Universal education would precede universal suffrage

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Introduction - Thomas Jefferson believed that universal education would have to precede universal suffrage. The ignorant, he argued, were incapable of self-government. But he had profound faith in the reasonableness and ability of the masses and in their collective wisdom when educated. As one of the founding fathers, Jefferson in fact set the precedent for American education: reading, writing, mathematics, the Classics, and European and American History. That his beliefs were focused on all male citizens receiving a free education, and a sign of his times for, in 1789, the first law was passed in Massachusetts to reaffirm the colonial laws by which town were obligated to support a school. This law had varying degrees of success, and the American education process went through a series of trials during most of the 19th and early 20th centuries (Van DeMille, 2006). In the United States, education is offered at all levels from pre-kindergarten to graduate school, typically K-12 funded by public monies. Elementary and secondary education involves twelve years of mandatory schooling, or GED, resulting in a High School Diploma. A distinct feature of the American educational system is its focus on decentralized organization (Mondale, 2002). Elementary and secondary education is financially supported by three levels of government - local, state, and federal. Furthermore, it is again divided into public and private institutions. The main disadvantages of the decentralization are the quality of education received by the students and the community's ability to compensate educators, clearly dependent upon the social and geographical area of habitation (Odden, 2003).

In the history of American education there have been several seminal legal issues that have defined both the contemporary educational systems as well as dramatically changed the rubric of U.S. Education Law and Policy. One of these, the so-called "No Child Left Behind" mandate, remains both controversial and impactful in contemporary education. The "No Child Left Behind Act" (Public Law 107-110, 115), is a Congressional Act signed into law by George W. Bush in January 2002. The Bill was a bi-partisan initiative, supported by Senator Edward Kennedy, and authorized a number of federal programs designed to improve standards for educational accountability across all States, districts, and increase the focus on reading. Much of the NCLB focus is based on the view that American students are falling behind in educational basis when scored are compared globally. The Act does not establish a national achievement standard; each State must confirm its own set of standards, but in order to receive funding, the States must meet a basic criteria of performance (Abernathy, 2007). [1] 

Problem Statement - With new standards in educational expectations, then, many have suggested pay for performance as the best way to address the issue of scores and performance. Is this, in fact, the most appropriate way? By way of background, the NCLB Act, declining test scores in the math and reading areas in general, and the public's perception of student performance has led, over the past few decades, to a critique of teacher performance in the contemporary classroom. Even the popular media seems to be pushing for a new way to both incent good teachers and motivate mediocre ones: the pay for performance paradigm. The idea seems common sensical, the better students perform on standardized tests, the more the teacher is rewarded - thus, the incentive to perform better - rewarding teachers "for doing what we all have a passion for anyway - making sure our kids master the skills they need in order to be successful," noted one teacher from New Orleans (Turner, 2010).

Teachers, however, are not in complete agreement that this is an appropriate mode of incentive, citing several factors: a) Measuring teacher effectiveness by standardized tests often means teachers will "teach to the test," b) learning goals are not necessarily measured by a test, but by the difference between entering a classroom at the beginning of the year and the level of the student's performance in all areas of the curriculum over time, and, 3) teachers interact with the same students only about 1/3 of the time after elementary school, and even lower primary grades have the students only about 5 hours - and certainly cannot control their learning behavior before or after school. Indeed each individual household has different rules, level of the home environment and parental involvement. This focus is unduly exacerbated during the summer months in which at teams, little or no learning, or no remedial practice takes place, and often the students enter the following grade already behind because they have forgotten their last quarter's learning goals. In fact, less than 30 percent of teachers believe that monetary rewards would have a strong or very strong impact upon improving academic achievement (See. Fig. 1) (Gonring, 2007).

In fact, teachers overwhelmingly view that it is non-monetary awards that will both have the greatest impact on teacher performance, but also on student learning and teacher retention. These include supportive leadership from principal and administration, more time for teachers to effectively collaborate with one another, having access to higher quality curriculum materials and supporting technology, a cleaner building and safer atmosphere, and even programs for professional development and education as opposed to simply slapping on bonuses for student test performance (See Fig. 2) (Primary Sources, 2010).

Purpose/Questions- The purpose of the proposed research is to identify whether the pay for performance model has appropriate relevance to most teachers, and if so why. If not, what results can we glean that would, or would not, support alternative ways of compensating and/or motivating teachers for retention, or to provide a more robust classroom experience? Is NCLB and other mandated national test scoring contradictory to classroom learning, and in fact does it force teachers to teach to a test as opposed to a set of skills necessary to logically progress through school?

Significance of Research and to the Field of Education- Since the early 2000s, states and districts have been experimenting with salary structures as they attempt to both recruit and retain the highest quality teachers possible. Different states adopt different modes for this, some with success, other with dismal failure. In 2001, for instance, the state of Iowa adopted a new teacher compensation program that paid for performance defined by student achievement. This new structure was also designed to retain and recruit, since many top-notch teachers did not really wish to relocate to Iowa. Teachers could earn an additional $2,000/annum in schools where students showed measurable performance increases on tests. Reception to this was moderate, but other states and localities found the program "too bold" and "too expensive" and some even a "short term fix" (Blair, 2001).

Another conundrum is the manner in which starting teacher salaries fell further behind other white collar professionals stating in the 1990s. Since then, many first-year teachers holding a Bachelor's Degree can expect to earn about $8,000 less per year than other college-educated professionals, with the gap widening to $24,000 as they reach their middle years; and climbing to $32,000 gap with teacher's who have completed their Master's Degree. With this gap, and the fact that teachers are typically paid for seniority rather than performance, the practice tends to discourage high-achieving, passionate professionals from even entering a career where only longevity, instead of high-productivity and professionalism, will be rewarded (Kaplan & Owings, 2002, 28).

Thus, the significance to the field of education lies in the continual dilemma of finding the appropriate means of solving five major issues in the pedagogical field: 1) Development and retention of a professional cadre of well-qualified instructors; 2) Enhancing school performance objectives to fall in line with NCLB and other Federally mandated programs, 3) Establishing a basal point for the profession that allows bright, excited and qualified candidates to opt for a teaching career, 4) Allowing stakeholders an accurate way to measure classroom success for both teachers and students, and, 5) Above all, the means to professionalize and develop the nation's schools into vital and robust centers of education, who's students are able to effectively compete in the global economy (Wragg, et.al., 2004; Trends Shaping Education, 2010).