Some time ago, a young man filed a one million dollar lawsuit against the high school that graduated him, charging them with legal responsibility for his inability to read and write adequately. It seems unlikely that the courts would find the school legally responsible for his ignorance. But is it possible that the school is morally responsible? Under what conditions might it be? Explain your views in a paper that is at least five pages. One page should give an ethical justification for your views
The United States currently lags behind other industrialized nations when it comes to education standards. In 2006 the National Center for Education Statistics compared the test scores of 15-year-old students in the U.S. with students from other countries which are part of the Organization for Economic Development and found that the U.S. students placed below average in math and science scores compared to other countries that participated in the study. 1. In order to compete globally we have to find a way to close the gap in order to move forward. Who should the blame be placed on? The students and parents or the school systems? Who is responsible for ensuring our graduating students are adequately educated? If we place the responsibility on our school systems do we hold them legally responsible or say it is just a moral responsibility?
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Education is the backbone of our county's effort to produce an adequate and capable workforce. As technology continues to evolve and our country becomes more and more dependent on complex machinery and production techniques our work force has to adapt to be able to function. This adaptation relies primarily on education.
Our country lives in an information age that is characterized by the industry fields and professional careers that comprise its core work force. As such employers will be looking for people who have earned college degrees to fill their available positions. An ever increasing amount of career fields that in the past did not require a degree now do. This increased education requirement will ensure companies are able to compete globally. As such our nation must find ways to increase the number of students who seek and successfully earn college degrees.
The scenario asks if the school system can be held either legally or morally responsible for ensuring that all graduating students be able to adequately read and write. First lets deal with the morally responsibility. The term responsibility cannot be used to fully describe what we are dealing with here. If a child fails all of his or her classes for a given year, who is responsible? One would have to assess the situation and assign levels of responsibility to all parties involved. Starting with the student you would have to determine if he or she made an honest effort to comprehend the information taught. Then if they found themselves falling behind, did they attempt to take advantage of any extra help made available like after-school tutoring programs. You would then have to look at the parents and determine what percentage of responsibility they must bear for the student's failure. Was it a single parent home where it may have not been possible to help the student with his school work? Did they ensure the student maintained adequate attendance? Did they offer encouragement to the student during his or her struggles? So that leaves the school system itself. Did the program of instruction they offered enable the student to learn. Did they attempt to intervene when they determined that the student was falling behind and offer additional help? Did they bring to bear all available resources to assist in teaching the student? Given this, how can one possibly accurately assign levels of responsibility or blame?
One can see that assigning responsibility alone can neither be accurate or helpful. You have to realize that accountability also comes into play when attempting to find the root of the problem. They are one in the same. There is a difference between responsibility and accountability. The teachers, administrators, parents, community, and even the children are responsible for student learning. This responsibility stems from the fact that there is an obligation on the part of all of those parties to ensure student learning, and in the sense that those parties all contribute to some extent to student learning. But the teachers and school system administrators can be held accountable for student learning based on the fact that public school systems are created and publicly funded to produce student learning as a specific outcome.
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When I think in terms of the level of "responsibility" that a school has for student learning, I sometimes think in terms of a zero-sum game between school and parents, but maybe that's too simplistic a formulation.
For example, let's say that Child A fails most of his classes for the year-who's responsible? One way to calculate the responsibility is to say that, well, Child A lived with a single parent, he never worked very hard, he missed a lot of days over the course of the year, his parent never helped him with his homework, and he never took advantage of after-school tutoring opportunities, so his failure is 75% his and his parent's responsibility. On the other hand, his failure is only 25% the responsibility of his teacher and school, because they offered the opportunity for a good education; Child A just didn't take advantage of that opportunity.
But I'm not sure a 100% partitioned, zero-sum conception of responsibility is either accurate or helpful. I also think that there is a difference between "responsibility" and "accountability". Parents, communities, teachers, schools, and (to a certain extent, increasing with age) children are responsible for student learning, both in the sense that there is an obligation on the part of all of those parties to student learning, and in the sense that those parties all contribute to some extent to student learning (so "responsible" both as an obligation and as a contributing factor). But the school system (teachers, administrators, etc.) is accountable for student learning, in the sense that public school systems are created and publicly funded to produce student learning as a specific outcome.
I would say that parents are responsible (but not accountable) for helping their children learn, especially prior to Kindergarten and during off hours (after school, the weekend, holidays, summer, etc.). Once a child enters the public school system, schools are both responsible and accountable for student learning, and I think that this responsibility and accountability can be described irrespective of parents' responsibility. Take Child A above: did his school do everything possible to head off his failure? Were early intervention systems in place to support him academically, was a guidance counselor or social worker brought in to address attendance issues, was transportation made available so that he could stay after school for tutoring, was a formative assessment system in place in the classroom to specifically identify areas of academic weakness, was the need for special education ruled out, etc.?
