Gage Skidmore

U.S. News


Fixing America’s Public Education System

America’s schools are in need of help. While non-profit organizations from the United States travel the world preaching the importance of education for success, students in American schools aren’t provided the quality education that we advocate for abroad.

There is an alternative option for those who can afford private education, but the majority of America’s youth rely on public education, and the state of education doesn’t look good. Kids from the United States currently rank well behind many of their peers from 35 industrialized nations, specifically in the math and science disciplines, areas crucial to success in industry. So what can be done to fix the problem?

Finding better teachers. What children learn comes primarily from the people who teach them. When teachers fail, the repercussions are reflected in the students.

Look at our public school workforce today and there are a few things that stand out. When voids emerge, and there is a need for more educators and express teaching degrees are granted. This places people who aren’t committed to the job in qualified roles. That is a big risk to take with our future.

Even the mainstream teaching credential programs are marketed to weaker students at universities. The result is graduates of these programs aren’t as well-trained as generations before them, even if they received a comparable degree.

Instead of giving out express degrees and promoting teaching as an easy career choice, we should focus on improving the situation for teachers, so more full-time educators want to choose a career in education. That means providing fair wages and a good working environment where well-trained teachers can do their job effectively. We can look abroad for examples.

In Japan, educators don’t have teaching degrees. Each instructor is required to have a specialized skill set and experience in industry. After proving they understand the requirements of contributing to the workforce, knowledgeable people are given the opportunity to come to the classroom and be educators.

Some advocates of a system like this in the States note we have a surplus of well-educated potential teachers in our nation’s military veterans. Not only does this group bring advanced skills into the classroom, but they also have experience being organized and disciplined that might help students execute their tasks more effectively and efficiently.

Improving teacher evaluating tools. Asking our teachers to do better is fair, but we also need to consider the way they’re evaluated. Current methods of teacher evaluation rely on standardized tests and subjective judgment from administrators who in many cases, have zero classroom experience.

How would you feel if someone who had no background in your area of expertise took your job away? There have been reports that some ratings methods suffer from improper handling by the corporate entities that back them, with teachers being scored unfairly. Some teachers have even filed lawsuits over jobs lost due to incorrect evaluations.

Programs like the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” have sought to reward educational districts that meet certain criteria in an effort to send more funding to less-affluent areas. While it’s a nice idea in theory, a report by the LA Times found that the quality of teachers at schools in affluent neighborhoods actually varied. There were strong teachers in poor areas and weak teachers in affluent ones.

Offering alternative prospects to college. America has tried to reinvent our educational system. This started in the 1990s, and we are seeing the results of an attempt to break away from the traditional “by rote” methods that Baby Boomers grew up with.

Modern students expect something different, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever go back to the way that school looked in the 1950s. However we may be able to incorporate some traditional ideas to provide alternatives if the new methods aren’t working for students.

One of these alternatives is the trade school. While these skill-based institutions have been viewed as less prestigious than four-year universities in the past, they might offer high school students who are unsuccessful in the typical routine a way to try something different, something they are passionate about. The stigma we have created around this alternative is negative, and we can start by fixing that.

In many industries, such as heavy machinery, there is a growing need for trained workers that these vocational schools could provide. Since about 30% of American high school students don’t attend a university today, the option to learn a trade would prepare them far better for a secure future than releasing them into the workforce with no usable skills.

Doing away with unnecessary tests. Testing companies have made public schools their best customers, and students are footing the bill. In some examples, the number of standardized tests administered can be up to 15 in a single year. These tests are not a part of the student’s regular curriculum. Instead, they are administered to satisfy some requirement the administration needs in order to acquire funds. School administrators should shoulder the needs of vying for public funding, not students.

We need to admit this is a problem. It’s a waste of time for us to argue back and forth about what the best way to fix education is when we know students are suffering. There are many possible fixes that would improve the experience and the results in the average public school. Now is the time to start trying them out and, if they work, implement them in order to yield results.