So as I read through this week’s readings and looked at the various charts outlining the different policies OECD countries have in place and the specific area it is targeting (whether it is funding or early childhood education, etc.), I noticed the lack of presence the U.S. had. This is not surprising since most policy reforms happen on the state level because that is how the U.S is structure. While there are national-level policy reforms in place, it is ultimately up to the states to decide how they interpret and implement these policies. In the Education Policy course I took last semester, we examined the various policy trends of the U.S. and the various opinions of both sides of the spectrum in what each side supports and believes. We discussed and learned about how policy in discussion can differ greatly from when it is actually passed and implemented (sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a not-so-good way). The various barriers to get through and government bodies to get buy-in from can partially explain why it is a long and arduous process to implement education policy reform in the U.S. and why it never seems to end up how policymakers first pictured it.

This is not the same many of the other OECD countries mentioned in the readings. In an Atlantic article, it mentioned that Asian countries, in particular, have a clear outline of when a student should know what topics in what subjects and have assessments and evaluations in place to ensure that the student reaches it. The article also mentions how the policies are formed with the idea that all students can be high-achievers and there are policies in place to make sure that if a student falls behind, they are intervened and provided extra help to keep things from getting to a point where things are irreparable. The article also points out that the U.S. typically expects less from certain groups of students of certain backgrounds, because the argument is that those particular students should not be put to the same standards as others. While I don’t think that schools should expect less from a student because of her/his background, I also don’t agree with how the U.S. implements the policy of same standards for everyone, which is probably why the Common Core and No Child Left Behind has received so much criticism.

The Atlantic article also mentions how the Asian countries discussed purposely allocated extra resources for students who need extra help and have programs in place to help students catch up to their peers, while this may be the case, but having taught in Hong Kong, the article seems to overpraise the programs in place. On the surface, the programs and policies seem to envision the ideal, but implementation and action again falls short. Although I do agree that the pay for teachers is definitely not affected by the location of the school in Hong Kong, which is not the case in the U.S. and causes an issue because it deters good teachers from going to schools with disadvantaged students, who need them the most, since those schools typically cannot offer the same pay rate as other schools.

5 thoughts on “W7 – Where is the U.S. in Education Policy Reform?

  1. I definitely see your point about the current issues
    however I do think that the US overall is generally lagging behind other countries due to multiple reasons, the first that you mentioned is policies not passing. However, I do feel that geographically and historically the US functions differently than other countries because it has not been around longer. hence, a lot of the time the higher education is not even presented as a learning experience but is a business model which like everything else the US is trying to make money off. With other readings as well as for this week it is evident the federal government only includes themselves when they see money prospects.

  2. Hi Victoria,
    Thanks for your thoughtful reply to this week’s readings! I, too, made the same points about how decentralized our government is and how that ultimately effects both our international standpoints (as compared to others) and our home status of higher education. Something that I want to bring up that I find even more perplexing is how many types of institutions our country has. In each separate state, there are public universities, private, non-profit and for-profit. When I first learned about these things in my Intro to Higher Ed course I was completely perplexed at how many different types of schools we offer and how very different their missions, goals and structures are!
    Melissa Parsowith

  3. Hi Victoria,
    I enjoyed reading your article. I too was in the Public Policy class where we discussed the laborious process to education policy reform in the U.S. and it was intriguing and disturbing. One thing that stuck out to me in your piece was the Atlantic article that you posted where Asian countries where acknowledged for their proactive approach to students that do not perform as well as the majority of students. They speak of early intervention, literary and mathematics assessments in the first grade, and diligent teachers that will do whatever it takes to ensure that students who are behind, catch up.

    The article basically says that the reason to explain the success of Asian countries who have all types of students, like the U.S. is they have a higher expectation for students. I wish that were the only reason U.S. schools are failing. Resource differences, district to district teacher quality, and parental teaching – in my opinion are some of the largest reasons children fail. But what is a failing school? This article takes a great stab at it by asking: what proportion of the students are new immigrants and need help learning English? What proportion entered the school far behind their grade level? What proportion have disabilities and need more time to learn? What resources are available to the school? to better answer the “failing” question.

  4. Hi Victoria, thanks for your post! I’m currently in the Education Policy course and am in the midst of learning about all of the education reforms in the U.S. that you mentioned above. It seems like there is a lot of parallel between the U.S. K-12 system and its higher education system — mainly, that it is decentralized and it varies tremendously state-by-state (and, for K-12, even more district-by-district). However, it does seem like there have been more national initiatives on the K-12 level (ie. NCLB, Common Core) than in higher education. Because of the traditionally decentralized system of American schools, it has been incredibly difficult to implement these federal mandates. I think this would also be the case for higher education. While I do think that there needs to be more shared national goals in U.S. higher education, I am skeptical that they would actually be adopted by many HEIs who are used to operating relatively autonomously.

  5. Great article! I think overall the issue with why the US is slacking behind other Asian countries is that the US does not prioritize the betterment of education on a national level as these other countries do. When I say prioritize, I mean that the US government does not prioritize the funding of education. There is always a lot of talk about how students in the US are falling far behind the super students of China and South Korea, but it doesn’t seem like the federal government is really acting on this. Many of these Asian countries have centralized bodies that regulate all schools in the country. However, in the US, education is reserved to the rights of the states. Could it be that the US would need to follow a more centralized approach to education in order to see student success?

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