Controversial Issues in Public Education

Today there are never ending controversies about the education that our students are receiving. There are continual questions concerning intelligence and how intelligence is measured and valued in our school systems. There are a number of issues in regards to academic success and how academic success is emphasized in our schools and society. Finally, the challenge of standardization in the public schools is a never-ending debate. Together these three topics create unanswered questions and hours of examination.

I would like to offer you the idea that these topics are interrelated and tend to lead in to each other. In the following paper I hope to illustrate the relationship between intelligence, academic success, and standardization, and I also hope to develop a clear understanding of each topic as an individual concept. What is intelligence? Is intelligence really a definable word or is it just a word with numerous definitions and meanings? Is intelligence a fair way to measure the ability of students and to eventually use your perception of a childs intelligence to determine their future?

Is intelligence measurable, and if so is there a fair way to measure intelligence? These questions are often left unanswered and untouched. Maybe because people really dont know or maybe because these questions taunt a number of people, yet no one wants to hear the answers for fear that it may be unfair or unjust. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to answer the following questions to the best of my ability. So, what is intelligence? After careful thought and examination I came up with my own view of what I believe intelligence can be defined as.

Intelligence is the ability to learn from experience, the ability to reason, the ability to use the correct tools to expand your knowledge, having the ability to think, possessing the ability to participate in and understand relationships, to have intuition, and finally to have the power of insight. I believe that together these abilities make up a person’s intelligence. However, this is simply my perception of intelligence and I would like to offer you another view. In a book titled, Intelligence, Mental Retardation, and the Culturally Different Child, David Wechsler, a psychologist, offers the following definition of intelligence.

He states that, Intelligence is the aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment, (John L. Manni et al 64). Wechsler explains that the reason intelligence is the aggregate or global capacity is because intelligence is not made up of independent abilities, but qualitatively different abilities and these abilities can only be measured by measuring various aspects of these abilities (John L. Manni et al 64). Wechsler points out the four major aspects that he strongly refers to when describing intelligence. The first is awareness.

Wechsler describes awareness by saying, A persons behavior is purposeful, not instinctive or reflexive, (John L. Manni et al 64). He also continues by placing an emphasis on goal direction and explaining that people behave in meaningful ways. The third point that he stresses is rational by pointing out that people usually act in a manner that is understood by others. The last point that Wechsler stresses is value by saying that others perceive the behavior of an individual as being useful. Together these aspects make up another definition of intelligence. Now it is up to you to decide what intelligence is.

Perhaps everyone has a different view of the definition or perhaps there really isnt one. However, I am satisfied with the understanding of intelligence that I have developed. As an upcoming teacher I feel that it is crucial for me to have an understanding of what intelligence is for the simple fact that one day I will be the one determining the level of intelligence that a child possesses, which can either lead a child to the road of success or the failure. How is intelligence measured and if it is measured is it measured fairly? Perhaps this is the next question that you along with many others are wondering.

After reading a number of books and looking at case studies I am convinced that even though numerous people are against IQ test, I Q tests are still the number one way that intelligence is measured. Do I agree with using IQ tests to measure intelligence, absolutely not? I am strongly convinced that IQ tests are simply a measure of how well a child can associate and survive in a white middle class society. I believe that the questions asked on an IQ test favor the Caucasian ethnicity and those with middle class economic status. It is not fair to measure a childs, or for that matter anyones intelligence by using an extremely biased test.

In my opinion there are many times when tests are not a prediction of intelligence because tests are simply a way to see if the test taker knows the answers to the questions that the person who created the test want them to know. Once again, this is a biased way of measuring intelligence. I believe that application questions or observations are the best way to measure such a crucial aspect of a childs development. As a teacher I would like to come up with a system that uses numerous observation techniques to watch the development of a students intelligence based on the definition of intelligence that I have previously offered.

The intelligence of an individual does not only effect their self-perception but it also effects their performance in other areas. I would like to offer the idea that a students perceived level of intelligence effects their academic success. Intelligence is by no means the only predictor to academic success, but I do believe that there is a correlation. It is a common assumption that a high level of academic success can be interpreted as meaning that, that student is very intelligent. However there are a number of predications that determine a students academic success that are often times over looked.

Before going into the other factors that contribute to a childs academic success I feel that it would be appropriate for me to offer you my definition of the topic at hand. I believe that academic success can be referred to as the scholastic achievements of an individual. In the past academic success has been inevitably paired with intelligence. In recent studies there has been an expansion in regards to the acknowledgement and understanding of other predicting factors. I would like to begin with the ongoing debate of is intelligence determined by nature or nurture.

Therefore is academic success an inherited potential or is it a potential that is developed and influenced by the environment that a student is place in? Next, can a students prior experiences in certain situations, atmospheres, and experiences to similar tests that he/she is being given influence academic success? Does a students general ealth and appearance effect the way a student can perform? My answer to the above questions is yes. Any time a student has had prior experience to a situation, environment, or testing style they will always perform better then those who have not had prior interactions.

In addition when a student feels healthy, has on appropriate clothing and proper hygiene they will feel better about themselves, which in turn will allow them to perform at a higher level. There are also personality factors that effect a students academic success. Whether or not a student is internally motivated will influence their success. It is also easier for a child to succeed if they are interested in what they are learning, and if they are interested in the upcoming test. Finally, the anxiety level of a student will also play a role in the success of a student.

Sometimes anxiety is good and other times it has a negative effect on students (Lavin p 48). Along with personality factors effecting the academic success of students thee are also situational factors. If a student has a lot of confidence then most likely they will succeed. If a student feels comfortable around the person who is giving the test then they will most likely perform better. Also, the way the test is constructed, including the kind of questions and the way it is presented will also effect the academic performance of a student. Together these factors effect academic success (Lavin p 48).

