While heated education reform debates across the nation are reaching an apex, many professionals in the education field believe legislators are focusing too much on the placement and control of power instead of students’ best interests.
Issues being addressed by legislatures in Indiana and other states include the expansion of charter schools and voucher programs, changes in the way teachers are evaluated and paid and limits on teachers’ ability to bargain collectively.
“Unfortunately, these efforts are missing the mark in what should be a collective goal, namely improving all students’ opportunities to learn,” Brooke Kandel, assistant professor of education, said.
Junior education major Chris Beaman had the opportunity to shadow the Indiana Superintendent for Public Instruction. He said while this opportunity opened his mind to other viewpoints, he still firmly believes that the focus of education reform needs to be on the students.
“I don’t believe in teacher unions because it allows teachers to disengage after three years,” Beaman said. “I believe that the teaching profession should be just as risky as other professional fields, because when teachers disengage, the students suffer.”
Kandel also said that the proposed reforms, “put more power in the hands of decision-makers who are far from the realities of teaching and learning in our K-12 schools.”
Angela Lupton, assistant dean of the College of Education, agreed, saying she also believes that teacher’s voices need to be more present in order for a solution to happen.
“Conversations surrounding reform need to highlight the success stories taking place in classrooms,” Lupton said. “This would prove that even when schools might not meet education requirements, students are still growing and developing.”
To improve education, many lawmakers have proposed evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores, which Kandel believes will create competition amongst teachers and take the focus off students.
“We especially need teachers who will advocate for equity, challenge assumptions that are made about certain children and work in what some consider the most difficult settings,” Kandel said.
Beaman said the arguments do not discourage him but rather invigorate him in his desire to be a teacher.
“I’m passionate about education and, if anything, these debates have given me even more drive to enter the field with a positive solution to these problems and to help put the attention back on the students,” Beaman said.