And, when a child fails and a school can honestly say to itself "We did everything we could for that student, and he failed despite all of our best efforts", then the school has a further responsibility: to figure out, if an identical student were to attend the school the next year, what new systems, interventions, personnel, etc. could be put in place so that the same type of student would be successful the next time around. That is, schools and school personnel are responsible for continually learning and improving.
So, to be honest, I am not sure that a school's level of responsibility or accountability depends upon students' or parents' level of responsibility. We are responsible and accountable for doing everything we possibly can to ensure student learning and, when failure occurs, to learn from that failure so that it does not occur again.
The board may be sued for "educational malpractice". The plaintiff "will allege that he or she has suffered damages because the school board did not fulfill its duty to educate the plaintiff." In Canadian and United States appellate courts today, malpractice claims are unsuccessful. The courts will recognize the difference between "educational malpractice" and negligence. The courts will recognize that a child who does not achieve the appropriate learning outcomes is subject to many variables that affect their ability to learn. These variables may include home environment, language barriers, and nutrition
Should a student be entitled to damages if a professor of international affairs reallocates her class time to discuss current developments in North Korea, if a biology professor uses less than state-of-the-art microscopes in his laboratory section, or if a school's computer network frequently goes down during a distance education course? Should professors put disclaimers on their syllabi or label them "preliminary"? Maybe so, according to some recent educational malpractice cases in which students have sued their schools and professors for failure to provide them an adequate education.
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Courts traditionally have been hostile to educational malpractice claims, in part because evaluating a student's claim involves, according to a federal appellate court, the inappropriate "second-guessing [of] the professional judgment of the university faculty on academic matters."
Accordingly, most courts reject general educational malpractice claims. In Bittle v. Oklahoma City, for example, a state appellate court rejected a law student's claim against Oklahoma City University and its board of trustees. The student's grade point average fell below the minimum required by the school, and it dismissed Paul Bittle. He sued, alleging that his dismissal was caused by the poor performance of his constitutional law professor, who arrived late to class, discharged class early, canceled class, and provided no make-up classes or academic counseling. The court found "no specific agreement . . . for the provision of particular educational services beyond the provision of an adequate legal education," and so dismissed Bittle's suit.
Nevertheless, courts generally will consider educational malpractice claims where specific agreements provide for particular educational services, so long as such consideration does not tread upon, as one court explained, "the nuances of educational processes and theories." Such judicial intervention is especially likely when courts consider student claims against for-profit enterprises.
A recent case involving a proprietary institution raises the specter of serious consequences if the court's reasoning "crosses over" to the traditional academy. Former students at Brown Institute, a Minnesota trade school specializing in computer training, sued the institution for educational malpractice. On the positive side, the state Supreme Court rejected claims it described as related to the "general quality of the instructors and the education [students] received," because to determine whether the school failed to provide an "effective education" would "force" the court to enter into an "inappropriate review of educational policy and procedures."
At the same time, however, the court permitted a number of contractual claims involving what it described as "specifically promised educational services." According to the court, these claims included complaints that instructors were "frequently tardy," "absent," and wasted class time on "personal problems"; that the school failed to provide "hands-on training" on "specific types of computers"; and that the school "failed to deliver the number of hours of instruction described in the materials given to students." These surviving legal issues appear to involve the general quality of education and could have far-reaching implications for the traditional academy.
Moreover, not only may educational malpractice cases be gaining more traction, but students may also be entitled to significant monetary damages. Keith Sharick, a fourth-year medical student, sued his Florida university when he failed his final required course-a rural rotation in general medicine-and was dismissed from his program. At trial, the jury ruled that the decision of Southeastern University of the Health Sciences to dismiss Sharick was arbitrary and capricious. Based on this unusual jury verdict, the court found it "appropriate to consider the possibility of lost future earnings" in addition to tuition reimbursement. The dissenting judge expressed concern that Sharick would be awarded "a lifetime's worth of future income for a potential career in an unknown field from a degree not yet obtained." The Florida Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the ruling.
One commentator observed that school programs "that culminate in a diploma or professional degree [are] not like a used-car business." However, as more colleges and universities act like businesses-students are "clients" or "consumers," education is a "product"-the less deferential courts may be to the professional judgment of educators and the institutional autonomy of colleges and universities. We must therefore work together to create an intellectual, not simply an economic, "marketplace" on our campuses.