Education Reforms

January 9, 2018

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The system of teaching and learning in any academic institution is critical towards the performance of an individual student and the institution in general. The interaction among the various resources in a learning institution determines the overall performance and how the objective of any learning institution is met. The core objective of any learning institution is to improve the performance of students and assist the students in psychological and social development by impacting knowledge. A policy that works towards the achievement of this objective is necessary, and thus constant reforms in the education sector need to be undertaken. In 1983, a report released indicated that the education system in America was at risk. The deteriorating academic performance in the United States of America necessitated reforms with the purpose of achieving high student achievements. Professional organizations took the mandate to improve the education sector by coming up with reforms. The Teachers Council on Mathematics together with other bodies came up with strategies on how to motivate teachers and students towards achieving set goals. They believe that there is nothing like under-performing student but only under-motivated one. The dismal performance of the education system in the United States necessitated restructuring of the education system. This paper seeks to analyze the different education reforms and their impacts on the development of the education system (National Association of Secondary School Principals, 2001).

Block Scheduling

This was one of the reforms proposed in the education system. The Congress mandated with initiating the reforms came up with a report, Prisoners of Time, in 1994. It highlighted the issue of time as a major resource and a critical factor for achieving higher standards of education among the students. The rate of learning and understanding varies among students. There are students who take longer time in understanding a concept as compared to others. Use of the instructional, varying time is an important concept. It helps in addressing the differences in learning. Block rescheduling is an important strategy that addresses the different rates of learning among students. This is because under block scheduling a more flexible and accommodative lesson time is proposed. It provides additional, extra time for teacher-student exposure. Certain models exist under the block scheduling that assist in accomplishing the key concept in this strategy. The development of these models has been necessitated by various factors. Issues like unstable family, violence, and poverty need to be dealt with in the quest of equipping students with relevant skills. The skills will enable students to cope well in a global economy that is highly competitive. The issues that hinder the student from achieving learning objectives are more explicit in the secondary school level. In this regard, most high schools are working to improve the system of education. One of the several improvements regards the extension of the daily schedule. The traditional system of education sets forty five to fifty minutes class daily.

The exposure time between teachers and students is limited in regard to block scheduling. The block scheduling proposes longer periods with the objective of achieving hands-on activities, cooperative/collaborative learning, and integrated activities among the various groups within the students. The different methods under block scheduling offer flexibility in the learning process and serve to improve the achievement of students’ objectives. The A/B schedule and the four by four semester plan are the most common models of block rescheduling among high schools, although other models do exist. The advantage of these models is that they offer flexibility in the school system and teaching program.

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The four by four semester plan constitutes two semesters per academic year. Under this model there are four periods for instructional purposes within a given day each constituting ninety minutes. The prolonging of the instructional periods allows students to meet daily and cover work that would have been overstretched for a full year under the traditional system. Students receive full credit for the four courses completed during the first semester and this provides a platform for students to enroll additional four courses in the subsequent spring semester. The block scheduling offers the teacher three courses per semester. The remaining block time is allocated to planning purposes. In some schools, however, the planning time allocated to the teacher may be split into two. Half of the time is used for planning purposes while the rest is used for supervisory role performed by the teacher, such as inspecting students during lunch time.

Under the A/B model, students have the alternative of taking more courses in a given period depending on the number offered by the school. The instructional period remains ninety minutes. The students can take half of the courses offered in day one and the other half in day two in an alternating plan (Ngoma, 2011).

Intended Outcomes

Various expectations hold for this type of strategy. Applying to block scheduling is expected that the class environment will change. Due to the larger instructional period available teachers can incorporate other teaching strategies thus changing the approach to education. Aspects like extended explorations can be incorporated in the instructional strategy thus changing the learning environment. The other intended outcome regards to the workload. The workload by the teacher is reduced as the strategy allows him to deal with a reduced class and an extended time. The teacher has within his disposition enough time even to know the study behavior of their students better (Forman, 2009).

The number of indiscipline cases is expected to decline. There is little or no time for students engaging in disruptive behavior due to high level of engagements among students. The mode of delivery incorporates student participation, and hence the student is more active in constructive work. The student is also expected to increase knowledge and understanding. This is because the student has more time in indulging critical and creative thinking by exploring an idea taught in class in a more in-depth approach.

