How Would You Fix Public Education?
Recently on Reddit, someone posed this interesting question: how would you fix the public education system — from big moves to small tweaks — if you had complete authority to do so? While the question is highly speculative, it can open up a number of channels for ideas that might improve education as we know it, if only the politicians and school administrators would listen. Naturally, the question has produced some thought-provoking responses. To get in on the action, you can follow this link and add a few ideas of your own or simply share what you would do in the comments section below. We’ve gone through and picked out some of our favorite ideas thus far. Let’s get started.
1. “Standardized testing is doing nothing but pointing out that there is a problem. So what’s being done? More standardized testing is being added, and how is it being enforced? The tests are being tied to funding. In my time getting a K-12 education I took 22 compulsory standardized tests, which all they did was told me that I was great at English and history and slightly above average in math and science.”
2. “Redistribute wealth. Inner city kids have almost no chance at getting a quality education as long as school funding is tied to local property taxes. Yes, this means that a few rich school districts may have to postpone their state of the art science lab and media center so that poor districts can afford textbooks, paper, and chalkboards.
“Stop shoving standardized testing down peoples’ throats. Honestly, does giving kids these high stakes tests every single year between 3rd and 8th grade (and once more in high school) make a difference? If you want accountability, fine. Do it in 4th, 8th, and 12th. Or maybe 5th, 8th, and 11th. The current tests aren’t tied to any standards anyway. They’re just made up stuff that some test-maker decided kids should know.”
3. “Drastically increase standards, especially for graduation. … Schools should not be glorified daycares.”
4. “Quit thinking that it’s the teacher or school’s fault a child does poorly. Do you think a kid can learn when they have no food at home? Do you think they can study if they have no quiet space to do so? How well adjusted do you think a child experiencing trauma will be? These are not things a school or teacher can address alone. We need to make sure the baser needs of children are addressed before they can learn to their true potential.”
5. “Increase the prestige and pay of teachers. I’ve been a teacher myself and I regularly worked 100 hours a week and made $40,000. We were at school 7 am-4 pm, then did lesson plans, grading, home visits, and tutoring afterwards. It wasn’t a terrible salary, but it came out to like $11/hr for some of the most demanding, emotionally taxing but most important work anyone can do.”
What stood out to us in these comments?
First of all, there is a deep-seeded hatred for standardized testing, and while assessments are necessary, they do go somewhat overboard. Instead of forcing a bunch of predetermined information down a student’s throat year-after-year and thinking that all children must be brought to the same level, education plans should be more tailored to the individual needs of the student. Let’s face it. Not every student is cut out to be a nuclear physicist, just like not every child is cut out to do menial labor.
Schools have gotten off track by trying to assemble a canon of information that every kid should know. Seriously, why are you going to force a child to read The Scarlet Letter when he’d rather be in the shop building a bench? The effort to offer a more “well-rounded” education has produced the problem of creating Jacks of all trades and Masters of none. Instead education should be more responsive to where the child’s interests and talents lie. In order to make this happen, schools would have to mobilize more individualized education plans. This might require hiring a vast array of teachers capable of providing more specificity to the child’s education. Whatever it takes, it’s worth it. If you can spark a child’s interests early, then he stands a much better chance of excelling in that area the more he goes down that pathway.
Furthermore, these individualized education plans should be rigorous so you don’t end up with a student who doesn’t get it and ends up acting out and wasting teachers’ and other students’ valuable time as a defense mechanism. If a kid is making C’s and C-‘s and getting into trouble or showing no signs of improvement, he should be guided toward an area of study that is more in line with his knowledge and skill set.
In other words, high school should become more like college. Students are facing a different world than the one that was here 20 or 25 years ago. Technological disruptions have made great things possible, but they’ve also created challenges that the current system is unable to handle. Namely, jobs are fewer and competition is greater. That means education must adapt; it must demand more from students and parents who are part of the system; and it must stop blaming teachers for every single thing that goes wrong. It goes back to the No. 4 comment above.
Let’s repeat it again for emphasis: “Do you think a kid can learn when they have no food at home? Do you think they can study if they have no quiet space to do so? How well adjusted do you think a child experiencing trauma will be? These are not things a school or teacher can address alone. We need to make sure the baser needs of children are addressed before they can learn to their true potential.”
So how should we fix public education? By realizing it’s a team effort and placing more of an emphasis on learning than seeing what we’ve learned. Now we’ll turn it over to you guys and see what ideas you can come up with. Share away in our comments section below.
[Image via Public Agenda Archives]