Essay on Politics in Education: Analysis of The American Education System

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Politics in Education

The American Education System has always had a close relationship with politics. Over time, this relationship has become increasingly complicated as the education system relies more on a government that does not consistently fulfill its needs. In this essay, three different aspects of the education system in America will be evaluated. The Every Student Succeeds Act, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and the Mississippi Curriculum Test, Second Edition. All three of these have been influenced by politics or influence politics. The changes made by lawmakers affecting all three of these aspects of education have shaped the current learning atmosphere that students are in today.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law on December 10, 2015. It replaced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This law was a facelift for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The ESSA was signed into effect by President Obama to remedy the nation’s low high school graduation rates. The ESSA act focuses on promoting equity in the classroom, meaning that students who are disadvantaged are given not just the same opportunities as other students, but also aid to help them advance. The ESSA act also takes a hands on, community wide approach to the education system. It includes preschools for all districts, as well as interventions in the community such as promise neighborhoods. The ESSA act picks up where the NCLB act left off. The NCLB revealed that lots of the students doing poorly were from underserved communities. However, while it revealed this, not a lot was done to change it. The ESSA takes the next step in reaching out to the community. The ESSA provides a lot more autonomy to schools. They are allowed to chose their curriculum, their teacher requirements, and how they allocate funding. However, they are still required to do formal, statewide testing that reports to the National Assessment of Education Progress statistics.

However, allowing schools to have this autonomy makes some nervous. The Phi Delta Kappan report on ESSA expresses lots of concerns about maintaining equity. They question, “One has to wonder, now that ESSA has relaxed NCLB’s many federal requirements, will states take advantage of their newfound flexibility to design educational systems that better meet the needs of all children? Or, absent any real pressure from the federal government, will they make little effort to address disparities among subgroups of students?” The schools’ newfound freedom could potentially provide great aid to in-need districts, however, do they have the resources to do so? However, a different article in Phi Delta Kappan points out that ESSA has not relinquished all control. Instead, ESSA provides a “rigid flexibility” (Phi Delta Kappan), allowing schools to have flexibility while the government still has a firm hand in the system. In an article written for the Phi Delta Kappan, Andrew Saultz points out that while ESSA has prompted change, it hasn’t fixed the underlying issues. “ESSA was written to fix the problems of NCLB, but it did not fundamentally alter the relationship between local schools and centralized offices.” ESSA’s goal was to fix NCLB, but it didn’t fix the schools. That is the where the majority of the fault is.

However, as Saultz points out in his article, taking on the entire American education system is a huge ordeal. Balancing the relationship of state autonomy and government control seems to be the main functional issue with the American education system. ESSA is a step forward from NCLB and is making progress gradually. Mississippi’s graduation rate is at an all time high (MDEK12). The Office of Early Childhood Education in Mississippi went from one staff member to twenty four. While ESSA may not be a perfect solution, it is showing drastic improvement. Without a nationwide political intervention, there would have been no change or a decline in graduating students. In this instance, a political intervention is slowly but surely making a change.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only nationwide method of evaluating students in America’s public schools. This helps show the drastic differences in education level that occur in America’s schools. It also shows growth or change in each district’s progress over time. This program does not report on individual students, however, it does formulate statistics on specific groups of students, for example, students from urban areas. This allows the government to ensure all needs of all different types of school districts are met. In 2002, the NCLB act caused drastic change to the NAEP. The NCLB act changed the “background” or pre-cognitive questions to be less biased. Every question on the questionnaire had to be pertinent to an academic environment.

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The NAEP was not created to become a new framework, it was simply created to measure students’ and districts’ progress over time. (National Assessment Governing Board) The pre-cognitive questions provide an insight to why results from schools allegedly given the same opportunity could be drastically different. However, the NAEP does not study that data—they just present it as it is, for districts and the government to decide what to do with it all. Additionally, the NAEP serves exclusively as a means to present data. It has little influence from politics and outside sources. However, it is used heavily to influence political decisions. It’s existence provides a “report card” (MDEK12) for America’s politicians to evaluate.

The Mississippi Curriculum Test, Second Edition (MCT2) is the state test program created in adjournment with the NCLB act to keep schools accountable and track student achievement. This test was first put in place in 2007(MDEK12). The MCT2 reports back to the NAEP as Mississippi’s results. It is specific exclusively to Mississippi’s public schools.

This test has had a direct impact on how teachers in Mississippi teach. (Cole) In a study conducted by John Alexander Buchanan, it is revealed that teachers placed in a high stakes testing environment are more likely to have less successful teaching style and students are more likely to be less engaged in learning. The MCT2 is a politically mandated test for districts to receive funding. (MDEK12) Additionally, teachers’ job security is directly tied to how students perform on these tests. This creates a stressful work environment. Principals have been caught helping students cheat on the tests in order to help their school get a better rating. (MDEK12) Funding and jobs are so directly linked to this test that it has created an environment where principals would rather directly inhibit a student’s educational experience by cheating on a test for them than create an environment where it is safe to fail. Linking the state’s funding and employment opportunities to state tests creates a high-risk environment for both the students and the teachers.

The MCT2 was created in adjunction with NCLB to allow politicians to have an overview of how Mississippi’s schools are performing and receive funding. However, as NCLB moved out, Mississippi’s politicians opted to keep the MCT2 as a form of evaluation. This creates a test-focused school environment that is placing more pressure on teachers to teach to the test and not to the students. When complaints arise, the solution seems to be adding more tests, or changing when they are given. Before Kindergarten, students are given tests to evaluate if they’re ready from what they’ve learned in preschool. This test obsession isn’t helping teachers or students prepare for kindergarten—it’s simply checking boxes on politician’s checklists for maintaining the school districts.

Politics and education have a complicated role. Education today relies on politics entirely to keep schools open. However, because of this, politics have taken a lot of schools’ functionality away from them. They are so focused on meeting the test requirements left behind from NCLB that there has been a drastic shift in how teaching happens and what curriculum it’s structured around. This change is slowly being remedied by the ESSA, but it can’t undo years of politics overnight. Additionally, ESSA is heavily dependent on states agreeing to the change, which many local politicians do not. Slowly, politics are adapting to aid schools, however, they are still currently test oriented instead of teacher and student oriented, which is proving to be ineffective.

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Essay on Politics in Education: Analysis of The American Education System. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
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