Unintended Outcomes

There are certain aspects that were never expected to arise from the strategy of block scheduling. The outcomes are dependent upon the education system like the school environment and achievements by the students. Decrease in the value of the course is not intended for this model. There may be instances where the value of the course is not put into much consideration due to shortened length of the course. This may be caused by the tendency to focus on the simpler bits of course with the objective of course completion. Rigidity on the instruction model is a concept that is not expected. Most of the teachers may use the extra time granted to give assignments instead of improving their instructional model. There may be also chances of students’ unsustainability of achievements. At high school level students perform better in a program that involves all year course as opposed to the long semester classes proposed by this model. Failure to have improved performance is not intended in this program as the main focus is to have improvements (Carroll, 19940).

The implications of this strategy form the basis for future advancements in the education system. By analyzing the pros and cons of this strategy the ground for improvement is created. The pros provide a better understanding on how improvements can be made, while the cons induce the reformers and policymakers to critical thinking in an effort to come up with strategies that can better address the challenges. In order to be able to make reforms or improve this strategy, it is important for the academicians to understand this model and its working.

Small Schools

Small schools can be defined as a learning institution characterized by its size. Small schools mostly accommodate students ranging from 300 to 450 in four grades. This size facilitates a personalized relationship between the student and the teacher (Barbara, 1998).

This is another reform proposed in the education system after analyzing the dismal performance of high schools. The strategists came up with a reform on the quest to restructure the education system towards better performance. The performance of high schools mostly in New York City called for an improvement in the education system. Small schools were seen as a better establishment to cope with the dismal performance in high school due to their effectiveness in operations. The small schools emerge from various ways. It emerges as a start up school. In this case the operations of the school as a small school begin from its inception. It starts with small operations which expand over time. A small school can also be formed from conversion. The Big Bang Approach is used in this sense. A big high school is converted into small schools but retaining the grades and teachers. However, the management is split. Every small school will have its own principal, operate independently, and have an independent decision making authority. The existence of small schools provides a smaller scope of operations, and thus effectiveness of the institution is enhanced. In the conversion strategy, it is worth noting that autonomy in schools is a critical aspect. In this sense therefore, the various schools should possess autonomy and have operations that are independent of other units created from the conversion process.

The objective behind the creation of small high school was to enhance efficiency in education. The challenge to teach a large number of students has the solution applying to small schools. This is because the number of students handled by a given teacher is reduced. This makes the delivery and the learning process effective. It is important to note that the size of a school is not in itself the core determinant of success. Expectations should not be wholly based on the size of the school and argue that small schools always perform better. It is considered fallacious to have such kind of an argument. The size of an institution, however, determines how other aspects of success interact towards achieving better results. The reforms undertaken in improving an education system should always be based on the positive outcomes expected in return (McQuillan, 2005).

Expected Outcomes

Elimination of structural barriers is one of the expectations leveled on this reform. Small schools have a reduced number of students per class. It serves to eliminate the structural barrier that exists between the resources in the teaching program. Removal of the structural barriers effectively facilitates better delivery resulting to quality performance by the students. The existence of structural barriers may be a major hindrance to the success of a given institution.

The other expectation by the reformers lies on the autonomy of an institution. Small schools are supposed to enhance autonomy in issue regarding the operations of an institution. The decision making body in a small school is supposed to be autonomous. This will enable the body to make decisions independently without interference from other forces in the authority. The decisions made in this essence will be for the better performance and operations of the school. Autonomy is thus a core expectation of the small school (Semel & Sadovnik, 2010).

Small schools are expected to be flexible. The flexibility of the small schools will enable them to be mission driven and adaptive to changes in the teaching and learning process. Flexibility is a major concept in the operations of any given institution, as it enables the institution in question to adopt new measures that reflect changes in the environment of operation. Flexibility allows the small schools to focus on the changing needs of their students and acquire resources that will enhance achievements of the school’s objective. Flexibility is more critical in the development of certain key issues like the school calendar and the curriculum. Management policies and preparation of the school budget are other aspects where flexibility is critical and consequently adds value to the performance of a given institution. The creation of personalized environment is another critical aspect of expectation in small schools. The proponents of this reform argue that the smallness of an institution does not in its entirety determine the success of an institution. However, by creating a personalized environment, the smallness adds to the successful performance of an institution (Diana & Whitney, 2011).

Unexpected outcomes

The inclusion of this reform into the education system is a measure by the reformers in ensuring better performance of the school as an academic institution. However, certain expectations may arise that were not intended for in the development of the reform. The creation of small schools is not envisioned to close down the operations of the big schools but to improve the relevance of education by assisting the students in achieving their objectives. The creation of small schools is not intended to drain the public resources. The administrators of big schools fear that their institutions receive fewer resources and support as most of attention is focused on the development of the small schools. In Seattle, for instance, the government is planning to close small schools citing the shortage in the budget. Inequities and segregation are other aspects that are not intended for in this reform. The increased number of small schools may lead to segregation among students and teachers. The increased number of schools creates sorting opportunities among academic, demographic, and socioeconomic lines. The increased rate of segregation may result to disparity in resource allocation (Feldman, 2010).

