Competitive Education Models Increase Inequity

confused student

There is nothing wrong with a little good ole’ competition. Except when you are talking about education. The playing field is unfair. Our current plan of action for education reform is based on rewarding schools for achieving benchmarks based on standardized tests. These tests have been known to handicap students that come from low income families, minority students and students whose first language is not English. There are two major problems with competitive education reform:

1) Teacher performance is directly correlated to student scores and for teacher’s who choose to serve in school districts whose students are comprised primarily of low income and minority students they will likely be unjustly classified as ineffective teachers.  Such classification could threaten their jobs.

A glimpse into an overcrowded classroom of an extraordinary teacher:

Extraordinary isn’t Enough

The superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland had this to say about linking test scores to teacher evaluation:

“The problem is today we are using them only solely for accountability purposes, linking student test scores to teacher performances. I don’t know any business that motivates its employees by shaming them and demonizing them.”

From: Education Experts Debate High-Stakes Testing in Public Schools

2) The schools that need the most funding are the schools that have the hardest time scoring well on the standardized exams.  How are students who have reading and math skills far below their current grade level expected to miraculously respond to the governments new common core and testing expectations all while the teachers expected to be helping them are battling class sizes that aren’t manageable and unreasonable new test score expectations when their kids can’t pass current ones?

Oregon’s new Standardized Test

A quote from a Nashville, TN high school teacher:

“They want to increase the rigor but a lot of students are not ready for increased rigor,” she said. “If you have sophomores who are reading at an elementary level, how is increasing the rigor going to help them?”

From: Parents and Teachers Join Pockets of Rebellion Against Common Core

I believe the current competitive model will further increase inequity in our education system by further distancing the gap between students who come from backgrounds that enable them to perform better on standardized tests than those from lower socioeconomic upbringing.  To compound matters the current model also seeks to ostracize our teachers by labeling them based on yearly test scores that can fluctuate year to year.

What do you think? Since the competitive model seems like it’s here to stay (No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Kitzhaber’s new achievement compacts) how do we make the best of the situation? How do we buck the system and demand that the focus should be on individual learning and not the assembly line like packaging of students for standardized examination?

(Image extracted from


2 thoughts on “Competitive Education Models Increase Inequity

  1. Prior to reading your last paragraph, I had my guns blazing ready to rant about how much I dislike all these policies and how much I loved all the information you had in the blog. The question about how we make the best of it, totally stopped my rampage (probably a good thing too). I really had to think about these questions.

    I thought about a student who I am working on confidence building with. I was told that I have to SHOW her how awesome she is instead of TELLING her how great she is. I think when proving the fallacies in these systems, you have to treat them like students still learning how to make educational programs. I plan to teach to their test. I want to keep my job and that is an unfortunate reality. I also plan to teach off test. I will document how much more they learn off test than on test. I will SHOW them their way is ineffective instead of TELLING them their way is ineffective. I think all educators could do this. Even if it’s only one lesson plan a year. We need to give the educational system some confidence in their teachers.

    That was a great blog and those were fantastic questions! Thanks!

    • Thanks Lisa!

      I sympathize with your frustrations. It is difficult for me to read about these programs without lashing out in anger, but we need to try to think of ways to circumvent standardized teaching and develop critical thinking and individual skills in students from all backgrounds. It is definitely going to be an uphill battle that is made harder due to lack of funding. Giving up is not an option!

      Do or do not, There is no try.


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