ESTABLISHING GOALS AND OBJECTIVES When we talk about the purposes of education we may be referring to purposes at one or more of the following levels: nation, state, school district, school, and subject? Grade, unit plan, or lesson plan. Although there is no perfect agreement, most educators use the terms goals and objective to distinguish among levels of purpose with goals being broader and objectives being more specific. All end points however are influenced by social forces and by prevailing philosophies or theories of education. Social forces and philosophies combing to shape the goals adopted at the national or state level. Changes in society include shifts in emphasis amount the various influences such as the family, peer groups, social class and the economy.
Although goals are important guides in education, they cannot be directly observed or evaluated; rather, they are broad statements that denote a desired and valued competency, a theme or concern that applies to education in general. Sometimes the most general goals are called aims. Goals or aims are formulated at the national and state levels, often by prestigious commissions or task forces. Goals at the school district level begin to narrow in focus. For example, a school district goal related to the national goal of school readiness might be that “all children will have access to high -quality and developmentally appropriate preschool programs that help prepare children for school.” Goals at the school level usually narrow in focus even more, translating national, state, and district goals in to statement that coincide more closely either the philosophy and priorities of the local school community. By describing what schooling is intended to accomplish, goals provide a direction, but they are too vague for teachers and students to apply directly in the classroom.
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Thus for classroom use, goals must be translated into more specific objectives. Objectives are generally written at three levels of instruction: subject / grade level, unit plan level, and lesson plan level. In practice, most educators at the classroom level organize instruction with a combination of general and specific objectives in mind. General objectives are characterized by “end” terms such as to know, learn, understand, comprehend, and appreciate. At the level of the individual lesson plan, objectives usually become very specific. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE We live in an era when educators and the public at large are questioning the purposes of American education.
To understand this debate, we need to know how education purposes have developed and changed over the years. Proponents of the mental discipline approach believed that the mind is strengthened through meant activities, just as the body is strengthened by exercising. The more difficult the subject and the more the studied had to exercise the mind, the greater the value of the subject. This approach established a curriculum hierarchy, from elementary school through college that promoted academics and college preparation ignoring the majority of students who were not made for college.
In contrast to the perennial ist philosophy and mental discipline approach that prevailed before WWI, the period from WWI until after WWII was dominated by the philosophy of progressivism and the science of child psychology, emphasis was placed on the whole-child concept and on life adjustment. The prevailing view held that schools must be concerned with the growth and development to the entire child, not just with certain selected mental aspects. Goals related to cognitive or mental growth had to share the stage with other important purposes of education, including goals involving social, psychological, vocational, moral and civic development. During the era of the Cold War and the Soviet Sputnik flight (1957), international events gave major emphasis to the U. S. movement to reexamine academic disciplines as the focus of schooling.
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The country was appalled ant the notion of losing technological superiority to the Soviets; national pride was challenged, and national goals were threatened. Influenced by the perennialilst and essentialist theories of education, critics called for a return to academic essentials and mental discipline. The National Defense Education Act singled out science, mathematics, modern languages and guidance. The new educational climate included and increasing emphasis on providing topnotch education for the academically talented child. The scientific community, university scholars, and curriculum specialists were called upon to reconstruct subject-matter content, especially on the high-school level, while government and foundation sources provided the funds.
During the 1960’s the social conscience of America burst forth, bringing increased concern about poverty, racial discrimination, and equal educational opportunity. In this new climate new education priorities surfaced, often related to the progressive and social conscience of America burst forth, bringing increased concern about poverty, racial discrimination, and equal educational opportunity. The focus on disadvantaged students extended into the 1980’s and was expanded to include multicultural and bilingual students and students with disabilities. During the 1970 s and 1980 s, much concern also surfaced for special education especially for students with learning disabilities or other special needs. The cornerstone of these new policies and programs was the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, passed in 1975. This legislation mandated a free and appropriate public education for all children and youth with disabilities.
The act was amended in 1986 to extend the full rights and protection of this law to children aged three through five. By the 1990’s the term at risk began to replace the older term disadvantaged, and the definition of students covered by the term has continued to expand. A category of the “new needy” has emerged, including homeless children, cracked-exposed babies, and children of migrant workers. Some educators would further expand the at-risk category to include students who fall into any of these groups; (1) abused or neglected, (2) substance addicted, (3) pregnant, (4) gang or cult members, (5) HIV virus infected or (6) living in a single-parent family. These needs are recognized in the first goal of the National Education Goals, which stated that “by the year 2000, all children in America will start school ready to learn. Finally, as the late 1980’s and 1990’s brought increase demands for the educational accountability, many argued that education should focus more clearly on outcomes or outputs – that is, on meaningful, measurable academic results- rather than on inputs such as money, programs, efforts, and intentions.
