Progressive Education and Its Role on Students


The evolution of education in the US has been gradual, with progressive education gradually replacing traditional education. Several phenomena have arisen with this advancement and impacted the role various stakeholders play in the education sphere. This essay is an analysis of progressive education and its role on students, the role of high-stakes testing, and high standards in education. The essay analyzes whether high stakes cause students to fail and investigates the impact of these changes on the philosophy of teaching amongst the teachers. The main roadblocks anticipated in the professional practice of teaching are also investigated in detail.

Room for Progressive Education with High Stakes Testing

In a world of high-stakes testing, the possibility of progressive education being achieved is diminished. This is because high-stakes testing majorly focuses on the grades scored by the students to make major decisions for them, including graduation and promotion to the next level (Hewitt, 2017). This is a one-sided focus that disregards other crucial aspects of education that can prove students were faring well. The ideals of progressive education are partly focused on ensuring equality for all students. Students are not equally gifted academically as some thrive better in areas that require the expression of their talents. High-stakes testing deprives these students of this chance to express themselves adequately, and this leads to retrogressive education.

High stake testing also stresses some students mentally as they get panic attacks and anxiety due to the pressure associated with the tests. This means that well-read students may perform poorly due to panic, while others may perform well if they can manage their stress adequately (Dewey, 1987). This begs an assessment on whether the testing examines the understanding of concepts or ability to manage stress, making education more retrogressive. While progressive education advocates for student retention and high numbers of graduates, high-stakes testing leads to the exact opposite. Students fail the test and cannot attain the necessary grade and, therefore, drop out of school. High-stakes testing reduces school to only grades while school is traditionally and progressively meant to be a social institution that promotes the ideals of life.

Schools Setting High Standards for Students

Schools are setting high standards for students through their emphasis on the necessity for excellence, but failing to ensure all students are accommodated. High standards amongst students are crucial and ensure learners are ambitious and focused on attaining goals. Teachers and the school administration have the responsibility of ensuring that students aspire to soar to great achievements (Hewitt, 2017). The high standards set for students in current-day America focus on the need for academic excellence and exceptional grades. This cuts across private and public schools within the country despite the difference in the type of students and resources available in these schools. Private school students have abundant financial and human resources that enable them to attain high standards with ease while public schools are the exact opposite.

The high standards set for all students do not consider the different socioeconomic differences such as poverty, race, and disability. Students from affluent backgrounds are more likely to achieve academic high standards due to abundant encouragement and apparent favoritism in the schools as their opinions are valued better. High standards within the schools are set inappropriately in some schools where the teachers are not representative of students taught there (Murrow, 2017). Most public schools are made up of African American and Latino students yet the majority of teachers are White (Rich, 2015). The high standards of White teachers on these children without a parental figure for them means only White students benefit from the high standards set.

High Standards Preparing Children to Fail

The high standards will only prepare children to fail as they will instill the wrong mentality in them. Children whose intellect is judged based on their mere ability to attain high grades in tests will grow up believing they are stupid if they fail in these tests. The lack of self-belief amongst these children is a catalyst for inaction for fear of failure (Noguera et al., 2014). Students who pass in these high standards set will grow up believing they are intelligent and self-sufficient (Hewitt, 2017). While confidence is integral to their success in later life, these children will remain oblivious of other factors in the wider spectrum of life that determine excellence and success.

High standards also mean that the children learn to neglect other aspects of life and this leads to missed opportunities. Many children cannot explore the various talents including music and sports for the fear that they will fail to attain the high standards set if they pursue the talents. When these children are eventually adult members of the society relied upon for direction, they express utter disinterest in the positions they hold hence incompetence (Murrow, 2017). This leads to unfulfilled lives due to the focus on the attainment of high standards. The high standards are also responsible for dropouts amongst the students who cannot attain them hence poor academic credentials.

Teachers Remaining True to Philosophy

Despite the emphasis on high standards and high-stakes testing, teachers should remain true to their philosophy. Teachers must remain steadfast in their belief to learn, lead, and serve students. A deviation from the philosophy of teaching is bound to lead to an unfulfilled career for teachers hence the abandonment of duty (Dewey, 1997). This means that teaching will be devoid of the passion that drives educators and duties will instead be performed out of duty and responsibilities to employers. Unhappiness within the workplace is bound to lead to mental health challenges amongst teachers and increased hospital admissions (Luthra, 2021). The teachers are also unlikely to help their students if they abandon their philosophy as students will not be cared for with the parental love that teaching demands.

