The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

A Quarter Century of Change in Public Education


October 4, 2017

Too often we hear about the negative aspects of how public education has changed all the way from the federal level down to the one room school house. There is no debate that public education has changed. Some say those changes are not positive and feel we should go back to educating students like we did in the 50’s or the 80’s or at the turn of the century depending on what time frame you grew up in.

Every change in public education can be debated on whether those changes are positive or negative and will continue to be debated from the federal lawmakers to the local board of trustees. That is for certain. Here’s a look back at the last quarter century to some of those changes in public education.

1. Federal programs- Every time there is a change in the political climate at the federal level a new program seems to be developed for public education. In most recent history we saw the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 implemented, to Common Core in 2008, to the most recent federal program of Every Student Succeeds Act. Every program was implemented to try and improve on public education and the merits or success of these programs will continue to be discussed.

2. Knowledge of how students learn-With all the increased understanding of the adolescent brain and how students learn, teachers are able to address different learning styles and we continue to see a shift towards more personalized learning. The days of everyone sitting in straight lines in desks learning the same material at the same pace is quickly disappearing.

3. Data- We now have tons of data at our fingertips that can help teachers analyze if their students are meeting the goals of the curriculum and how prepared they are for the next grade level or for the post-secondary level. The amount of quality data that is at our fingertips is mind-boggling.

4. Accountability- Teachers and schools are held to a much higher level of accountability than ever before. Not that many years ago the only time a parent saw their child’s grade in any class was when the report card was mailed home every nine weeks. Now parents can access grades at anytime from anywhere and teachers are expected to have grades updated and current at all times. If grades are incorrect or not done over long periods of time a teacher will hear from parents or the students. Expectations, standards, and curriculum are readily available to anyone who wants to access them.

5. Flexible schedules- Gone are the days that every school operated on the same basic schedule of 5 days a week for a total of 187 days of teacher and pupil instruction with no exceptions. Today, local board of trustees is given the flexibility to have a school schedule that better meets the needs of the local school and community.

6. Special Individualized Programs- We see more schools implementing more

and more programs to help better meet the needs of the students. Examples in the past decade include full-time kindergarten, intervention programs, preschools in the public school, and specialized programs for students with specialized needs.

7. Highly trained teachers- With access to an endless amount of information, and the availability of continuing education, due to advancement in technology, teachers are better informed and can further their education with greater ease than ever before.

8. Funding- The financing of public schools has been and always will be a political football and a major expense for the state and its taxpayers. Funding has always been difficult but the cost associated with running a school is exceeding the current funding system and the pressure to do more with less, continues to rise.

9. Public perception- The way the general public views public education continues to change and there is an increase of other options for parents such as private schools, charter schools, and online schools.

10. Technology- There is no doubt that technology has changed how and what we teach. One can spend hours arguing the good and the bad with all the advancements in technology but can’t argue that it has and will continue to change our world every day. Every student we are currently teaching was born after the world was exposed to the World Wide Web and are digital natives where many of us started our education career long before the WWW, windows operating systems, and Smart phones. It has been a big adjustment and it can be difficult to keep up with the changes.

Even with all the changes in public education there are some things that remain constant. Teachers are caring and dedicated individuals who are doing a noble job that gets tougher every day and that will never change. They do it because they care about kids and our future. Local trustees and administrators still want the best school they can possibly provide in their community and parents want their children to learn in the best educational environment there is. Only time will tell what the next twenty-five years will bring, but one thing is for sure, things will continue to change and we will continue to adapt to provide the best possible educational program for the children we serve.


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