20 Reasons Why the American Education System is Failing
Once upon a time, enthusiasts constructed an education system to meet the economic needs of the industrial revolution. Fast forward to today and, and it seems apparent that the now established education system cannot meet the demands of our hyper-connected society – a society that is in a continuous state of evolution. Let’s examine 20 problems that preclude the American education system from regaining its preeminence.
1. Parents are not involved enough. Time spent in the classroom, not enough for educators to instruct every learner, to teach them what they need to know. There must be interaction outside school hours. Of course, learners at a socio-economic disadvantage often struggle in school, particularly if parents lack higher levels of education. But learners from middle and upper-class families aren’t off the hook. The demands of careers and dependence on schools put high-income kids at risk, too, regarding the lack of parental involvement in education.
2. Schools are closing left and right. It’s been a tough year for public schools. Several have found themselves on the chopping block. Parents, learners, and communities generally feel targeted, even if school board members cite unbiased numbers. There is no clean way to declare a winner in these cases, either.
Sometimes, a school closing is inevitable, but we should first look for other solutions. Instead of shutting down public schools, districts should consider other community uses, such as a community center or adult education classes. Closing schools should not be a flippant procedure. The decision should focus on the one investment that matters: a quality public education for all our nation’s children.
3. Our schools are overcrowded. The smaller the class, the better the learner experience. A research study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 14 percent of US schools exceed capacity. When children need more attention than ever to succeed, overcrowded classrooms make it even tougher to learn and tougher for educators to be effective.
4. Tech comes with its downsides. I am an advocate for tech in the classroom. I think that ignoring the academic opportunities that tech has afforded us puts children at a disadvantage. Overall, screen culture has made the jobs of educators much more difficult. Education has become synonymous with entertainment nowadays. Parents are quick to introduce educational games as soon as kids have the fine motor skills to operate a touch screen with the best intentions. The way that children are learning academics before and during their K-12 careers makes it even more difficult for educators to keep up in the classroom setting, mainly since each learner’s knowledge base and technological savvy varies.
5. There is a scarcity of diversity in gifted education. The “talented and gifted” label is one levied upon the most advanced learners. Starting in early elementary grades, TAG programs separate learner peers for the sake of individualized learning initiatives. Though the ideology is sound, its practice is often a monotone, unattractive look at modern American public schools. Schools need to find ways to recognize different expressions of learning talent and look beyond the typical “gifted” learner model. The national push to make gifted programs better mirror the contemporary and ever-evolving learner body is a step in a positive direction. Real change happens on a tiny scale, though – in individual districts, schools, and TAG programs. That progress must begin with understanding the makeup of a particular learner body and include innovative ways to include all learners in TAG learning programs.
6. School spending is anemic, even in our booming economy. According to news headlines, as the US economy improves, one area is still feeling the effects of the recession years: K-12 public school spending. A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 34 states contribute less funding on a per learner basis than they did before the recession years. Because states are responsible for 44 percent of total education funding in the US, these dismal numbers mean a continued crackdown on school budgets in the face of an improving economy. If the powers that be find the funding for our public schools, how can we expect our schools to educate the next generation of leaders? It was understandable that school budgets had to be truncated when the bottom dropped out of the economy. Now we are in a better place, though, it is time to get back to funding what matters most: the education of our K-12 learners.
7. There is a lack of innovation in teacher education. It stands to reason that if learners are changing, educators must change too. More specifically, it is time to modify educator education to reflect the demands of the modern K – 12 classrooms. There are practice and policy changes taking place worldwide – many driven by educators – that address the cultural shifts in the classroom. Public education in America needs educators who are better trained to meet the needs of specific learner populations, understand the necessary role of distance learning, and are willing to speak up to facilitate classroom change. Without these educators, effective reform to meet global demand is not possible.
8. 80 percent of learners are graduating high school…yet less than half of these learners are ready for what’s next. The US Education Department reports that the high school graduation rate is at an all-time high at 80 percent. Four out of five learners are successful in studies completion and graduate within four years. While these stats sound like a reason for a standing ovation, they are overshadowed by the graduation rate in the United States. 80 percent of high school seniors obtain a diploma, but less than half can proficiently read or complete math problems.
The problem is that learners are being socially promoted when they should be held retained, and then they cannot complete grade-level work and keep up with their classmates.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, the most extensive standardized test administered in the United States, reports that less than 40 percent of graduating seniors have mastered reading and math and are poorly equipped for college and real-world life. These learners are passed to the next grade are at a severe disadvantage and have a heightened chance of falling behind and dropping out of college.
