5 Scandals In Education
Throughout history, scandals have been documented. Some scandals are more public than others. On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon addressed the nation on TV. He said, “I have never been a quitter…But as president, I must put the interest of America first... Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.” Watergate was a scandal that shocked Americans and forced President Nixon to leave office.
The Enron scandal occurred nearly twenty five years after Watergate. Several of Enron’s executives were charged with conspiracy, insider trading, and securities fraud. Enron’s founder and former CEO, Kenneth Lay, was convicted of six counts of fraud and conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud. Enron’s collapse was the biggest corporate bankruptcy in history. Prior to the collapse, Enron shareholders lost $74 billion, and employees lost billions in pension benefits.
Scandals exist in K-12 education and they need to be addressed. This article will highlight five scandals in education. The behavior or non-behavior of the teachers and administrators in a school impacts students. A school without clearly defined goals is like a ship without a rudder; it lacks direction and a slight wind could easily blow it off course (Wiles, 2009). Teachers and administrators must analyze their school to see if any of the following scandals exist or have the potential to develop under their leadership.
5 Scandals in Education
1. Lack of instructional leadership
Instructional leaders provide a system that supports teaching and learning. In the absence of a system, there will not be a focus on student understanding. Several schools have adults who work hard, but there is a focus on completing the week and making it to the end of the year. Instructional leaders must strive to identify the main focus for each grade level or course and then work collaboratively to ensure that each student is challenged and provided with scaffolding as needed. Hattie suggests that principals are engaged in instructional leadership when they “have their major focus on creating a learning climate free of disruption, a system of clear teaching objectives, and high teacher expectations for teachers and students” (2012, p. 83). The lack of instructional leadership hurts students and may impact their potential to contribute to society as an adult. Glatthorn (1987) wrote, "One of the tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment, so that the learned curriculum is maximized" (p. 4).
2. A culture that does not emphasize formative assessment
If student achievement is the goal, then educators must define what students will achieve and monitor the results of instruction and learning. Common formative assessments seem like a common sense approach in education, but many school districts still allow each professional educator to determine achievement based on assessments created by individuals rather than common formative assessments developed by professional learning teams. If a school does not measure student understanding, then it is scandalous.
“Today's schools are less focused on merely sorting students and more focused on helping all students succeed in meeting standards. This evolution in the mission of schools means that we can't let students who have not yet met standards fall into losing streaks, succumb to hopelessness, and stop trying” (Stiggins, 2007). If a school does not have a formative assessment system in place to support student understanding, then the adults are not focused on the main mission of school. In the United States, students take several tests, but testing and assessment are not the same.
3. Curriculum alignment is left to chance
Curriculum alignment is an ongoing process which asks teachers to develop curriculum goals, identify essential content, skills and concepts, and reflect on the taught curriculum. A disjointed curriculum will not support student understanding. In Toward a Coherent Curriculum: The 1985 ASCD Yearbook, Stellar wrote, "The curriculum in numerous schools lacks clarity and, more important, coherence. Students move from teacher to teacher and subject to subject along a curriculum continuum that may or may not exhibit planned articulation" (p. v). Curriculum alignment is "an ongoing process that asks teachers and administrators to think, act, and meet differently to improve their students' learning" (Hale, 2008, p. 8).
4. Low expectations for students
The biggest scandal in K-12 education is low expectations. Low expectations have been observed when teachers work with one or more of the following groups: students eligible for free-reduced lunch, minority students, students with disabilities, students who have been retained one or more years, introverts, students with a good personality who do not work hard, or students who disrupt class. When adults lower their expectations for students, they are not preparing the student(s) for success at the next level. The saddest part of low expectations is that some students are promoted from one grade to the next without being challenged or provided the opportunity to demonstrate understanding of the grade level standards. Some teachers may lower standards because they feel sorry for a child’s circumstances or home life. In College Knowledge: Getting In is Only Half the Battle, David Conley (2009) wrote, “High schools that are designed to prepare large numbers of students for college success look dramatically different from those that prepare only a small proportion of their students for college success.”
5. Students are not required to think
Too often, U.S. classrooms provide a safe zone where failure is not an option. It is not an option, because students are spoon fed the correct answer, rather than asking students to create, collaborate, think critically, analyze, write, and explore. What does productive struggle look like? “In a productive struggle, students grapple with the issues and are able to come up with a solution themselves, developing persistence and resilience in pursuing and attaining the learning goal or understanding” (Allen, 2012, A Conversation with Author and Educator Robyn Jackson). Can you identify the last time your assignment required students to engage in a productive struggle?
A scandal is an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage (Oxford Dictionary).