Our Educational System: What’s Wrong and How To Fix It.
(ThyBlackMan.com) Post Atlanta cheating scandal, is anybody wondering why the teachers “needed” to cheat? What is wrong with school systems all over this country? It has been reported that our literacy rate is lower than Cuba. Cuba, really? Everybody, including the courts, seems to be content blaming the teachers and school administrators. But if it takes a village to raise a child, then it only makes sense that failure in raising a child is the fault of the entire village itself – not just one facet of that village. In this case, the village includes teachers, administrators, boards of education, social workers, legislators, testing boards, the PTA, test development groups, PARENTS, students, guardians, siblings and the church. I cannot thoroughly examine each group aforementioned in one article so let’s look at some of the major players who directly impact the education of our youth.
TEACHERS WHO DON’T TEACH
Even in the field of academics there are people who go to work just to get a paycheck. Certainly you might say “not a teacher’s paycheck”. And I would agree they are not paid nearly enough. But you and I both know there are many people who do not do their jobs. I have seen countless cases and interviewed numerous students who say many of their teachers do not. Instead some teachers spend a lot of time out of the classroom then attempt to make up for it by bogging down the student with homework and busywork – a conglomerate of information the teacher should have taught, not just handed out. If the teacher is not teaching the material, it is obvious that the students could read the material for themselves. But why then would the teacher even be necessary?
There are teachers who do an excellent job, those who don’t and everything in the middle. Some educators were once motivated but became discouraged due to low pay, extra work on their off time or students with little or no self-discipline. Other educators know the material but they cannot teach it. And yet other educators become entangled in the politics and bureaucracy of meeting benchmark deadlines, pleasing principals, administrators and superintendents. To find out which teachers are not teachings, all we have to do is install cameras in the classrooms.
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PARENTS WHO DON’T REINFORCE EDUCATION
The district attorney and the court in the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal wanted to place all the fault on the teachers who helped the students cheat. But it takes a village to raise a child – and if the child fails it is because the village has failed. Parents who do not check homework, make sure their children study and go to school regularly are just as guilty as the teachers who help students cheat. Parents who send their children to school as discipline problems for the teachers are also just as guilty. Parents who are too busy to participate at their children’s schools and attend PTA meetings are also part of the problem, not part of the solution. Many of these parents say they are too busy, but welcome to life. And what they are really saying is that they are too busy to look after the educational welfare of their children. That’s sad and a poor excuse. If parents are “too busy”, what does that say to the child about the importance of education? Very often the child may adopt an attitude of diminished value towards education because the parent has the same perspective. Parents who are a part of the problem should be just as quick to look in the mirror as they are to point the finger at the teacher.
TOO MANY EXAMS
The more exams the students take, the more inabilities are exposed. You may say that is the intended goal, but if you are 40 or over, you know your high school did not have all of those exams – and you have done just fine. Our school systems have added in more and more exams. Then they say some don’t really measure knowledge or mastery of the material. Then they take away exams and add other ones. This needs to stop. Simple is better and we need to return to the requirement of passing all your classes plus the SAT test – that’s it!
TOO MANY CLASSES
In the average university or state school there are far less classes than in high school. As many as 8 classes in high school is far too many and completely unnecessary. Are educators and administrators looking at the pressure so many classes place on students and how grades are impacted because of student workloads? Or are the superintendents and boards simply following status quo? Public high schools all around this country should reduce the number of classes to between 4-6 a day. In fact I am leaning towards 4 necessary classes and 2 electives chosen by the student. Boards of education need to reintegrate 8th grade back into high schools. Then, the student’s senior year should be used completely to explore career options, complete internships and/or focus on classes related to those career choices. This could even include students taking actual college courses early, not just high school AP classes.
Many of the high school classes are not even necessary unless the student plans to go into a career field needing such classes. Unless you are an engineer, pilot, architect, astronaut or mathematician, for example, when have you used trigonometry, calculus and geometry? How often have you used physics? Do you see my point? When I was in college, my major required 4 Spanish classes. I argued that 4 classes (2 years of Spanish) were unnecessary. They disagreed. But today that same university only requires 2 Spanish classes for the same major. Why did it take them 20 years to wake up?
