Education Policy: A Fight for Systematic Change
By H. Davis
The world has changed in so many ways since the start of the 21st century. With the internet and mobile communication just within arm’s reach, new possibilities have opened up across the world. In this new world, education has become even more important. Although the U.S. has proven to keep up with all the technological changes, there’s one area we continue to fall behind in. Education.
This problem begins early on in the national academic system. The Council on Foreign Relations, for example, conducted a recent study in the U.S. and discovered that education reform and national security declines every year. In other words, failure in educational performance can jeopardize the U.S. national security, including the country’s ability in a high-skilled global marketplace. Educational failures, as noted by Joel I. Klein, also “puts the United States future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk” as well.
As it turns out, there’s no high-stakes exam that can account for this; but the studies released by the Southern Education Foundation show that more than half of the students enrolled in U.S. public schools live in poverty. A measurement that places the U.S. on the road to overall social decline.
The problem is so severe, that it’s even begun escalating to universities. Resulting in a hailstorm of complaints from college faculties and concerns by other officials.
College faculty also complains that first-year students are poorly prepared in:
- Subject matter
- Critical thinking skills
- Mathematics skills
- Writing and verbal abilities
- Study skills and library skills
- Knowledge and understanding of history, science, and literature.
Did I miss anything?
A significant amount of first-year students also don’t know anything academic and aren’t genuinely interested in anything academic. The most compelling evidence, however, is the fact that college officials graduate most of these students, even though they still lack the characteristics of an educated person.
“Why?” you ask.
I’ll give you a hint. Money!
As I noted earlier on, the problem starts with our policies. To put it another way, it starts with the way we govern schools, measure success, and teach children. In all honestly, there are a number of teachers out there right now discussing subjects they themselves aren’t even the experts in. If a teacher isn’t invested in the subject he/she is teaching, than why would they value teaching the subject in the first place? The answer is simple, they won’t.
For this reason, college professors have begun blaming high school teachers for the student’s inability to learn. As college faculty points the finger at high schools, we must remind ourselves that the criticisms given to high schools, should also be applied to colleges and universities. We also need to remember that high school teacher’s went through college classes out here, and were granted degrees from our schools.
The Overall View
By now I’m sure we’ve all heard of the amount of budget cuts district have gone through over the past decade. But with a combination of budget cuts (resulting in overcrowded schools), poverty levels increasing, political pressure, and distractions at nearly every corner, it’s no wonder why we haven’t overcome this problem yet.
Although we have education officials advocating for systemic change in education the reality is, this is a project that will require more than a few hundred-thousand people, including parents/guardians, government officials, teachers, and everyone else invested in the child’s education. There’s a reason why mentors say, “It’s takes a village to raise a child.”
Encourage Kids to Learn at Their Own Pace. Schools and school districts have been hot to adopt all kinds of new technologies from iPads to changing classroom structure. Some of these things have had a small effect on a child’s learning in the classroom while others, haven’t had any effect according to Laura Hamilton. Such technology-based curriculum encourages kids to learn at their own pace and set their own goals. In addition to this, it also gives teachers the opportunity to focus on smaller groups in the class that might be struggling with certain material.
In order for this to work effectively, teachers must know how to use these tools, and students must be willing to be in the time and effort. The teacher can’t learn for the student, that’s up to the young scholar.
Invest in Training Teachers – and Their Supervisors. The quality of a child’s teacher is single handedly the most important factor in a child’s success in the classroom; and there’s no question that we need to do a better job of producing properly trained teachers, principals, and other officials.
Better training for teachers is only the first step. We also need to improve the quality of our districts and education leaders, so that they have the right tools to lead teachers, districts, and most importantly, children to a path of success.
Focus Less on Test Scores. As a student in junior high school, I always felt a teacher’s primary role was to produce quality test takers. In other words, they want the classroom environment to emphasize the learning process vs. hammering away on the importance of memorization or test taking skills. At a larger level, this made me feel like the education system perpetuates a test taking culture vs. critical thinking and passion for learning.
Get Families Involved. Words cannot describe how important it is for parents to get and stay involved in their child’s life when it comes to learning. As parents, you cannot leave it up to the teacher to educate your child on everything he/she needs to know. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to the child. Raising a child is a joint process, and requires everyone to get involved, and stay involved even if you feel your child will excel in a certain subject.
Get Out of the Classroom. Students desire experience and out of the classroom instruction. When I helped run an after school program, I learned that the environment is everything for a child. For instance, whenever we did rehearsals in the gymnasium, the kids were more likely to play and run around. But when I switched up the environment and did rehearsals in the hallways, or on the grass area, they were more likely to listen and focus on building a community.
Although “school is not life,” it should reflect more of it. To put it differently, I think a child should always be challenged to learn. This shouldn’t only happen in a classroom setting, but everywhere they go and every event they participate in.
“This job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation.”