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Education Inequality in the United States

Essay by   •  February 5, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,854 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,808 Views

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Education Inequality in the United States

Background

Will Durant, a businessman and the founder of General Motors, once said, "Education is the transmission of civilization." Unfortunately, education is still one of the most deliberated and controversial issues in the United States. Thus far, the privilege or right to receive education has not attained the level of equality throughout the nation; poor districts obtain less educational funding while rich districts obtain more, creating an immense gap between the quality of schools in poor and rich areas.

The government does not fully provide funding for each school district since public schools are funded through property taxes ("Public", 1). Therefore, the amount of money for education received by each district varies from one another; there is a minor probability of two school districts getting the exact amount of money. It is reported that districts with high numbers of low-income students receive fewer government dollars per pupil than districts with fewer low-income students (Brennan, 1).

However, the government is attempting to improve and resolve this matter by creating new laws or regulations, such as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. This act was approved by Congress in 2001 and signed by President Bush in 2002 (Popham, 5).

The NCLB Act is now envisioned to be a solution to this ongoing argument; this act guarantees extra funding for schools in low-income areas and for all American children to receive equal education ("The No Child", 1). As expected, the government anticipates positive results and feedbacks from all public schools in the nation, before actually giving those schools more money as a reward. In this case, the government expects every school in this country to regulate a new standardized test for students (Popham, 14). This new standardized test will be used by the government to rate schools, whether the school is 'failing' or not, based on their students' performances on this test.

Despite the government's noble intentions to reduce problems in the society by creating this act, more arguments arise among citizens on whether the NCLB Act will enrich or impair the equality of education in this nation.

An Argument for NCLB Act Subverts Education

Those who dissent the NCLB Act and believe that it will weaken education particularly base their argument on two main reasons- standardized tests and test scores are not the way to improve equality in education and also, NCLB concentrates more on giving the teachers education, not the students, on how to improve their students' test scores.

First, the government believes that evaluating American children with the same test will reflect their abilities; therefore, these test results also indicate the school rating and whether the school itself is adequate for teaching purposes or not.

There are different factors which affect one's test score. Someone may get nervous when taking a test, causing him or her to score a lower grade, while on the other hand, someone who feels confident about the test will most likely achieve a higher grade. Also, someone may be better at memorizing, resulting in him or her answering more questions than those who are not capable to memorize things and therefore, not knowing the answers.

Many educators find the purpose of the NCLB Act to be very confusing and disingenuous. According to Monty Neill, who works for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, an organization which evaluates tests and exams for their impartiality, "NCLB is a fundamentally punitive law that uses flawed standardized tests to label schools as failures and punish them with counterproductive sanctions" (Neill, 1). Teachers will be of no use to educate their students according to the curriculum, if the only focus that both the teachers and students have is only to pass the imperative standardized test, just so their school district can acquire more money for educational purposes. When it reaches to this point, citizens of the United States can already assume that this law has already failed and is enforcing lower standards, instead of high quality learning and equal opportunity in education for students in both poor and rich districts.

George Pataki, the governor of New York, in contrast, thinks differently. He suggests that nothing, not even money, can diminish the inequality of educational opportunities in the United States. According to Pataki, "No matter how much money we [school districts] get from government, it won't change the test scores or children's abilities or education" (Kowal, 1). Certainly, this is only his personal bias; he previously had lost a Supreme Court case that was brought up against him and the state of New York due to the failure to provide a basic education for a minority student. He had undoubtedly shown his point of view in the Supreme Court, regarding his opposition of giving poor districts more money. Perhaps Neill is correct, but of course Pataki could be precise too. But the more important question is: will the No Child Left Behind Act weaken or strengthen the education system of this country and how will it affect the American children?

An Argument NCLB Act Fortifies Education

Those who agree that No Child Left Behind Act will, in fact, strengthen education in the United States also base their argument on two reasons. The NCLB Act creates higher standards for each student's achievement and progress in his or her school career and NCLB will decrease the education gap in America by providing more money and educational opportunities to the poor school districts and students from low-income families.

The federal government requires all fifty states to create a system of their own which will help each state to improve the standards of public school education. These states are not obligated to have an identical system from one another, but there are three main factors that each state needs to include in its system. "These systems must be based on challenging state standards in reading and mathematics, annual testing for all students in grades 3-8, and annual statewide progress objectives ensuring that all groups of students reach proficiency within 12 years" ("The No Child", 2).

To carry out the federal government's requests, many states have decided to create reading and math tests that will be taken by students in third through eight grades every year, meaning that these states have fulfilled two out of the three provisions. Each student's results on both tests will be

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