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There is a reason why America is one of the best places to live, education is not one of them. Ever since the 1960s, the quality of American, public, education has gone down. What started as an encouragement for kids to do better in school has had the opposite effect. During the Cold War, when America was going against the USSR, American education was at an all time high; the Magnet program in Northeast was founded, AP subjects were introduced, and the math and science components were on par with those in the USSR to make worthy opponents.
In the 1990s, it started getting worse, math and science were not as important as they were previously, and the American government did not seem to care.
When George W. Bush Jr. introduced the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, things started getting even detrimental; rumors of social promotion started going around because people started becoming teachers just for the money, not because they actually cared about what the future generation would be like.
There was a shift in the educational system; what used to matter in the long-run, started becoming worthless, and there was more of a focus on tests and group vs. individual results, and ever since that, America has gone all the way down the drain. Just take a look at where it stands internationally in terms of education today. America should stop focusing on mass testing and follow the example of a couple other countries like the UK and Russia/ the USSR and focus on individual success rather than impede it.
In recent years, there has been a massive shift among school districts to the Common Core Curriculum (CC), and while in theory it is not that bad of an idea, in reality, it does nothing but impede the progress of students.
According the College Board, this shift had led to colossal changes within the AP testing system, and it has led to a substantial decrease in test scores. In AP European History, the test used to be like this: 70/80 questions in that is it. Now it is 55 questions like one would expect on an English test, four short answers, and then one long essay. Last year was the first year that they administered the new test; scores dropped from an average of a 3.6 to a 3. The information was the same, the only thing that changed was how the information was covered. The test was changed to fit the new CC Standards. This significant drop in test scores goes to show that the CC Standards are harming children’s progress. If that continues to happen, what will 2020 look like?
This new emphasis on making everyone learn on the same level is not fair for the kids that take AP courses; the whole point is to learn on a more advanced level. But the AP Euro History exam was not the only exam to suffer, the APUSH (AP United States History) test is going to suffer even more. Although this is the first year that the test has been changed, it is clear to see that because of the CC Standards, the material for AP subjects has changed. APUSH used to be considered as one of the hardest AP subjects out there, now it is easy. While last year the average score was approximately a 2.6, this year, the practise tests are predicting a range of 2.5-4; that is not what an AP test range is supposed to be. The College Board itself has shown that they are not expecting this remake to make good headways; Texas has already boycotted this test (Hope). This further proves that the only thing that the CC Standards are increasing are frustration levels among students, teachers, and test makers; it is not a good thing. However, while the CC Standards and the NCLB are bad, that is not the only thing wrong, and it could be fixed by taking a look at a few other countries.
Just like America relies on testing, so does the UK, however, the UK has a much better system. In the UK, there are two main types of schools, boarding (sleepaway) and grammar/ public schools. At the end of each year, there is one major exam for each subject that students have to pass in order to move up in form (grade). Each grade (year/ form), has their own exam that leads up to a major one that Britons have to pass when they are 16 in order to get their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). After they get that, they can choose to take A-level courses before going to uni/ college (“I Want Mr. Baker”). Overall, there are only a few major exams that students have to study for; with some tests in class to take throughout the year, unlike here in America where there are state tests, national tests, and various other ones, there is just too much stressing about testing. While Britain has a good system in place for testing, it is not the only one.
The USSR 30 years ago, and the Russian Federation today, has an excellent system in place, and one that does not include kids having meltdowns because of tests. During the Cold War, the United States was going against the USSR to be the first in space; the USSR won, and for a reason. Throughout America’s history, aside from a few key moments, education has never really been that important. Children were labeled as geeks, nerds, and losers if they did well in school and got straight A’s. In the USSR, it was the direct opposite. Ironically, the primary motivator was not money, but the kids themselves want to succeed, which is a drive missing from American students because they are too worried about passing tests rather than actually learning. In the USSR, and in the Russian Federation today, the educational system was similar to the one in England.
Kids would start school when they were 5/6 and stay in school until they were 16 (USSR) or 18 (today), then they would go on to uni, with the only testing being a final exam at the end of each year for each subject, and most of them were oral (Mamontov et al., “Education”/ MaMOHTOB “O6pacobahne”) While the American reaction would be to stress over that one test, Russian kids are used to it, they do not care about the testing because they know that it is just a measure of whether or not they learned throughout the year, and that if they actually paid attention they will pass and move on to the next step- university/ technical college, but no matter what, they need to learn more and move on. In the US, however, the test is more important than actually learning. Most American students, especially those in high school/ uni, their most commonly asked question is “what was your SAT score?” Not what AP subjects they took, not what their gpa was, but what they got on a test that they took once, maybe twice, and it is because of this that American students are stressed, and end up performing much worse than other international students. (“Myths about Europe. European Education”/ “Muqui 0 Espone. Esponeéckoe o pa3oBahue”).
Recently, there was a study done throughout the world; which educational system is the best for students’ stress- the result was surprising. It was discovered that in the UK, where students have form teachers, rather than every year a different one, their stress levels and test results are much different than those of America. In England, kids have form teachers, teachers that are their advisors, counselors, and regular subject teachers. In most cases, they have the same form teacher for the majority of their years in school, and often, towards the time when they are in year 10/ form 6 (equivalent to 10th grade), they get mentors, which are their personal guidance counselors, and frequently, they are the teacher whom the child feels closest to (Ellie). Due to this extended relationship in school, many kids feel more comfortable with the teachers, which leads to better test results and less stress because by that point, it is not just a normal student/ teacher relationship, but it evolves into a friendship; the kids start to feel less and less stressed and they tend to do better on the tests because it feels like they are studying with friends, not like in America, where it feels awkward if a student is alone with a teacher going over something.
In Russia, there is a similar system; teachers are referred to by their first and middle names, not like here (Mamontov et al., “Education”/ MaMOHTOB “O pacobahne”). For example, in Russia, a pupil would call their teacher Fillip Bedrosovish, not Mr. Kirkorov like in America; it is considered informal to refer to them by their last name, whereas teachers refer to them by their last names or just point at them, but over time, the formality is semi-lost and it gets easier to ask questions. The need to impress increases which leads to better scores. The teachers in those countries have the ultimate say, unlike in America where the teacher, not the student, is wrong. Ironically, it is because of this that American kids are suffering. They do not feel the desire to impress which causes them to stop paying attention in class, and then they complain about their grades and expect the teachers to fix it; because American kids do not have the close relationship with teachers that their international peers do, they suffer, stress, and test, but to no avail.
To think that all of these problems are caused by America’s stubbornness and ego. America has been hailed as the best place to live for decades; unfortunately, unless one is talking about attending one of the Ivy League Universities, education is not a stronghold in America, and it is not something to really brag about. Kids are always complaining about the fact that there is too much testing and not enough focus on how the student feels like; a child might be having a mental breakdown but as long as his test score is adequate, school officials could not care less about him, and that is where the fault in our educational system is. Throughout my years of being enrolled in the American school system, I have noticed a pattern; get good grades and nobody cares about you. As long as you pass the tests; personally, I think that if America took a leaf from the UK or Russia’s books, then all of these problems could be avoided. Children would learn, not be forced to go through 12 years of schooling, and most importantly, they would not be as stressed about testing and think that they only go to school so that the school would get more money.
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