The excuse offered by many public school systems for so many irrelevant classes is that they are “making your children more well rounded”. But isn’t that the primary role of the parents? And did we ask schools to do that anyway? Unnecessary classes waste time that could be used to advance the student’s real interests and likely career paths? If the student is interested in a field that requires knowledge of calculus, trigonometry or physics, let him/her select those courses. If not, do not make him/her take them just because he/she scored high on some exam before high school.
UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS, PARENTS & TEACHERS
Even with programs like No Child Left Behind, the public school systems of this country are suffering from a lack of motivation. Parents swear they are too busy. Teachers are not paid enough. And students are placing education in the bottom of their priority list. Overall dropout rates are far too high. Discipline and crime in schools are major problems, though often kept out of the media. There are only two ways to solve this problem and one of them is unlikely to work on a large scale – reward or punishment. Unlike in private school settings, we cannot penalize parents and students in public schools. Therefore the only option is rewards – bigger and better incentives for participation, attendance and higher academic performance. Also no teacher should ever have to make copies using their own money or work unofficially on days they are off. We cannot afford to burn out our teachers.
GET STUDENTS INVOLVED IN THE DECISION MAKING
Students need to be a part of the decision-making process regarding what are having imposed on them. They can provide insight into how the exams, programs, teaching methods and curriculums affect their peers. It is a mistake to make policy, implement methodologies or generate curriculums without student input. I suggest that each school system establish a student review board which will analyze, evaluate and critique educational methodologies, policies, exam development and curriculums.
FIND MODELS THAT WORK
Too many school systems in this country are looking dumbfounded like a deer in headlights when it comes to academic solutions. They should have scouts out all over the globe looking for models that work. We should be recruiting teachers, principals, superintendents and administrators from the highest literacy rate countries in the world. Top school administrators should be held accountable for getting results. But that’s not what is happening in school systems that are failing and losing their accreditations. Instead they are simply looking clueless and rolling the dice, hoping to find a plan that will work and throwing higher salary offers at the same old superintendents who are part of the problem. A new mindset is needed, coupled with fresh new relentless leadership ready to get results.
THOSE IN CHARGE NEED A KICK IN THE BUTT
Superintendents of many school systems are paid as much as the President of the United States, yet many of them have no real plan that is bringing about the swooping changes that are needed. Accountability is out the window and cliques or inside connections have taken it’s place. But there are simple solutions here as well, solutions for those who have the nerve and the honor to implement them. Legislatures need to change guidelines to make the Board of Education member a hired position then hold their feet to the fire when school systems do not get results. Teacher salaries need to be raised and they need to be held to a standard that get’s results. Cameras need to be installed in all classrooms so administrators can see who is teaching and where the discipline problems are. Every school system should have a parental participation incentive plan packed with real incentives. These incentives can be subsidized with the help of the corporations who benefit from the patronage of the community – parents, teachers, students and administrators.
Major changes to our public school system are not hard but egos will have to be put in check, politics will have to take the back seat and connections or hookups will have to wait. The solutions are simple, impacting and cost-effective. The hard part is hiring and electing people who have the spine to step up and make the bold changes that are needed. The harder part is coming together in our communities to hold ALL of the village accountable for getting results. If you are a teacher, administrator, board member, parent, PTA president or student, no more excuses. As both an instructor and parent, I know it is possible to be proactive, no matter how busy I am. So I encourage you to find a way because parental participation is the key that starts the engine of your child’s academic success. We can expect more from our children and they can produce more. But first we have to expect more from ourselves – the examples they follow.
“According to a study conducted in late April, 2014 by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read.
The current literacy rate isn’t any better than it was 10 years ago. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (completed most recently in 2003, and before that, in 1992), 14 percent of adult Americans demonstrated a “below basic” literacy level in 2003, and 29 percent exhibited a “basic” reading level.
According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” The stats back up this claim: 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level, according to BeginToRead.com.”
According to http://www.DoSomething.org (sources cited on their link below):
- 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70% of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.
- 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
- Students who don’t read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school.
- As of 2011, America was the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less educated than the previous one.
- Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.
- 53% of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day,” while only 20% of 8th graders could say the same.
- 75% of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of literacy, and 90% of high school dropouts are on welfare.
- Teenage girls between the ages of 16 to 19 who live at or below the poverty line and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than girls their age who can read proficiently.
- Reports show that the rate of low literacy in the United States directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.
Staff Writer; Marque-Anthony