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Why Is America’s Education System Failing Essay

The United States is often referred to as the best country in the world in many areas. It may be, but far from it in education. Out of a total of thirty-four countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, it ranks just fourteenth in reading, seventeenth in science and twenty-fifth in math (Walker). Despite America’s status as a country, America’s education is failing because of the large emphasis on standardized education, and the flaws of the students, parents, and teachers. How to fix the education system remains to be a problem.

Impoverished children are partially at fault for the failing education system in America. Poor children are ranked well below the national average among the group of fifteen year olds tested in the PISA, or the Program for International Student Assessment. Schools with less than ten percent of students on free or reduced lunch, had scores at an average of 551. Schools with more than seventy-five percent scored just 446 on average, well below the American average of 500. Results were consistent to show that low-income levels led to lower scores (Riddle). “Children raised in low-income families are at risk for academic and social problems as well as poor health and well-being, which can in turn undermine educational achievement” (Engle and Black, 2). Students who do not speak English also fall under a similar category of poor children. A lack of understanding in the primary language spoken in the United States will prevent a child from fully understanding the topics taught in school. Children who do not predominantly speak English are usually less affluent than those who do. The statistics are clear to show that underprivileged students are more likely to score lower.

Long lectures are a nightmare for any student. They are long, boring, and little knowledge is gained. They are an ineffective way to educate students. Students only spend ten to eighteen minutes of peak focus before zoning out (Khan). The remainder of class is wasted, with a child’s mind wandering somewhere else. A study conducted by two Indiana University professors in 1985 put students through a twenty minute presentation, and would have to recall the facts at the end. Logically, most people would believe that they
would remember the most recent information the best. However, students remembered the beginning of the presentation the greatest. They also noted that most students lost attention by fifteen minutes anyhow. Based on this study, a student could be lectured for one hour, but only actively present for about a quarter of it.

Parents have a very large impact on a child’s education, which leads people to blame the parents for an inadequate education system. The MetLife Study of an American Teacher says, “Parents report that schools with high parent engagement perform better on a range of measures.” It can pressure a student to do well and meet parent expectations. Unfortunately, parent involvement has declined. The same study concludes: There are significant declines in the percentages of teachers and parents reporting that most or many parents take too little interest in their children’s education, fail to motivate their children, or leave their children alone too much after school. Without parents emphasizing education, a student is less likely to excel in his studies. It can lead to students who do not greatly concern themselves in their education. The outcome will most likely lead to lower grades.

An effective teacher can make all the difference for a pupil. The teacher can be the reason for the success or the failure of his students. If a poor teacher was replaced with an average teacher, a single classroom’s lifetime earnings would be raised by an estimated 266,000 dollars (Birch). Professor Friedman says, “If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income.” Schools need good teachers, but firing unqualified teachers has proved to be a difficult task. Too many teachers lack the ability to educate their students, and prepare them for the future, and too few of these ineffective teachers are losing their jobs. Firing an incompetent teacher requires getting the union, the school board, the principal, and the judicial system involved, followed by thousands of dollars in legal fees. It is seldom that a teacher is ever fired. One California school spent eight thousand dollars to fire one teacher protected by tenure (Stephey). The trouble that schools must go through to fire an inept teacher deters schools from firing the teacher. The
teacher will keep his job, and continue to poorly educate students and prepare them for the future. In 2002, the No Child Left Behind act was passed, a government program that required states to regularly give out state-run tests. Children are put through many of these each year. After the law was passed, the United States fell from eighteenth to thirty-first place in the math section of the PISA (CON Standardized Tests). The No Child Left Behind act created a system of teaching to the test. Much time is taken out to do the tests and prepare for them. Forty-four percent of schools have an average of 145 minutes a week taken out of class to prepare for standardized tests (“Standardized Exams Encourage Educational Equality”).

Another result from teaching to the test caused a decline of creative thinking. A 2007, five year University of Maryland study found: ….the pressure teachers were feeling to ‘teach to the test’ since NCLB was leading to declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum (CON Standardized Tests). Standardized tests reduce the ability to complete more complicated coursework, and students can only complete basic problems. It creates a right and a wrong system, where students’ creative thinking is abridged, and creating multiple solutions to a problem is difficult (Meador). The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking has fallen since 1990. Researcher Kyung-Hee Kim from the College of William & Mary faults it partly on the growth in standardized testing. He says, “If we neglect creative students in school because of the structure and the testing movement… then they become underachievers” (CON Standardized Tests). Underachievers will not reach their full potential and their grades will not be as high as possible.

Standardized education continues to hold America back, but the students, parents, and teachers are at most responsible for the failing education system. Standardized education limits a child’s potential and ability, while attempting to bring everyone to the same level. The amount improvement is trivial, but the government continues to spend more on it. Students need to put more effort into their studies, but certain factors like economic can affect their performance. Parent involvement is critical to a student’s
success but is missing in many families. Inadequate teachers can limit a child in that particular subject, and hurt him in the future. In the future, changes will have to be made, or America may fall behind in other fields than education.

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