This kind of reform provides critical information to policymakers in the advancement of the system of education. Reformers have a platform on which to develop policies and come up with suggestions to improve the performance of a given education system. The reformers should focus on the unexpected outcomes in this reform and develop policies and strategies that will address them. These unexpected outcomes are challenges in the growth and development of small schools (Shiller, 2011).

Stem Schools

The choice of school is another important aspect in determining the performance and operations of a school. The decreased rate of graduates and experts in the field of technology led the policymakers in the United States to come up with a policy that supports education in science courses. In order to solve the challenge in science and technology that United States faced it had to develop a special strategy. The strategy involved undertaking reforms in the high school education curriculum. Program was developed to offer Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This program involved enrolling high school students into technical courses early in advance before joining an institution of higher learning. However, not all schools started this program, and thus students had to make a choice on which high school to join (Gary & Dave, 2011).

Reforms in certain high schools have been made to conform to the STEM requirements. In the United States there are several STEM programs that are funded by the government ranging from the kindergarten level to the institutions of higher learning. The government of America has invested more resources in the funding of the STEM program. In order to promote the competitiveness in technology, science, mathematics, and engineering president, George W. Bush signed into law a pact that enhanced the funding of the STEM program. This was in an effort to enhance the wide acceptability of the STEM program and promote its inception (James, 2011).

Expectations of the Reforms

The reformers of the education system developed this program with certain objectives to be accomplished. The reforms had the objective of improving the performance of the United States in the field of STEM. The United States had recorded a declining number of graduates in the technical courses. The program, however, resulted to an increased number of graduates in the field of STEM. This enabled America to remain on top as a super power considering the fact that no other state had initiated such a program (Thomas & Corinne, 2010).

The program was also expected to affect the choice of school among the high school students. Students who are interested in the technical courses favor those high schools that offer this program. These high schools also promoted the nurturing of the students’ talents at an early stage. Developing the talents in the technical courses earlier enough equips the student with knowledge and skills that facilitates invention in a particular field.

The expectation of the course is to induce the student into critical and creative thinking in enhancing the development and invention in this field. The program involves a rigorous exercise in the preparation of the student to join the college. The high level of activity influences the students to think critically and creatively in an attempt to solve the problems facing the community. Another important expectation of STEM involves the global economy. The program expects the student to become more competitive in the highly competitive economy.

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Unexpected Outcomes

The introduction of STEM program in some high schools is not meant to wipe the programs offered by other high schools. In this regard the objective of STEM is to facilitate the achievements of students by providing a means for effective learning. The developments in the field of technology, for instance, have a major impact on the effectiveness of other fields such as art. This is because technology offers the relevant equipment to be used in the field of art (Subotnik, Tai, Rickoff, & Almarode, 2010).

The developers and the initiators of the STEM program did not intend to segregate the high school students rather it offered a platform for the development of talents. The initiators of the program were of the idea that STEM will help nurture skills at the younger stages. The student thus grows actualizing his/her talent. This assists in proper utilization of resources and avoids wastage of time in the sense that a student gets to develop his/her talent at early stages.

The STEM objectives are fundamental both in the current economy and in the future. The introduction of the STEM program in the high school level is a good idea to be implemented. In the current age of the industrial revolution and the world becoming a global country, developments in the field of STEM is inevitable and especially in the field of technology. One of the impacts of STEM is that it induces the learners to critical and creative thinking. In this sense therefore students are in a position to come up with inventions that serve to provide a solution to the problems facing the society. The objectives of various states and especially the developing countries are to achieve growth and development both in the economy and infrastructure. The achievement of these objectives has much of input from the STEM program. STEM program should, however, be introduced equally among the high schools (Steve, 2011).

Merit Pay

This is another reform approach proposed with the objective of achieving high quality education and improving the education system. Policymakers have a purpose to ensure that teachers get a better pay. The decision on how to arrive at a better pay forms the controversial point. Certain considerations should be made by the policymakers in coming up with an approach that ensures equity in reward. They should, for instance, ensure that there is no equal pay across the board, and the traditional method of rewarding is eliminated. Policymakers at different levels including federal and state are adopting the pay performance approach in an attempt to abolish the traditional teacher’s rewarding system. This approach is seen as effective on the part of improving the quality of education in the schools. It is widely used but policymakers portend that this is a better approach towards reforming the education system (Education Commission of the States, 2010).