The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Education in America misfocused, lacks accountability

The United States educational system has seen failing success rates across the board over the last decade, and it seems something substantial will need to be done in order to see any major headway. I still remember growing up in my small hometown of Manchester, Tenn., and being forced to go to private school twenty minutes away due to the lack of competency on the part of the local public high school. At first, I wasn’t a big supporter of my parents decision to send me to this new environment. I felt as if going to a tiny school—such as the one I attended where my graduating class had only 48 students—would not help me pick up the social interaction skills students learn from being around many people at a bigger public school. In hindsight, I thank my parents everyday for sending me because I developed a great array of study habits and learning techniques I can truly say I wouldn’t ever have gotten from Coffee County Public High School.

Ultimately I feel as if there exist three major reasons as to why the United States currently sits in the middle of the pack in the international rankings for educational standards, lagging behind such countries as South Korea, Poland and Estonia in overall student literacy. I believe a key principle in this entire equation rests not in the hands of the educators, but rather the parents of today’s students. As much as we would like to believe sending a child to school is all that is required for him or her to get the proper amount of learning required to fulfill a child’s education, studies have shown us otherwise. In the U.S., kids from homes where there are more than two full bookcases score two and a half grade levels higher than kids from homes with very few books. On top of that, it has been found that less than 50 percent of parents  in this country visit their child’s school at least once a month to check up on how they are performing. This speaks to the overall problem that some parents honestly could not care less about the development of educational habits for their offspring.

One of the most controversial acts that has been passed in recent memory, No Child Left Behind, has many clamoring it does more damage to the average student than good.  This stems from the fact that the act requires a school provides “for annual state-wide testing for all students,” but it also reduces the ability of schools to respond to student needs by suggesting “one high, challenging standard” for all children, while encouraging educators to teach to the test. A better approach would have been to develop benchmarks to allow schools to examine whether every kid knows more at the end of the year than they did at the start. The debate over this act will persist, but one factor surrounds it that cannot be ignored: the act is forcing the already scarce educational funds to be spent on testing and paperwork. It needs to be going towards decreasing the average class size or helping to provide better early childhood learning opportunities across the board.  

We as a nation are quick to complain about the perceived lack of quality of our teachers, but in reality, that is hardly the problem when you consider the fact that a recent Gates Foundation study released earlier this month based on 3,000 classrooms across the nation found only less than eight percent of teachers in their survey ranked below “basic” competence. The cold hard truth is that most teachers work extremely hard at their profession and are at some points forced to put in 11 hour work days. Teachers across the country are pushed to the limit between having to work with having more kids in the classroom than ever before and being told what they have to teach. The true culprits in this scenario are the administrators, who do not think about what would be best for the students, but rather about the bottom line in terms of what will make the schools more money in the long run. If that means getting better test scores at the expense of these children walking away with a true understanding of concepts that will better them later in life, so be it.            

It is about time that we as a nation go back to the basics and reevaluate what we are trying to accomplish with our educational system. If we are trying to produce a new generation of students that can pass a test but have no idea how to actually go about applying what they learned to their everyday lives, then we can expect matters to continue on their current negative trajectory. The teachers need help, the system in place needs help and most importantly the American youth needs help. 

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Education in America misfocused, lacks accountability