Education plays a significant role in sustaining economies all over the world. Virtually all sectors of the economy need an educated population for them to run effectively. A good education enables people to access gainful employment, build stable families, and become a productive citizenry. The prosperous social and economic conditions present in the American society epitomize the impact of an educated population (Mitra, 2011). For institutions to offer quality education, several issues must be addressed including funding and assessment standards. Over the recent years, school funding and standardized tests have received great scrutiny in the US.
There is a consensus that the success of an education system has a correlation with the availability of resources in learning institutions. A majority of people believe that well-funded schools fair better in terms of quality education. Almost 50% of the funding of public schools in the US comes from local taxes (Biddle & Berliner, 2002; Mitra, 2011).This model of financing creates disparities between various communities due to the uneven distribution of resources across the states. As a result, some policymakers, parents, educationists and other stakeholders argue that this system of funding should be revised to offer equal opportunities for all learners. However, attempts to revise the model have been met with some resistance. Those who oppose the implementation of an equitable policy argue that there is no relation relationship between education expenditures and academic achievement. Some of the opponents of equitable distribution of resource also maintain that success or failure is a product of personal efforts and not a function of social circumstances (Biddle &Berliner, 2002). Yet recent findings show that poor districts receive more funding than districts that are occupied by the poor and minorities (Layton, 2015).The question that arises is: why should more money be spent in some districts if the learning outcomes are the same?
Contrary to the assertions raised by opponents of equitable funding, a body of research in recent decades shows a greater correlation between spending and educational achievement in public schools. While most research findings agree that there is little connection between direct spending and educational achievements, extensive literature demonstrate that exogenous factors related to finances significantly affect the performance of poor and minority children (Biddle & Berliner, 2002; Layton, 2015). Apart from inadequate learning resources, impoverished schools have to contend with children with little psychological preparedness to learning. According to Layton (2015), some children from impoverished backgrounds begin their kindergarten trailing their affluent counterparts and, often, do not catch up. Invariably, teachers in under-funded schools spend more resources to make the children comfortable and ready for learning. Eating, hygiene, and emotional support are some of the issues that make education in poor districts to consume more resources. Besides, test scores that are often used in most studies evaluating education outcomes cannot give a perfect measure of learning in the lifetime of an individual (Jackson, Johnson, & Persico, 2015). For the mentioned reasons, studies that discourage equitable funding should not be entirely relied upon during the process of decision -making.
Surveys and raw literature have shown that standardized tests have increased significantly over the last five years in USs public schools (Layton, 2015).From pre-first graders to 12-graders, children are subjected to rigorous tests that are used to determine their progression to the next academic level. While there is no perfect system of measuring intelligence and acquisition of knowledge, evidence suggests that standardized tests are not the best form of evaluation to be used in schools. The situation is compounded by the high demands that come with such of a system of assessment.
One of the glaring effects of standardized testing is latent discrimination of poor and minority children. In an investigation conducted by Broussard (2014) into the testing system in public schools in Philadelphia, findings reveal multiple issues that have a negative impact on learning outcomes. According to Broussard, many schools do have adequate funding to buy books that are used for preparing children for the standardized tests. Besides, some schools do not allow children to read the standardized textbooks on their own during the out-of-school hours due to the scarcity of such resources. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the majority of children in Philadelphias public schools are poor. If schools cannot afford to buy books from the selected publishers, it puts their children at a disadvantage. The inability to purchase books is tied to the issue of inequitable funding of public schools.
Another challenge that the standardized testing system faces is the structured nature of the examinations. Many test questions in the books are often reflected in the tests (Broussard, 2014).Such repetitions may hinder the development of cognitive skills of children. Additionally, classical literature cannot help learners prepare for tests. This is due to the practice of basing the tests on the specific knowledge found in the sets of textbooks designed by accredited publishers (Broussard, 2014). As a result, it encourages drilling and confines knowledge to the expectations of the test-makers.
In conclusion, school funding and standardized continues to raise controversy in the education system. Although expenditure has little direct connection with education achievements, other factors related to finances affect learning outcomes. The problem is worse in impoverished communities. On the same note, standardized tests encourage rote learning as well as disadvantages poor children. For schools to deliver quality outcomes, an equitable funding policy will have to be adopted, and a system that does not overemphasize on test outcomes should be considered.
Biddle, B. J., & Berliner, D. C. (2002). Unequal School Funding in the United States. Educational leadership, 59(8), 48-59.
Broussard, M. (2014, July 15). Why poor schools cant win at standardized testing. The Atlantic [Boston].
Jackson, C. K., Johnson, R. C., & Persico, C. (2015). The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 131(1), 157-218. doi:10.1093/qje/qjv036
Layton, L. (2015, January 16). Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty. The Washington Post [Washington].
Layton, L. (2015, October 24). Study says standardized testing is overwhelming nations public schools. The Washington Post [Washington].
Mitra, D. (2011). Pennsylvania's best investment: The social and economic benefits of public education (Unpublished master's thesis). Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.
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