9. Some learners are lost to the school-to-prison pipeline. More than half of black young men who attend urban high schools don’t earn a diploma. Of these dropouts, too, 60 percent will go to prison at some point. Perhaps there is no connection between these two statistics or the eerily similar ones associated with young Latino men. Are these people bad apples, fated to fail academically and then live a life of crime? If the theories of genetic predisposition are true, perhaps these young men never had a chance at success and have accepted their lots in life. What if those answers are just cop-outs? What if balking at a connection between a vital education and a life lived on good citizens is an easy way to bypass the issues in K-12 learning? Learners at risk of dropping out of high school or turning to crime need more than a sound report card. They need suggestions on living a life that rises above their circumstances. For a young person to have a shot at an honest life, they have to believe in the value of an education. That belief system has to come from conversations about making good choices with trusted adults and friends.
10. There is a national college-gender gap, and surprisingly, we are not focusing on it. If you have been following hot-button education issues for any length of time, you’ve read about the push to encourage girls in the STEM areas. The idea is that by demonstrating to young women that these topics are just as appropriate for them as their male peers, more young women will find careers in these historically male-dominated fields. I support women in the STEM workplace but with all this focus in one area, are educators neglecting an even more significant gender gap issue? How much of this trend is predicated on practicality, and how much is based on a belief that women need to “prove” themselves when it comes to workforce areas seen as “men’s work.”
11. In this digital age, we need to rethink what literacy means. Historically, literacy referred to printed content, but it’s becoming complex as we move to a digital age. To prepare for this generational shift, educators need to begin adopting a curriculum that teaches digital literacy. Beyond essential reading and writing, learners should use technology to conduct research and make their own judgments about what they read. Without these skills, learners will be left behind in our digital age.
12. The way we currently assess learners is not working. The current assessment system does not accurately measure the progress of individual learners. We should be searching for assessment options that can implement tech, gather information, and account for the differences among learners who take the tests. The initial cost outlay could be high, but we owe it to our learners to create a fair assessment system to help deliver brighter minds for the future.
13. We do a poor job of educating boys of color. Black and Latino boys have been misunderstood in America’s schools. Their behavior, swag, and social skills are often misconstrued as deficiencies. Until this issue is remedied, boys of color will continue to fall through the cracks. Black and Latino have higher dropout, poverty, and incarceration rates than their peers. In my estimation, the education system is partly to blame.
14. We continue to retain and socially promote learners. The US education system retains learners at astronomical rates. According to The Brookings Institution, the cost is outlandish, likely exceeding $12 billion annually, even though numerous studies show that holding children back has little effect on their academic achievement. Social promotion also poses a problem, as learners struggle to meet academic standards without intervention. We must move from a graded classroom approach to a multi-age approach to alleviate social promotion and retention. Multi-age classrooms let learners learn at an individualized pace, working to reach their full potential in their own time.
The result is that wealthy learners end up ahead, creating another barrier for schools with high poverty rates.”
15. Anti-intellectualism and academic disengagement are running rampant. In this digital age, learners are accustomed to instant gratification. School districts lower academic standards to keep learners on an equal footing, but this results in is academic disengagement. Modern education is undermined by this growing anti-intellectualism. Today’s learners are less inclined to pursue academic achievement if it offers no direct relevance in their daily lives.
16. We need more year-round schools. Many schools in America maintain the antiquated system of granting learners the summer off, even though the economic rationale for such a schedule no longer exists. The solid evidence that a move to year-round schooling would improve our academic system is overlooked because it’s too complicated to make a change. Educators and policymakers alike would have to agree to switch up the status quo to accommodate this drastic shift in scheduling.
17. We are not able to consistently produce quality educators. A kid’s education is highly dependent upon the instruction they receive. The reality is straightforward: Not all educators entering the classroom have enough training and experience to foster learner learning. A strong educator is an invaluable tool, but we have yet to discover what it takes to produce good educators with any degree of consistency.
18. We are not doing enough to create digital equity. In the information age, technology is an essential part of the world and academics. Learners from wealthier backgrounds have greater access to the internet and technology in general than their impoverished counterparts. The result is that wealthy learners end up ahead, creating another issue for schools with high poverty rates. Digital equity could close this gap and provide a more level playing field.
19. We are not getting girls involved with STEM. Despite Beyoncé’s belief that girls run the world, there are still many academic fields where females are missing. The booming STEM industry is male-dominated, with few opportunities for girls to join. The problem is not a lack of interest but a lack of encouragement for girls to enter these fields. We must find ways to promote STEM subjects to girls and help them foster a love for the mechanical and chemical.
20. Educator-preparation programs don’t teach neuroscience. Most educator-preparation programs focus exclusively on education instead of providing a more holistic view. Genuinely great educators need to understand neuroscience to grasp how the brain and nervous system work fully. It would fortify educators to better understand how the brain learns information and how strong neural pathways are formed. A basic understanding of neuroscience could influence and improve the way educators perform in the classroom.
The underachievement of the US education system is not the result of one issue. It is a collection of issues that undercut the national importance of education equity and intellect. To achieve positive results, we must put aside partisan politics and petty policy disagreements and try to improve our schools, no matter what.