America has been trying to fix the education system for decades with no measurable positive result. Why?
Increased funds go to administrative growth, not hiring better teachers for higher pay, or spending the money on the students. "Between 1950 and 2009, the number of public school administrative positions soared 702% while the student population increased just 96%." Unfortunately, this gross growth in administrators has not translated into a higher level of student success. The Friedman Foundation found that if this excessive growth in administration had not occurred, and the percentage spent on administration had remained level, every student would be receiving an additional $12,314 of funding, on average. Put several of those students in one classroom and we would suddenly be able to pay our teachers well. (Perhaps attracting the best and the brightest to the field of teaching.)
The Graduation rate of U.S. high school students peaked all the way back in the 1970s. Reading and math scores have not increased substantially even through all the legislative promises of No Child Left Behind and Common Core.
The problem with these high level top-down legislative fixes is that they are out of touch with children, teachers, and schools. The solutions might look good on paper but have been an implementation disaster. Much advice for these great plans is constructed by politicians and the big business of curriculum companies. Local school boards, teachers, and parents are rarely considered as part of the solution to what could create amazing schools for our kids.
Testing is not Teaching
Another problem with these massive legislative educational reforms is that they are so test-centric. More and more time is being spent in every classroom to get kids ready for testing. Teaching to the test is a new reality. Time spent preparing for testing and taking tests is time lost for actual teaching and learning. It is important not only to the students but to the teacher, to get the scores that prove they learned what was needed, even if that means they had a lot less time to focus on learning. With standards of what needs to be learned and taught frequently changing, it is hard for teachers to stay on top of all the new information and methods they need to know.
For example, instead of being able to teach a classic novel that they themselves read and studied in high school, they are given new works which they are unfamiliar with and are expected to teach those. These new books have not even stood the test of time required to become a classic. Who decides what new and unknown novels make the magic list of books that every high school student must read?
Ignoring the Needs of Children
Perhaps the most egregious problem with modern education reform movements is that they have left the needs of the child behind. We know so much about the brain and how it learns and this information is simply not being used in the classroom. As long as we are more concerned about how successful American education looks on paper than we are with the actual healthy development of our children, reform will fail.
Parents, school boards, and teachers all know this, and that is why they need to lead a bottom-up wave of change, putting decisions back into the hands of local schools who care about their kids.
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