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As a result of this new focus, twenty-five states have developed or implemented as outcomes-based education (OBE) approach, and eleven others have made outcomes a part of the state assessment process. Some fear that it emphasizes affective outcomes and critical thinking to the detriment of religious faith and family values. Others claim that OBE promotes minimal academic standards, “dumbing down” the curriculum. THE CALL FOR EXE LENCE By the early 1980’s national attention began to focus on the need for educational excellence and higher academic standards for all students – particularly the neglected “average” student – and not just the disadvantaged or the talented.
To support their proposals, the reports have presented devastating details and statistics indicating a serious decline in American education. For example, one, average achievement scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test declined steadily from 1963 to 1995. By 1996 only 24 percent of eighth-grade students achieved math competency for their grade level. International comparisons of student achievement in the last two decade have revealed that on nineteen academic tests U.
S. students were never first or second and were last seven times. Some 21 to 23 percent of the 191 million U. S. adults are functionally illiterate by the simplest tests of everyday reading and writing.
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These problems have occurred despite a relatively good student-teacher ratio: approximately 16 to 1 students per teacher in the U. S. , compared to ratios of over 25 to 1 in Japan and Korea. All of these reports emphasize the need to strengthen the curriculum in the core subjects of English, math, science, foreign language, and social studies. The reports further emphasize tougher standards and tougher courses, and majorities propose that colleges raise their admission requirements.
Most of the reports also talk about increasing homework, time for learning, and time in school, as well as instituting more rigorous grading, testing, homework, and discipline. They mention upgrading teacher certification, increasing teacher salaries, and providing merit pay for outstanding teachers. Overall, the reports stress academic achievement, not the whole child, and increased productivity, not relevancy or humanism. Most of the reports express concern that the schools are pressed to play too many social roles; that the schools cannot meet all these expectations, and that the schools are in danger of losing sight of their key purpose – teaching basic skills and core academic subjects, new skills for computer use, and higher-level cognitive skills for the world of work and technology. Many of the reports, concerned not only with academic productivity but also with national productivity, link human capital with economic capital. Investment in schools would be an investment in the economy and in the nation’s future stability.
If education fails, so do our work force nation. Hence business, labor, and government must work with educators to help educate and train the U. S. population. The report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, compiled by a panel appointed by the Department of Education, indicates that eh well-been of the nation is being eroded by a “rising tide of mediocrity.” The report lists several aspects of educational decline that were evident to educators and citizens alike in the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s: lower achievement scores, lower testing requirements, lowered graduation requirements, lowered teacher expectations, fewer academic courses, more remedial courses, and higher illiteracy rates. The reports calls for, among other things, tougher standards for graduation, including more courses in science, mathematics, foreign language, and the “new basics” such as computer skills; a longer school day and school year; for more homework; improved and updated textbooks; more rigorous, measurable, and higher expectations for student achievement; higher teacher salaries based on performance, and career ladders that distinguish among the beginning, experienced and master teacher; demonstrated entry competencies and more rigorous certification standards for teachers; accountability from educators and policy makers; and greater fiscal support from citizens.
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Reports such as A Nation at Risk and Educational Policies Commission reports often spring form a broad-based concern about the quality of public education in changing times. The goal of these reports is to make practical recommendations for educational improvement and, as such, provide guidance to state and local boards of education, school districts, and ultimately teachers as they plan for instruction. In 1990, President George Bush announced the establishment of national goals for education that would serve as guidelines for state and local education agencies. The overriding theme of the published document was the push for an educated citizenry, well trained and responsible, capable of adapting to a changing world, knowledgeable of its cultural heritage and the world community, and willing to accept and maintain America’s leadership position in the twenty-first century. Educators must be given greater flexibility to devise teaching and learning strategies that serve all students, regardless of abilities of interests; at the same time, they should be held responsible for their teaching.
