Education Reform in the US
Broken Education System
As sad as it is to conclude it would seem that the entire public education system in this country has fallen by the way-side. Standardized test scores in the US continue to be consistently lower than many other industrialized nations. Schools and school funded activities seem perversely underfunded. Teachers and educators throughout the system are underpaid, overworked, and unappreciated. In my opinion a complete reevaluation of the entire system should be considered.
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A Simpler Time
The red apple is to remind us of a simpler time when it was customary for a student to bring their teacher an apple, as a gesture of their appreciation, and partially as payment for their services as a teacher. When I think of the value of a good education, I think; they should have planted a tree. Teachers are among our most important professionals, and the education of our children among our greatest responsibilities. If we fail to prepare our children for the future all of our futures could be at stake.
Think about this for a moment, in 1999, 12th graders in the United States ranked 19th in Mathematics, 16th in Science, and dead last in Advanced Physics, among 21 industrialized countries. Yet, the US was spending an average of $11,000 per student which tied them for first place with Switzerland on the most money spent per student. Imagine, since 1960 with inflation adjusted that’s an increase of 212 percent. I believe we should expect more from our education system, from our teachers and educators, and from ourselves. Maybe part of the problem is the hierarchical subsystem interwoven into the public school system. Maybe, as the old saying goes there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians. One example of this is the fact that in 1994 more than half of the public school employees in the US weren’t even teachers. Also consider that between 1985 and 1995 Kansas City, Missouri was spending more than 280 of the largest school districts in the US, but could show no recordable evidence of any academic gains what so ever. To me, this indicates a problem with the way the public schools funding is being managed. It may also be a problem with the methods that are being used to educate our children. Either way our current public school system needs to be reevaluated, and reformed.
To begin the process of a true reform, it needs to begin with us, us, being the parents, or guardians of school age children. We need to be diligent in the pursuit of a better education for our children. We need to be a part of that education; we can not solely leave it to teachers and educators to educate our children. We have to take an active role in what is going on not only at home, but in the class room as well. Our children’s future and our future depend on it.To take a more active role at home parents and guardians should start early; studies have shown that students who were introduced to educational material at earlier ages have consistently performed better than those who were not. Continuing to show interest and being involved when ever possible is also essential to a child’s development. In many cases if someone close to a young student doesn’t show interest in their education; neither does the student. The view that the public school system should bear the full weight of a child’s education and development is preposterous. Though in today’s society, in many homes that is the expectation.
Parents and guardians of school aged children should also take an active role in what is going on in the classroom. One way to achieve this would be to attend local school board meetings, and take an active part in discussions and decisions that take place. Petitioning Local, State, and Federal legislators to reevaluate the current system may prove helpful as well. Talking to teachers during parent teacher meetings is a good way to understand current policies and discover ways to improve them. Donating your time to help with school activities and functions could be worthwhile. If you’re not sure what you can do; ask. Ask a teacher, or the principle at your child’s school, you might ask your children for ideas and be surprised by the inventive ideas they come up with. The key is to do something rather than nothing. Just being involved will increase your child’s likeliness of success. Of course, we alone, can not fix the public school system; we need cooperation between legislators, educators, and ourselves. We need to pinpoint the most effective teaching methods and apply those methods in the classroom. A balance needs to exist between administrators and teachers and other staff.
Now is the perfect time to act; with 4 billion dollars in competitive education reform grants recently being released as part of the Race to the Top program. Many guidelines have been set for school districts to actually receive funding, but the application process is being broken up into two rounds. The second round will give first round school districts that didn’t meet the criteria a chance to make changes and reapply. More money being dumped into the system isn’t necessarily the answer, but I like the way the Race to the Top funds are being distributed. For example, in order for schools to qualify they must adopt classroom material that meets national standards and they must use nationally standardized testing to evaluate student’s progress. Also, teachers and principles must be recruited and rewarded based on their effectiveness as educators. In closing, I ask each of you to think seriously about what you expect from the Public Education System. Also ask yourself, where is the current system falling short and what can you do to make it better?