5 Steps America’s Schools Must Take to Reclaim its Spot on the World Stage
The United States entered the 21st century as the world’s sole superpower. Our diplomatic strength, military might, financial resources, and technological innovation were, and continue to be, the envy of the world.
However, in the crucial area of education, the U.S. lags behind many other developed countries. Although the U.S. spends more per student than almost any other country in the world, international exams have demonstrated that we consistently perform well behind countries such as South Korea, China, Japan, and Finland in the areas of reading and math.
Why is it happening and what do we, as Americans, need to do to rise to the top again? Here are a few thoughts on that.
- Consider what’s really important: more respect for education and teachers. China, Japan, and South Korea understand that well-educated workers are crucial for survival in the competitive global economy.
Thus, they place enormous emphasis on education, ensuring that their students are given not only foundational reading and math skills, but also that they are able to think creatively and solve problems. Their youth are poised to take on and conquer the world. Educating, hiring, and retaining high-quality teachers are key to lasting reform.
On the other hand, the teaching profession in America is undervalued, certainly in comparison with countries like Finland and South Korea.
- Recognize that money doesn’t solve everything. School systems are using more money but have less to show for it. Test results, especially among the children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, are dismal. America has extraordinary natural resources, a solid, functioning democracy, and an excellent infrastructure, but unless we can reform our educational system to produce students who are able to take advantage of new technologies and compete in the global economy, we will cede our position as world leader.
- Weigh the various factors that make or break a student’s education, especially community involvement. The educational system involves seven major players: the federal government, district authorities, the community, parents and family, the school administration, teachers, and the students themselves. In order to reform our schools, we must look at each of these players, investigating the interactions among them, and offering suggestions for bolstering involvement and efficacy between them.
In areas where schools are successful, community involvement is a critical element. In low socioeconomic communities, there is often a sense that schools are separate entities, run by elite elements that have little connection to the community. Perhaps the starkest difference between students from low socioeconomic environments and those from wealthier environments is the amount of parental involvement in students’ education.
- Consider that it’s not just about the tests. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), while admirable, has also proven fundamentally flawed. It is not producing the anticipated results, and has had the effect of forcing schools to teach to the exam, rather than fostering a love of learning among students.
- Use authority wisely. There is mounting evidence that the U. S. education system is failing our students. Appropriate engagement and direction by district authorities is crucial to creating a quality learning environment. Too often, cronyism, corruption, and misuse of resources diminish the influence of the district-level administration.
Society in general needs to understand that the lack of quality teachers, effective administration, and parental involvement are all factors that contribute to the current state of our educational system. The country must unite and work together to carry the responsibility of enriching and continuing America’s future via educational excellence. We must become supermen and superwomen.
What are your thoughts on how the American education system can reach elite status globally? Please leave a comment below.