and make progress, sometimes the progress made by these students is seen in different ways that standardized testing does not fully demonstrate (Tavakolian, et al., 2012).
Another negative aspect that has come to light with the educational reforms is within the technology movement. The technology movement, as it implies, uses technology, but some may say is it too much and too often (Flair, 2014). Since Americans rely on technology to function, teachers, as well as students, may not know how to preform basic skills on their own without it. “Another criticism of technology in education is that technology may be hindering skill development among school-aged children” (Chmiel, 2014, page 112).
The last negative thing that has come out of the above mentioned educational reforms is within the Montessori Movement itself. The Montessori Movement has made a major impact on how teachers are trained, which is great. Teachers were then trained on child development, teacher-created materials, and standards that were more child-led. “In keeping with this belief, the Montessori method emphasizes sensory training and the use of didactic materials, learning episodes, and physical exercises in a structured environment” (Webb, Metha, & Jordan, 2013, pg.196). This may not seem like a negative, but it can be construed as one since it requires a high level of student motivation and does not take into account the current standards all educators and students are being held to; a sense of balance therefore needs to exist. Additionally, the training is expensive and most schools require the teachers to pay for their own training to be current in their practice (Webb et al., 2013).
As mentioned above, many reforms have been made throughout the years; not all have been positive and not all have been negative and each tends to have both positive and negative aspects. Future reforms are likely to incorporate more parent choice, less reliance on strict standardized testing as a reflection of a teacher’s or a school’s proficiency, and more inclusion for students with various differences and diverse abilities. It is also likely that future reforms will allow more use of technology in the classroom, focus on science, engineering, technology, and math, and transition planning for children at a younger age (Colvin, 2012).
In conclusion within the United States there have been many positive changes as well as negative changes with regards to educational reform. There will always be changes in the education system, and teachers will need to follow the laws and adapt to the changes, even if they do not always agree with them. These changes that the top branches of government have put into place are to benefit the students and provide them with a quality education. While at times cumbersome, and sometimes feeling overwhelming, these reforms are implemented for a reason. One thing that does not change is the need for education to continue to change; in doing so, students and educators are able to keep up with the ever-changing global demands of the world and its ever-changing economy. Only through reform will today’s children become tomorrow’s world leaders.