How To Fix American Schools

There has been a lot of talk and buzz about how bad the American education system is, why it’s so bad and whose fault it is. And on the fault side, nearly everyone who is connected to education has been blamed for the lackluster system.

But, what happens when we stop talking about why it stinks, and start trying to make it better? The District Administration tried to answer that question.

The 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) compared the achievement gains between American and foreign students. It found that American students were not achieving as quickly or as strongly as many other foreign countries, thus starting a nationwide panic around America’s educational system.

“The most important take away from the report is that the strategies the most successful countries are using with only a few exceptions are not being used in the U.S.,” Marc Tucker, president and CEO of National Center of Education Economy (NCEE) and author of the NCEE report, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform,” told the District Administration.

Tucker outlined several reasons why America’s education system is lackluster, most notably he claims that the system has become a business, designed after America’s mass production model. He argues that education was concerned primarily with driving costs down as low as possible, and the quality of education became secondary.

However, Tucker offers suggestions on how to actually fix the education system. The following are from Tucker’s “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform and the NCEE’s report.

Aligning the Curriculum: Students should take gateway exams between different levels of education. Most high-achieving countries administer gateways exams to help students transition from basic education to upper secondary education, from upper secondary education to university, from basic education to job training and from job training into the workforce. There is some form of external national assessment at each of these points.

In many countries, students cannot move on to the next level unless they pass the gateway exams, which are designed so students cannot study for them. The only way to pass is to truly master the material.

Raising Teacher Standards: Many other countries’ teacher-training programs are much tougher than America’s to get accepted into, thus making it much more competitive to actually become a teacher. However, America cannot raise their teaching standards until the raise interest in the field. America first needs to attract more people to the teaching industry. Many countries pay their teachers better and offer better incentives. Shanghai waives charges for teacher education tuition and offers early admissions to students applying to teacher education programs, which makes teaching very attractive.

Shifting Financing for Equity: The NCEE states that school financing should be moved from the local level to the state level. Local financing is simply not fair because many schools districts have a lot more money than others. A state-run system of distributing nearly all funding and resources could create more financial equity, giving all students a chance to achieve, regardless of their school’s neighborhood.