I would say that academic success along with intelligence is one of the hardest things to calculate. Perhaps it is because there are so many underlying factors that greatly influence the scholastic achievements of a student. Whether it be the sociological detriments, such as social economic status, gender differences, age, religious background, or geographic location or the psychological aspects which may include evaluating the onditions that make students achieve; there are a number of factors that need to be considered when discussing academic success.

As an upcoming teacher I am constantly boggling my mind to try and come up with a way to bridge the gap between the scholastic achievements of my students. I know that it would be an extremely ideal statement to say that I would like to have all of my students receive equal opportunities to achieve in my classroom, but this is what I would like. As a compromise to myself I came up with some ideas that may in fact increase the academic success in my classroom and do so on an equal level for all students.

I will try to create assessments that value the ability to apply knowledge by reasoning. I also want to come up with assessments and instructions that positively affect my students achievements. I want my students to be involved in developing their goals, self-evaluations, and ways for them to show me what they have been learning. Finally, I hope to have the support of my administrators in strengthen the academic success of my students. Overall academic success is determined and influenced by a number of factors and is many times associated with high and low levels of intelligence.

Although in the past intelligence has been the number one predictor in the scholastic achievements of a student I believe that I have supplied you with enough evidence to acknowledge that academic success is influenced and determined by a number of other factors besides intelligence. Not only is academic success related to intelligence, but it is also related to standardization in public schools. In general the higher level of academic success in a school leads to higher standards in that school.

According to Grant Wiggens in an article itled, Standards, not Standardization, a school that has standards is considered to have standards when it has high and consistent expectations of all learners in all courses (Standards, not Standardization 1). I happen to disagree with two parts of this definition. For one, I do not believe that standards are consistent. Instead I would suggest that standards change as the level of measured or assumed academic success increases and decreases and as the curriculum of public education changes.

Along with this I would also like to say that I do not agree that the standards are consistent for all students. I believe that standards favor those who are categorized as highly intelligent. Therefore, the standards are changed to meet their needs and in turn leave those who are labeled low intellects further and further behind the others. So the question may be are standards appropriate and needed to guide the education of our students? My answer to this question is yes. As long as there are some revisions done to the existing standards in many public schools.

I would like to offer my definition of what a standard may be considered. A standard is a level of excellence placed on something that we value. Standards are sustained by the demand for quality and consistency in areas that we perceive to be important. I think that the reason we need standards is because we need something concrete to compare students work to, to see if the results are satisfactory and if they are unsatisfactory then we need something there to stress improvement. The one thing that I do see as a downfall to revised standards is that it may discourage overachievers in raising their own personal standards.

If I were to evaluate the way standardization in public schools exist today I would have to say that they are lacking and need some revision and improvement. I believe that right now we have a high level of standardization as far as what is put on the test, but I do believe that we have no standardization when considering the results of the test. We have scores that are considered pass or fail, but we have nothing to ensure that those scores are representative of a student’s performance.

I strongly agree with the comment made by grant Wiggens when he states that, our students are the most tested but the least examined, (Standards, not standardization 2). Now days students are simply presented with a score but are not supplied with any information as to how they can reach or exceed the standard. I also would like to suggest that currently the standards really dont allow students to improve or raise their own standards because they are always being compared to the original work or performance that set the standard in the first place.

Therefore, I am convinced that it is time for standardization in public schools to be examined. I agree with the idea that standards are a good way of evaluating students and supplying students with an idea of what they need to achieve, but only if the standards are equal, just, and offer opportunity. As Grant Wiggens states, A standard offers an objective ideal, serving as a worthy and tangible goal for everyone- even if at this point in time, for whatever reason, some cannot yet reach it, (Standards not Standardization 2). The final controversy of standardization in public schools may be who or what should be the standard.

This is a question that even I can not correctly answer at this time. However, I do have some ideas that I would like to offer. I would like to suggest that one way to approach the creation of a standard would be to suggest that a standard does not just mean to meet the pre determined quotas, but to produce work that the individual is proud of. As teachers we need to develop the concept that the quality of work matters and that work needs to and will be rejected until it meets the standards. We need to let students know that we as teachers strive for excellence and we need to encourage every student to do so also.

Today, the standards have allowed students to be happy with satisfactory work and what the revised standards need to include and what teachers need to promote is the fact that satisfactory work is not okay for anyone and that meeting or exceeding the standard is acceptable, attainable, and encouraged by everyone. The next idea that I would like to suggest is that we need to create a sense of pride in the work that students exhibit. Now days it appears that students who have been labeled as low intellects are put on lower tracks and in turn are assigned low level courses that do not include high standards.

It is rare that in low-level courses the students are given quality assignments to complete. Isnt the goal of education, tracking, and standardization to maximize the expectations of students to increase the quality of their work? If this is the goal then standards need to be equal for everyone so that the work and expectations for students allow them to produce work of high quality and gain a sense of pride in their accomplishments. Together I think that quality and pride need to be taken into consideration when trying to decide who or what the standard should be.

In conclusion, I want to reemphasize that intelligence, academic success, and standardization in public schools is three very controversial areas in our school system. I encourage you to go out and do research as I have done. You will discover millions of different views and suggestions to improve our education system. I am confident that after developing my own views and becoming aware of the controversies that surround public education I have widened my horizons and better prepared myself to become a future teacher.

I believe that intelligence, academic success, and the challenge of standardization in public schools all go hand in hand and I think throughout this paper that concept has been greatly illustrated. If I could devise one individual goal that has risen out of this paper it would be that as a teacher I want to have the ability to teach to all levels and styles of intelligence, to encourage academic success and create an atmosphere where success is achievable, and to allow and encourage my students to exceed in every standard.

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