Should the American Education System Change?

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America is often in the top rankings for many world affairs; however, education in America does not come close to top ranking. Education aims to build, shape, and prepare youth to be able to achieve their goals and be successful in life. However, is the US education system as effective as it could be, and are the current education laws doing enough? The answer is no. Although some may rightfully argue that fundamental knowledge and life-long skills are taught in school, the education system is balancing on the brink of failure. Based on the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the US ranks 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math (“Why Is America’s Education System Failing”). So, what needs to be changed in order to properly teach the youth of America? Three main things that should be adjusted are the standardization of what’s taught, standardized testing, and seat time.

The sole purpose of school is to strengthen the minds of the students and to create a brighter future. The experiences held in school share a part in shaping a child’s life, and prepares them for what’s to come. However, school is not as effective as it could be. By the start of either middle school or high school, the happiness and interest level severely declines in most students. To prove this, tens of thousands of high school students were asked how often they feel stressed, and 45% claimed “all the time,” one main reason being school (Collins, Jeff). So why are these results being ignored, or even tolerated? Some argue that unpleasantness in school is necessary and that it simulates the real life. However, research suggests that students are at peak performance when they are self-motivated, and controlling what they can learn and pursue. Learning can be enjoyed, and it should be enjoyed (Gray, Peter).

The biggest issue in the American education system is the standardization of what is to be taught, how it should be taught, and even how it is to be learned. Standardized education serves the purpose of meeting the educators’, community’s, and politicians’ expectations. This way of teaching attempts to provide a consistent ground on which students can learn, and the same information is offered to every young American. Another seeming advantage is filtering out poor teachers, and providing a scripted curriculum in order to maintain form.

However, the disadvantages to standardized curriculum outweigh the advantages. For example, opportunities for student growth are severely limited by this “one size fits all” mindset. In addition, freedom is taken away from skilled and professional teachers that may want to use personal experience or judgement to teach a lesson. When the lesson taught is scripted, it shifts the focus away from deep understanding and progression to simply content coverage.

Not only is freedom taken away from the teachers, but also from the students. As a student in the US, required courses and hours must be fulfilled in order to move up grade levels. This means that not enough exploration can be taken in courses that actually interest students, because their time is often consumed by the common core. Considering the purpose of education is to promote growth, and standardized education stunts growth, it is ironically inefficient and laws should be changed to more appropriately fit students’ needs (Bjerede, Marie).

Improvements that can be made in the American education system are plentiful. A very important improvement is adapting, or completely ending standardized testing. Standardized testing are tests taken “across the board” in an attempt to measure students’ educational ability. It also sets the foundation for the national averages. Standardized testing is supposed to serve as a benchmark for parents, teachers, and students for what academic courses need more or less attention. However, can they accurately portray a student’s educational proficiency? People argue that this way of testing provides guidelines for curriculum and identifies the typical strong and weak areas.

In addition, the tests are consistent throughout each area, and results or questions do not depend on personal bias. However, standardized testing is not as accurate as it is intended to be. The standardized tests also only focus on the main areas of curriculum: reading, writing, science, and math. There is no evaluation for crucial soft skills, like creativity, motivation, or cooperation. Although there is much gravity put on these tests, there is no way to measure a student’s potential and intelligence through a uniform evaluation (“Pros & Cons of Standardized Tests”).

Another flaw in current education is the requirement of specified “seat-time” for graduation in high school. Seat-time is essentially the amount of time a student has to sit in a classroom. Proponents of this law want to regulate education, and ensure that each student gets the same amount of information and time needed in order to succeed in the future. However, seat-time does not directly affect the amount or quality of information being consumed.

Real life experience is profoundly more effective than being taught in a classroom, so why are we being forced to sit? Thomas Sterner, the author of “The Practicing Mind” says, “When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal. The words deliberate and intention are key here because they define the difference between actively practicing something and passively learning it.” School is intended to prepare the youth for the real world, so real-world experiences rather than classroom experience should be emphasized. To move forward from a grade level, a certain amount of time must be fulfilled by the student; which typically means extra classes may need to be taken to fill seat-time. This serves as a barrier to personalized learning.

Personalized learning tailors learning to the student’s needs and interests; which encourages self-growth and future success. It also promotes student agency, because the student can choose their own educational path. However, seat-time requires credits that may not be necessary to a student’s learning, or that may not be compliant to their schedule (Frost, Dale). Schools should put an emphasis on learning, not credit hours. Rather than measuring a student on how much time they have spent in the classroom, they should be measured based on their competency level in that subject. A competency-based structure of learning would accomplish much more than a time-based structure.

To start a change in the education system, certain laws should be modified and/or changed. For example, Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, or No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is an outdated law. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed NCLB into act. This law stems from the concern that the American education system is no longer competitive compared to other countries. The purpose is to increase student performance and focuses on creating an equal education ground for all youth. Although this seems like a good idea, NCLB has been criticized for the lack of positive results. Low-performing schools did not have significantly higher student achievement, and resources suggested by the government (such as free tutoring) was not successful.

As of 2010, 38% of schools were not able to make yearly progress. In 2011, a number of states recorded failure rates of over 50% (Klein, Alyson). The involvement of the federal government in schooling has increased since NCLB, and has placed an importance on standardized testing. The prioritized curriculum has become math and reading; which narrows the time that schools can spend on other, possibly more important, topics. As society develops, so do job options. Careers today are much more diverse and can be very artistically inclined. Not every job will require trigonometry or chemistry, and there are other resources that can be used for these specific skills. Several modifications have been made in the education system, however the law still has many flaws. The improvements that are needed for education can no longer be subsided.

All in all, there is a plethora of flaws in the American education system. Many of which can be resolved by a shift in the mindset of what proper education should look like. Education aims to prepare and build up youth, to eventually be successful adults. More agency should be left up to the students, because the minds of students are not one size fits all. If America could look at the hard results of this current system, then major strides can be made.

Works Cited

  1. Bjerede, Marie. “Education Standardization: Essential or Harmful?” Getting Smart, Getting Smart, 4 Apr. 2017. Web. Feb. 13, 2019.
  2. Collins, Jeff. “45% Of Teens Say They’re Stressed ‘All the Time,’ Turn to Online Resources and Apps for Help Says Poll on Stress and Mental Health.” GlobeNewswire News Room, ‘GlobeNewswire’, 21 Feb. 2018. Web. Feb. 13, 2019.
  3. Frost, Dale. “Moving from Seat-Time to Competency-Based Credits in State Policy: Ensuring All Students Develop Mastery.” INACOL, 12 Apr. 2016. Web. Feb. 13, 2019.
  4. Gray, Peter. “Is the American School System Damaging Our Kids? | Reader’s Digest.” Reader’s Digest, Reader’s Digest, 19 Apr. 2017. Web. Feb. 13, 2019.
  5. Klein, Alyson. “No Child Left Behind Overview: Definitions, Requirements, Criticisms, and More.” Education Week, Editorial Project in Education, 25 Oct. 2018. Web. Feb. 14, 2019.
  6. “Pros & Cons of Standardized Tests.” GradePower Learning, 30 May 2017. Web. Feb. 13, 2019.
  7. “Why Is America’s Education System Failing.” Topics, Sample Papers & Articles Online for Free, 7 Apr. 2016. Web. Feb. 13, 2019.

Cite this paper

Should the American Education System Change?. (2021, Jul 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/should-the-american-education-system-change/

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