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Students discuss problems plaguing American education

Posted By Luckmini Liyanage On April 14, 2010 @ 12:23 am In Features | Comments Disabled

The United States is a world power, having the largest standing military in the world, as well as top-notch military intelligence. This is where US prominence stops.

When it comes to scientific research, such as stem cell research and education, the US does not even rank in the top ten among its peers. In fact, Iran has more productive stem cell research programs than the US.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranked 18th among 36 countries examined.

There are several reasons as to why the US is starting to fall behind other nations. Our national education system is deeply flawed.

The inequality gap in education is a large part of the reason why our standards are fallen. The most recent educational program’€No Child Left Behind (NCLB)’€has only worsened standards across the US, especially in states that are already struggling with education reform.

NCLB requires all states to pass a standardized test of some sort, such as the MCAS.

Schools that have a large number of students who fail to meet the minimum score lose funding. The theory behind NCLB is that schools will improve education in fear of losing money. Unfortunately, in practicality, the threats lead to worsening standards of already low-income schools.

Part of what pays for teachers, books, and computers are property taxes. In lower income neighborhoods, with low property taxes, there is not enough money to buy textbooks for every student, much less computers.
These schools, therefore, are already at a competitive disadvantage and tend to test lower simply because of the lack of resources.

By withdrawing funding, the government is only crippling damaged schools. To stop the bleeding of money, states lower the testing standards so schools can pass. A March 2008 issue of The Economist notes that states such as Mississippi and Montana have very different tests from Massachusetts and California; students, therefore, and the level at which students learn and test are not at the same’€tests in Massachusetts and California are harder to pass, but schools have the resources so students can study. NCLB has made it easier for high-income schools to get money and harder for low income schools, widening the education gap in the United States.

The gap in school performance and structure of the school year, even school day, added together also lower standards in the United States.

During the long summer, students tend to forget major concepts they learned during the school year. But students in the higher income brackets can pay for tutors, summer school programs, and classes, so they are still learning. However, a large part of America cannot pay thousands of dollars for a summer class.

A study cited in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers concludes that test scores are higher in towns with higher property taxes when students take a cumulative test right after summer.

Solving the US educational crisis is not an easy task. First, it is incredibly difficult for the Federal government to control education without breaching states’ rights.

So much of education is controlled locally (by property taxes, and thus the people who pay property taxes), that there can really be no stringent national standard, which is why the government cannot completely strip NCLB, but only reform it. The public school systems in the US need to be reformed by adjusting not only how states receive money, but also which teachers are employed.

In New York in 2008, some schools had to hire teachers from the streets to fill the student to teacher ratio. Many school districts across the country have extremely under qualified teachers.

Arne Duncan, the current Secretary of Education, initiated a teaching program in the Chicago school district that taught teachers. The program was a success, improving Chicago public school to record testing levels.
More importantly, however, early childhood education programs can make the difference in inculcating educational standards in children from an early age. Programs like Head Start make a difference in keeping children off the street and in school.

The work ethic in students attending good schools such as South is ingrained in students from an early age’€they come to South prepared and ready to work hard.

Finally, charter schools are also a good short term solution while larger scale changes are being made.

The KIPP charter school in the Bronx, New York selects students from families who have never gone to college, and sends them to some of the top colleges in the country.

Urban Prep, a charter school in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago, this year had 100% of the senior class get accepted into four year colleges (even higher than that of South).

Charter schools are very successful, but the only problem is that they do not help improve the public schooling system, so in the long term the government must reform NCLB.

If the United States hopes to compete in an increasingly globalizing world, it must reform its falling educational standards, mainly by decreasing the extremely large inequality gap. Only then will the US be able to further scientific, mathematic, literary, and academic frontiers.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/students-discuss-problems-plaguing-american-education/

URLs in this post:

[1] John McCain and Barack Obama on the issue of education: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/10/29/john-mccain-and-barack-obama-on-the-issue-of-education/

[2] South seniors begin to widen the gap: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/03/25/south-seniors-begin-to-widen-the-gap/

[3] Uniform standards detrimental to public schools in Massachusetts: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/uniform-standards-detrimental-to-public-schools-in-massachusetts-2/

[4] Uncovering the Origins of the MCAS: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/03/19/uncovering-the-origins-of-the-mcas/

[5] Q1 eliminates income tax: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/10/29/q1-eliminates-income-tax/

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