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The Movement to Overhaul National Education Legislation Took a Step Ahead Today

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It comes as no surprise to hear that the current education policy of the United States, 'No Child Left Behind', which went into effect in 2002, has been criticized for focusing too much attention on teaching to the test.

Today, the Senate announced a bipartisan agreement on a reform bill that would shift the focus of the federal government from high stakes testing to turning around low-performing schools while providing states and local schools/districts a renewed ability to innovate within their schools.

I am happy about this. Over the past few years as criticism surrounding 'teaching to the test' has grown, I often reflected back on my freshmen year of college. During my first semester I had an amazing professor who incorporated multiple teaching strategies within the context of his lectures to ensure that the diversity of learners within his courses absorbed the material. His lectures were accompanied by multiple visual images and audio background that communicated the content to his students. Although I cannot remember each and every fact I once did about western civilization from the beginning through 1648, I am often amazed at what I have retained from this experience. And that is precisely what I believe teachers need the freedom to focus on, the experience of learning. Teachers need to have the ability to bring their subject matter to life for their students. They need to be inspired to create lessons and units that integrate across the curriculum and speak to students' interests and learning styles. Simply engaging students in a memorization style of teaching to ensure better test scores does not promote long-term learning and appreciation of knowledge.

In early September I attended the back to school night for parents at my children's school. I was pleased to hear that they would be focusing this year on common core standards that promoted a firm grasp of fundamentals before more abstract material is introduced. Coupled with a renewed sense of freedom within the classroom, a renewed emphasis on the core subjects - mathematics, science, literacy/writing, and social studies - will provide our students a strong foundation for success in the real world.

As a parent I am happy that my children will not become overly stressed about 'the' test, but as a career advisor for future educators, I am even more excited by your renewed opportunity to teach with flexibility and creativity with the classroom. I am thrilled that students and teachers alike will be able to engage in learning for learning's sake to ensure that our children are ready to live and work in a global community and economy.

As you stay abreast of the current status of the nation's education policy and those within your respective states, embrace the revitalized movement toward focusing on fundamentals; however do not dismiss the importance of providing data to support your candidacy as an effective teacher. Keep in mind that your ability to sell yourself during the job search as a creative educator who can demonstrate an integrated approach to lesson planning with documented growth in the assessment of your students will impress future employers.

Joni O'Hagan
Senior Associate Director, Career Center
St. John's University

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