Why The U.S. Education System is Failing: Part II
In part I, I examined problems hindering the U.S. education system. Understanding these issues and how heavily they will influence student success in the coming decades is vital to making needed improvements in the education system. The rapid changes in learning technology and student demographics, along with the shrinking global landscape, have led to a call for education reform in recent years. There is no time to sit by idly as a diverse group of students wade through average to below-average educational opportunities. Instead, discussions on improvements, advancements and reforms need to be established and ongoing. In part II of my series, I will continue to examine the reasons why the U.S. education system is failing.
Stagnant school spending. As the U.S. economy continues to improve, according to news headlines, one area is still feeling the squeeze from the recession years: K-12 public school spending. A report this month from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 34 states are contributing less funding on a per student basis than they did prior to the recession years. Since states are responsible for 44 percent of total education funding in the U.S., these dismal numbers mean a continued crack down on school budgets despite an improving economy. If we cannot find the funding for our public schools, how can we expect things like the achievement gap to close or high school graduation rates to rise? It was understandable that budgets had to be slashed when the bottom dropped out of the economy. Now we are in a more stable place, though, it is time to get back to funding what matters most: the education of our K-12 students.
Outdated teacher training methods. With respect to the students of the past, modern classrooms are full of sophisticated youngsters that show up with a detailed view of the world formed from more than home life experiences. Instant access to information from instant a child can press a touchscreen on a Smartphone and widespread socialization from as young as six weeks old in the form of childcare atmospheres – kids arrive at Kindergarten with less naivety than previous generations. Teachers don’t, in other words, get a clean slate. Instead, they get young minds cluttered with random information and ideas, all of which need fostering or remediating.
Lack of teacher education innovation. It stands to reason that if students are changing, teachers must change too. More specifically, it is time to modify teacher education to reflect the demands of the modern K – 12 classrooms. There are policy and practice changes taking place all over the world – many driven by teachers – that address the cultural shifts in the classroom. Public education in America needs teachers who are better trained to meet the needs of specific student populations, though; who understand the necessary role of distance learning, and are willing to speak up to facilitate classroom change. Without these teachers, effective reform to meet global demand is not possible.
The school to prison pipeline. Sadly, over half of black young men who attend urban high schools do not earn a diploma. Of these dropouts, too, nearly 60 percent will go to prison at some point. Perhaps there is no real connection between these two statistics, or the eerily similar ones associated with young Latino men. Are these young people bad apples, destined to fail academically and then to live a life of crime? If some of the theories of genetic predisposition are true, perhaps these young men never stood a chance at success and have simply accepted their lots in life. But what if those answers, all of them, are just cop-outs? What if scoffing at a connection between a strong education and a life lived on the straight and narrow is an easy way to bypass the real issues in K-12 learning? Students who are at risk of dropping out of high school or turning to crime need more than a good report card. They need alternative suggestions on living a life that rises above their current circumstances. For a young person to truly have a shot at an honest life, he or she has to believe in the value of an education and its impact on good citizenship. That belief system has to come from direct conversations about making smart choices with trusted adults and peers.
Well that is the end of part II of on my series. Stay tuned for par III and remember to comment.