School is the site for learning. Teachers teach. Students learn. However, a problem exists. There are many low-performing schools, such as Parham Elementary in Cincinatti (Bhatt 1). Therefore, some students are not receiving the education they need. However, this can be remedied. It has been proven that these schools can be developed into more productive environments (Bhatt 2). To improve education, class population needs to reduce in size, the emphasis on standardized testing must be lowered, and traditional teaching strategies must change.
Currently, students are not receiving the optimum education they need to succeed in life. With this lack of proper education, students are growing up without the fundamental knowledge to be able to strive for success. An abundance of students are failing in school and are not equal with their peers due to traditional teaching techniques and poor school environment Bhatt 1). Changes must be instituted to ensure the success of future generations which lies in the hands of mostly uneducated students.
There are many reasons why the education system is slowly dwindling into oblivion. Overpopulation in the classroom has become a rising epidemic (Helfand 2). The overcrowded classes make it hard for a teacher to teach lessons to so many students. Because of this, students do not receive the individual attention from the teacher they need in order to grasp information. For example, at Carwise Middle School in Palm Harbor, Florida, the average class has 30 students. Teachers, such as Sarah Jaehn, teach to 186 students a day at Palm Harbor Middle. She said, “If class sizes were smaller I could have fun again” (Helfand 2).
Jaehn, and others like her, feel they cannot get much accomplished with such large class sizes. Also, standardized testing is so overly emphasized in schools that it affects the way teachers perform. “Mary Lee Smith found that teachers gave up reading real books, writing, and long-term projects, and focused instead on word recognition, recognizing spelling errors, language usage, punctuation, and arithmetic operations. (Shepard 2).” With the emphasis on standardized testing, the teaching methods have changed.
Much observation has been completed in order to determine why education is at the level it is. Lorrie Sheprard, the dean of the school of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a member of the Naitonal Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment, completed involved large scale teacher surveys and field studies. She concluded that, “The efforts to improve test scores have changed what is taught and how it is taught. For example, teachers in elementary schools eliminate or greatly reduce time on social studies and science to spend more time on tested subjects (Shepard 2).”
This has proven that students do not learn as much as they need because they are busy learning information for standardized testing instead. Teachers are “teaching to the test” rather than teaching the critical thinking type of learning that is used in the real world. This is shown by Linda Darling-Hammond and Arthur Wise, the authors of “Beyond Standardization: State Standards and School Improvement.” They discovered that teachers stopped giving essay tests to create more tests like the standardized ones to help prepare the students (Shepard 2). How is this in fact helping students if they are just learning to take a test instead of learning critical thinking which will help them in their work areas in the future?
To illustrate how education needs to be altered we should view the results from Steven Adamowski. He was the superintendent in three school districts for 13 years and studied education reform thoroughly. This led to the miracle work he performed at Parham Elementary in the Cincinnati Public School system. From 1995-1998, only six percent of fourth graders there were passing the state’s reading test, compared with the 28 percent of the rest of the district and almost half of the fourth graders statewide. To change this, Adamowski entered in1998.
Then, the results started to climb. By 2003, 56.4 percent of fourth graders were passing the state reading test opposed to the six percent from 1995-1998. These results occurred because he removed poorly performing teachers and replaced them with motivated teachers who can persuade students to learn. He also brought more faculty and staff which enabled the class sizes to reduce so there can be more personalized learning environments. Adamowski’s work proves that education can be improved as long as there is the will to do it. (Bhatt 1-2).
Experts in the education field have been researching extensively to target these problems and to find a way to fix them. Steven Adamowski stated that teacher evaluations must come about because they help identify weaknesses. He then discussed that proper training can be individually directed at these weak areas. He also declared that this motivates teachers to learn more, therefore being able to teach more (Bhatt 1-2).
The real experts, teachers, say they have more on their plates when delivering lessons to a class with 30 students (Helfand 2). This is because they have to manage with interruptions and cannot specially educate each student individually. Lorrie A. Shepard argues that high-stakes testing is thought to improve education, but on the contrary, this standardized testing does more harm than good. She has found that teachers are forced to “teach to the test” rather than with methods where students actually learn (Shepard 1). Thus, students are again not receiving the education they need. Vivian Troen, coauthor of “Who’s Teaching your Children,” discussed that teachers mostly work isolated instead of sharing ideas and learning from one another. She believes that teachers need to work together in order to create an environment in which students desire to learn (Ruark 1-2).
Whenever a problem exists, there is not always a solution to it. Luckily, in this case, there are many simple solutions to improve education. Educators should use helpful, but limited test preparation activities within the normal class plans. A variety of original material should be introduced to keep students interested so that no generalized knowledge is taught in preparation for a high-stake test (Shepard 4). This way, there is no specialized “teaching to the test” but instead real teaching. Teachers should also work as a team instead of as individuals (Ruark 1-2).
That way, teachers can learn new teaching methods and think more creatively instead of the usual notes and test format. Teacher evaluations also must be instituted (Bhatt 2). Then, weaknesses can be identified and proper training can be utilized so teachers are prepared to teach. This will ensure that the students will be receiving the proper education they need. Essay tests should also be used more to challenge students and force them to think critically (Shepard 2). This will help students be prepared in life when they need to actually think rather than use memorization. Discussions should also take place dealing with what is being taught and on current events as well (Shepard 2). This will urge students to listen more attentively and will help them learn more about what is happening in the world around them.
Teachers play one of the most important roles in students’ lives. Teachers mold them into the human beings they will be as adults. Unfortunately, for such a pivotal responsibility, teachers are not permitted to provide students with the valuable education that students will use for the rest of their lives. This can change, and must change. The students now are our future and must be given the essential tools through education.