Abandoning their philosophy of teaching guarantees that a communication lapse ensues between teachers and students hence gross misunderstanding of concepts and instructions. Gross misunderstanding of student needs is bound to occur as teachers cannot view the students’ requests from the students’ perspective (Luthra, 2021). Abandoning the teaching philosophy is detrimental to the number of practicing teachers, reducing the number of these workers through reduced enrollment. Prospective teachers are bound to notice the unhappiness and dissatisfaction in the field and dread it, reducing numbers for disadvantaged groups even further (Miller, 2017). Embracing their philosophies ensures that progressive education can be achieved through reforms in the sector through the contribution of teachers to eliminate the high stakes and high standards systems.

Progressive Education Benefit to Students

Progressive education can benefit all students if it is truly implemented in the spirit of equality. Progressive education is based on transforming the traditional model that focused on academic excellence through memorization. The progressive system of education tailors education to the needs of each child. The children are not judged on the same merit as before, by their ability to reproduce content, but rather by their ability to excel through personalized learning (Ravitch, 2014). Progressive education focuses on smaller classes to ensure maximum focus by the teachers for each student. This means that sufficient attention is given to the specific field each student excels in and success attained.

Progressive education also changes the merits of judging excellence to include other aspects such as talents and social abilities. Leadership, for example, is crucial to the advancement of society but was erroneously disregarded in the definition of academic excellence within the traditional education system. The progressive system encourages diversity and the expression of different personal capabilities amongst students. Progressive education that considers the needs of all students regardless of their race, economic capabilities, and the state of the schools they attend is vital. This can only be achieved if schools are stacked with teachers that are representative of all races and financial assistance is allocated based on the needs of students (Rosales, 2021). Progressive education can attain its desired goal of ensuring all students benefit if the field accepts to evolve from the traditional standards while retaining the philosophy of the profession.

Effect of High Stakes Testing on Progressive Educators

High-stakes testing affects the career advancement of progressive educators. This is because the capability of the progressive teachers is purely based on the performance of their students in the high-stakes tests. Students are abled differently and some better in some fields than others hence varied performances. The underperforming students drag the mean score down with their performances and when these scores are used to determine aspects of career advancement such as promotions, careers stagnate (Miller, 2017). The high-stakes testing emphasis also ensures progressive educators are reduced to enablers for student performance instead of holistic teachers who make students better at serving their communities. The teachers merely focus on revision for the tests and make deliberate efforts to predict the exams to ensure students succeed.

Progressive educators are also unfulfilled in their jobs as they are forced to neglect the philosophy that requires them to assist all students. The focus is on students who are academically gifted and whose lives allow them to adequately concentrate on academics with minimal distractions. This leaves a large number of students unattended, and this is a betrayal of the core beliefs of equality that constitute the teaching profession and principles of progressive education (Dewey, 1997). Progressive educators are also forced to revert to the traditional system of education that places them as all-knowing impactors of knowledge that dictate the student’s education and lives (Freire, 1993). This means that the teachers cannot learn from the students despite progressive education providing room for learning.

Major Roadblock

A major roadblock in teaching is the challenge of uninterested and uninvolved parents. The current economic system has made many adults slaves to their professions and minimally involved in the education of their children. They have neglected their roles to teach their children certain aspects of life and teachers are left to fill this void (Meador, 2019). This is an immense responsibility on the teachers and is burdening considering the immense professional duties already assigned. This roadblock means that difficulty is bound to occur in securing sufficient time to focus on professional responsibility.

The teaching profession is assumed to take a few hours of the day, yet a teacher never takes a rest from their professional responsibilities. When absent in the classroom to teach, educators are required to arrive earlier and prepare late into the night for their professional duties (Meador, 2019). Teachers are sometimes forced to neglect social aspects of their lives or integrate them with their profession altogether (Cremin, 1957). This is because there is never sufficient time to do everything for them. Teachers are expected to be parents and spouses in their homes in addition to their professional requirements. The burden of the profession means there is difficulty balancing all these aspects while ensuring students are learning.


In conclusions, progressive education is poised to make students more successful if it is implemented in consideration of all students. Progressive education is positively related to career advancement for teachers but pressures related to it such as high-stakes testing is bound to make them focused on results. High standards set by schools have a profound influence on students and have an impact on priorities set by teachers and students. High-stakes testing only bombards students with the pressure to perform in examination, eliminating the need and desire to learn for the advancement of their knowledge and skills.


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