In the past decade, a higher emphasis has been placed on education and the teaching methods behind it. The devolution of education and teaching has created a society where teaching is dependent on financial status, job respectability, and technology. Education is vital to help society evolve, but with emphasis on test results rather than producing well-rounded students, many teachers have lost sight of the roots of education.
With a decrease in salary for teachers, “Teaching to the test” is becoming a more popular way of teaching. This could be attributed to the fact that teachers usually make less than $50,000 a year and do not feel the need to put forth the extra effort to really make an impact on their students. Teachers' jobs are based on how well their students perform on standardized tests, so many have resulted to teaching right out of a textbook rather than applying the knowledge to real life situations. For example, in the state of Texas the standardized state test TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) is required for students to take and pass in order to move on to the next grade level. This also measures how well the teacher has taught the material, and if too many students in the same class fail the exam, it could cause the teacher his or her job. With state tests dominating the education system, it makes it much easier for teachers to just “teach to the test” and make sure their students pass to ensure their job. This has created less interest from students because they are not benefitting from the lessons, they are merely memorizing a textbook to pass an exam and then the information is immediately deleted from their memory. This teaching method is not effective because it only teaches students to pass a standardized exam and is not applicable in the real world. The education today is not creating intelligent students, just good test takers.
An emphasis on job respectability has become more dominant in education. With education being a primary target when states need to reduce funding, nearly every teacher is greedily pounding the test material into his or her students so that test scores reflect accuracy of the instructor. Many teaching positions are dependent on these test scores and if teachers do not receive a certain average, they will not receive a bonus or will be removed from their position. This reflects the mindset of conformity because for students, there are strict dress codes implemented so that they are not allowed to express themselves, it appears that schools and teachers, seem to be more concerned with their image and test scores rather than the quality of the education that their students are receiving. In most schools, dress codes are one of the most strictly enforced rules, when they do not necessarily pertain to education. This is also the case with teachers because test scores are considered a priority for the school’s image instead of a quality education for their students. Students are also taught from a young age that they need to conform to certain teaching styles and if a teacher has a certain way of teaching the material, then they must be adaptable to their style of teaching in order to be successful. Education has resulted to a “one size fits all” style of learning and if students are not able to adapt to this then they will have to go out of their way to learn the material. It also seems that nowadays every parent wants their student to attend a “Blue Ribbon” school or go to the top college in the nation, but it seems that everywhere is the same. If the school is distinguished it is simply because their teachers are successfully teaching the test material for the students to pass. Being respected because students passed the state standardized test is not something to be proud of, however, giving students a quality education and helping them survive in the real world is.
A strong dependence on technology has skewed the value of education. Many schools are attempting to adapt technology into their curriculum, which can make a positive impact and get the students more excited, but can also cause students to slack off and lose motivation for learning because technology compensates for what they don’t understand. Teachers can find it more convenient to show a movie or let their students play an interactive game on the computer to learn the lesson rather than teaching it themselves and making it worth something for the students. For example, in almost every math class calculators are used to help students plot points, solve algebraic equations and even do integrals. These devices have made students less focused on what they need to know for real life situations because they always use their calculators as a fallback. Also, many teachers are now using online testing methods and interactive websites. Although it might be easier to keep organized, it makes it easier for students to cheat and it is common for students to collaborate about a test or quiz if it is available online even if there are multiple versions. The introduction of smartphones has also made it easier for students to cheat because they have the access to the web anywhere they go. Many teachers have put too much faith into technology and based their entire classes on the web, this has helped create a generation of lazy students that do not do their own work and rely on technology to earn their college degree for them. While technology has made it easier for teachers to keep their classes organized and students interested, it has come at the price of academic dishonesty.
In the modern age, the quality of education has become heavily dependent on teacher’s financial statuses, and because teachers’ salaries are dependent on their student’s test scores so many students are receiving a textbook based education. Also, the emphasis on job respectability has caused teachers to lose sight of the purpose of their jobs and focus more on their image and successful test scores. The increased use of technology that has been integrated into the education system has created a generation that uses smartphones and computers rather than common sense and academic knowledge to complete assignments. Standardized teaching methods that are supposed to help students “be successful” does not help students absorb any information and receive a quality education, instead they are trained to pass a basic test and temporarily memorize a textbook.
Teen Talk columnist Christine Baker is a senior at McKinney High School. Watch for her column on Fridays, as well as other various stories during the week.