What do you really know about the conditions of your children's school? Many are vaguely aware that there is a problem in the US of A. I believe that the schools in this country need "drastic reform" as Natalie put it. If we do not live for our children's future, what do we live for?
The great majority's children are educated in public schools. It is a fundamental beginning of changing the country for the better. Create an environment where children's minds can flourish, and you change the country for the better for them and their children.
For a taste of what the government says about how the US schools are doing take a look at:
In it there is a figure: figure 1-1 that in my interpretation, it appears that more kids are attending school than in the earlier years of the graph. But it says nothing about the quality or content of what is being taught.
In figure 2, it shows the average scores for reading and math. Compared to 1990, it looks like a significant increase in the average math score, but if you compare it to 2000, it is not that much of an increase. It says nothing of where we stand compared to other countries.
Figure 19-1 shows the percentage of graduating students per state. I think these numbers are caused directly by the attitude in the US that education is not important as all that. There are 10 states where LESS than 70% graduate. 10 states! What portion of the US citizenry is that? What other reasons cause such appalling numbers? 24 states have between 70% and 79%, that's LESS than 80%
I don't have any answers. I am just alarmed at the poor condition of the education of the US citizenry. It is not fair to the kids that do not make it. It is not fair to the kids that do make it. It could be much better, but I think someone here has answers or can send us to support someone else who is already working on this.
I work for my city's after school program which is housed in the public school buildings and I have substituted for several schools. I do not know how it is nationwide, but in my city the teachers are working their asses off to teach their students.
The problem is that society has allowed and accepted for politicians and elected board members to enforce sometimes arbitrary laws and regulations that are not in the best interests of our youth.
It all starts at home and unfortunately there is no license requirement for parenthood and some parents simply are not invested enough in their child's learning.
But at the root of the problem, as I see it, is an underfunded, overworked education system- there is too little resources for too many students. If Americans really wanted a first rate education system then they must pay for it. We need an entire culture shift where teachers are valued more than television actors and are taken seriously by parents and not frivolous threaten because the reality of their child's "un-specialness" was not rewarded.
Age-based learning may need to be replaced with mental-age and even gender based classes if the research continues to show that boys and girls develop and learn differently.
Lastly, it can and does happen where a single child holds up the entire class but does not warrant dismissal or even a suspension from school. If we really want a system where each child reaches their potential then we need smaller classes based on learning and behavioral ages.
I have heard from many people that throwing money at this problem is the leading answer designed to solve the problem. I tend to agree, but like the health system, is there a fundamental problem with education? Do we really understand that the ancient method of learning in the world is the correct method? I put to you that if we initially spend our money on research designed to find the best method of teaching the multitudes, we will find things that will surprise us. Do we really know what the best method is?
Science is about change. Change is hard as humans go. But it follows that if we learn that there is a better way, won't we tend to use that better way?
We can spend days and days discussing how the system is currently broken, but what can we take away from that? What do we really know about how the children absorb information? In the past, and I would argue currently, the job of the school teacher is to not only teach, but baby sit also, at least in the early years. There once was the one room school where all the grades were grouped together. Then as the number of students grew, they started to separate the grades, then as the number of students grew even more, they started to have separate classes within each grade until the money ran out.
The Catholics have what they call the "age of reason" which students reach at the age of 7. This leads me to the question which can be formed like this: At what age can children start to be taught to think for themselves? Countries in Europe and Asia have experimented with starting children earlier in school, and making the curriculum more challenging. Maybe they know something we don't.
Maybe the question is wrong? Maybe it should be like this: At what age can each child start to be taught how to think for themselves? When we get that answer then the question becomes: What is the best way to teach each child basic thinking skills?
We can only start at the beginning, and the beginning for us is at the end of a long journey that brought us to today's education system. What can we learn from the past? What can we learn from the children themselves? Are charter schools experiments at better learning? Should we have a way to determine which school or schools have a better way? And most importantly: Is the better way more expensive?
Unfortunately I think fixing the education system in the US would require a complete overhaul starting with making curriculum more nationalized to make sure that every student in the US is getting a relatively equal education. I think there needs to be a balance of federal requirements and freedom for the teacher to cover those requirements in a way that works for both them and their students.
The second thing we'd need is a overhaul of how we pay for education. Clearly having a majority of funds coming from local property taxes isn't cutting it for a great many schools.
The third thing we need is to make sure that teachers are properly supported in the classroom (reasonable student to teacher ratios, and real ways to deal with those children who need alternative teaching methods). Most teachers are good teachers and most teachers work their asses off but it's really hard to be a good teacher when the expectations on you are insane. 45 third graders to 1 teacher like what frequently happens in my community is a horrible ratio, the younger the kids the lower the child to teacher ration should be.
The fourth thing we need to do is invest in having our teachers attend continuing education courses. That way teachers can learn new strategies and keep up with the science in regards to learning and education.
In my career as a high school teacher, over the years the requirements placed on teachers became increasingly unrealistic as less and less support was given. Literally we were expected by policy and law to educate each and every individual according to his or her special needs, all 35 or 40 at the same time, like individual tutoring. With a student population including the mentally retarded and diagnosed schizophrenics. We were expected to protect students from each other, but not supposed to touch them. The principle motivation, as far I could tell from policies, was the board of education needing to avoid parent's lawsuits, so their lawyers decided what teacher responsibilities were.
I was in a system for the last decade where students stayed together all day, from ninth grade to graduation, so they formed strong social structures. This made students impervious to any adult authority, as we would see them only a few minutes at a time, but they could never escape each other. Organized cheating was the least outcome. Education values had no chance against teenage priorities in this setting. The harder I worked, the less they worked. I took early retirement in part because the stress of working so hard to teach was pushing me to the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Google alerts showed me this article: Forbes dot com article
It is an interview of NewSchools CEO Ted Mitchell. I like what he says, but I need to investigate his ventures a bit more.
I like the NewSchools Venture Fund's Mission Statement which can be found here: http://www.newschools.org/team
The more I read about NewSchools Venture Fund, the more I like it. But what seems lacking in my opinion is the absense of scientific research. They seem to let the schools they invest in to come up with the answers that will reform education in the USA.
All this reading has led me to formulate this opinion: It is the place of the government to fund the research of how children absorb information for the purpose of improving the education system. And it takes plenty of public opinion to influence public funding.