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C H A P T E R 7 Contextual Forces That Influence the Education System n addition to affecting aspects of the education system, standards I may also interact with various sectors of society and the general public in numerous ways. This chapter explores the public and political arenas within which the U.S. education system operates. Fullan (2000) uses the term âoutside forcesâ to characterize those external factors and their possible pressures on the education system. He notes that in this era of education reform âoutside forcesâ tend to move âinsideâ accompanied, for example, by demands for better educational performance and greater account- ability. This chapter explores ways that key outside forces can interact with components of the education systemâand with nationally developed standards. WHO AFFECTS THE EDUCATION SYSTEM FROM âOUTSIDEâ? Publicly supported education is a mainstay of U.S. democracy. The publicâs high interest in and concern about education are well documented in public opinion polls and by the prominence of education issues in political campaigns (Rose and Gallup, 2000; Johnson and Aulicino, 1998; Robelen, 2000; Sack and Jacobson, 2000; Keller, 2000). Overall public support for âhigh academic standardsâ in public schools has remained strong since national educational goals were established in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush and the nationâs governors (Public Agenda, 2000; Johnson and Aulicino, 1998). One study within nine states and 71
Contextual Forces that Influence the Education System Outside Forces Affecting Decision Making Education-related decisions by officials at all levels of govern- ment may be influenced by varied concerns. The U.S. recession of the early 1980s and pressures created by global competitiveness heightened the publicâs economic concerns, and in particular, those of business leaders. Some influential leaders who view education as the key to a stronger economic future have promoted new account- ability initiatives and provided incentives to stimulate improve- ments in schools. Similarly, corporations and their representatives have become involved in influencing education policy at local, state, and federal levels, in their pursuit of employees who possess the skills and knowledge needed by a productive workforce. Individually and through organizations such as the Business Roundtable, businesses offer advice to elected officials regarding educational policies. Educational concerns may motivate professional organizations, parents, and others to work toward particular goals. For example, education and professional associations and their government relations representatives lobby federal and state lawmakers regard- ing policy decisions, including financial allocations. Teachers and administrators may use information from national associations to encourage local school officials to limit the sizes of classes assigned to laboratory rooms, select particular textbooks or curricular pro- grams, or increase funding for instructional technology. Parents concerned that their childrenâs educational interests are not well served by high-stakes assessments may speak out in opposition to state-level testing or even keep their children at home on state- testing days. In particular, concerns regarding equity, stemming from efforts of organized groups, federal legislation, and court orders, may affect decisions about resource allocations, testing accommodations, and curricular offerings. At local levels, parents and guardians may work to ensure their childrenâs access to high-level mathematics courses, 73
Contextual Forces that Influence the Education System educators, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathemat- ics, the National Science Teachers Association, the International Technology Education Association, and their chapters and affiliates, contribute to the ongoing professional development of their members by producing a wide range of periodicals and other publications; holding conventions and workshops at national, regional, and local levels; and organizing other programs. Some informal educational institutions, such as science centers and museums, and some professional societies, such as the American Chemical Society, also create and publish curriculum materials and provide elementary and secondary teachers with professional development opportunities. HOW CAN NATIONALLY DEVELOPED STANDARDS INFLUENCE THOSE âOUTSIDEâ THE SYSTEM? HOW MIGHT THEY, IN TURN, INFLUENCE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM? Standards are more likely to have an influence on the education system if they are supported by the âoutsideâ forces, rather than being ignored or even opposed. If the standards are influencing individuals and groups external to the education system as in- tended, decisions enacted by elected officials and policy makers would show support for standards-based reforms. Professional associations in the forefront of the development of national stan- dards for mathematics, science, and technology would lead national and local efforts to implement the standards, as well as work with elected officials and leaders to build a consensus in support of institutionalizing standards-based reforms. The traditional school priorities of reading, writing, and arithmetic would be joined by science, technology, and a broader view of mathematics as new âbasicsâ for all students. State and local school boards, reflecting and responding to constituentsâ views, would ensure that schools have adequate funding to provide students with learning experiences that will enable them to meet the nationally developed standards. 75
Contextual Forces that Influence the Education System â¢ How have politicians, policy makers, the electorate, parents, business and industry, education organizations, and others responded to the introduction of nationally developed standards? â¢ How are the standards being received and interpreted by those outside forces? â¢ In response, what actions have politicians and the public taken regarding policies and funding in support of, or in opposition to, stan- dards-based curricula, teacher development, and assessment and account- ability systems? â¢ What changes, if any, have occurred in the opinions, activities, and decisions of governmental leaders and various public groups regarding mathematics, science, and technology education? â¢ What has been the resulting impact on the adoption of standards- based policies, programs, and practices in schools and districts? â¢ Who has been affected and how? Studies that address such questions will enable educators and policy makers to begin accumulating evidence and formulating answers to the Frameworkâs two overarching questions: How has the system responded to the introduction of nationally developed standards? and What are the consequences for student learning? The nextâand finalâchapter reviews the Framework in light of the channels and forces interacting within the education system, suggests a range of research-based uses for the Framework, and offers final comments from the Committee to those who use the Framework to consider the educational impact of nationally devel- oped standards. 77