Parents must become involved in their children’s education, especially during the preschool years. Community, civic, and business groups all have a vital role to play in reforming education. Finally, students must accept responsibility for their education, and this means they must accept responsibility for their education, and this means they must work hard in school. The original report outlined six national goals to be reached by the year 2000. In 1994 Congress passed Goals 2000: Educate America Act, which added two new goals to address the critical areas of teacher education and professional development and parental participation. In 1997, the National Education Goals Panel issued a progress report on the 8 goals and 26 “indicators” in Goals 2000.
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They found 6 indicators that had improved significantly: infants with health risks, 2 year-old immunization, families reading to children, mathematics achievement, degrees granted in math and science, and incidents of threats and injuries to students in school. The Panel found 7 areas in which performance has declined: grade 12 reading achievement, percent of secondary teachers with degree in main teaching assignment, participation in adult education programs, student drug use, sale of drugs at school, threats and injuries to public school teachers, and classroom disruptions that interfere with teaching. Another 7 indicators showed no change. While the National Education Goals report shows positive gains in math and science proficiency, American students barely perform at the international average in comparisons. The Educate America Act also formalized the development of national standards, such as content, performance, and opportunity-to-learn standards, and authorized the development of standards for students not bound for college. National reports often address the educational concerns for the times and make recommendations, however, do not always filer down to the school district and classroom level.
Criticisms of the various national reports by the educational community tend to center on the three major points: (1) the reports are too idealistic and therefore unrealistic; (2) they put too much emphasis on excellence at the expense of equity; and (3) they are enormously expensive to implement. Some educators point out that reports ignore a basic fact about school change and improvement: that the process is complex and involves the cooperation of teachers, administrators, parents, and community members, all of whom often have different agendas and ideas about reform. Others say the reports ignore the realities of students’s itu ations – the: whole-child” view. Why talk about raising standards when most at-risk students cannot even meet existing standards because of their difficult social and home environments? Seasoned educators have learned, sometimes the hard way, that there are no “magic bullets” for reforming schools.
Moreover, the education highways are cluttered with reforms that have run out of gas – the “wrecks” of famous bandwagons. Why should today’s reform movement be any different? One reason, according to former NEA president Mary Fut rell, is that there seems to be a new consensus on the necessity of providing high-quality education for all students. Reflecting this new consensus, coalitions are now being formed among government, corporate, and educational groups. It has taken many years to reach this point of cooperation. Furthermore, as educators assert, the political force driving educational reform is another basis for optimism.
Reforms in the past were based on educational ideas that did not necessarily have widespread support from legislators or policy makers, much less the public. Today, the fear about American decline touches far more people that ever before, and they seem willing to do something about it. People are now making the connection between education and economics, realizing that school failures are tied to economic failures and that it is time to invest in children and youth. There seems to be a guarded willingness on the part of the public to spend money on education, as long as educators show substantive results.
In addition, a study of high-school students ten years after A Nation at Risk showed several positive indicators of change. First, high-school students ere taking more courses, particularly in academic areas. Second, NAEP scores showed increased student learning in math and science, even among lower-ability students. Third, fewer students were dropping out of high school, and finally, student educational aspirations were increasing. These were changes of a positive nature, even though much concern remained for the high level of eight and ninth-grade dropouts, especially in urban schools.
Overall, the national reports on education have captured public attention, spotlighted concern for the quality of education, and helped to upgrade school standards. In the view of many educators these reforms merely scratch the surface. Nevertheless, we may now have the best opportunity we have had in generations for comprehensive and effective reform of American schools. Swing of the Pendulum In examining educational goals from the turn of the twentieth century until today, we see considerable change but also old ideas reemerging in updated versions. For example, a stress on rigorous intellectual training, evident in the early twentieth century, reappeared in the 1950’s during the Cold War and again in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a result of concern over economic competition with foreign countries.
Similarly, as the social ferment of the 1960’s and 1970’s brought increasing concern for the rights and aspirations of low-income and minority groups, the ideas of the early progressive educators resurfaced, and a renewed stress was placed on educating the disadvantaged. Although this concern for the disadvantaged or at-risk students are more diffuse, and academically talented groups. Unquestionably, the goals of education must be relevant to the times. If the schools cannot adapt to changing conditions and social forces, how can they expect to produce people who do? Today we live in a highly technical, automated, and bureaucratic society, and we are faced with pressing social and economic problems – aging cities, the effects of centuries of racial and sexual discrimination, an aging population, economic dislocations, and pollution of the physical environment. Whether we allow the times to engulf us, or where we can cope with our new environment, will depend to a large extent on what kinds of skills are taught to out present-day students – and on the development of appropriate priorities for education.