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The Revelation

The American Education Epidemic

Dae Robinson, Opinion Staff Writer

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The United States of America leads the world’s economy, dominates global politics, and holds the highest standard of social liberty; however, our nation lags far behind in public education. Although there are thousands of above average public schools in the nation, placing a child into the public school system is taking a risky leap of faith. Yet, some families do not have the choice of whether or not they want to leave their child’s education up to the questionable adequacy of their city’s school. Lower income families are left vulnerable to either the unreliable public education system or the mere luck of charter school lotteries. However, America should never leave a child’s education, the means of later success and a stable future, to the chance of a bouncing ball. The education system is overflowing with flaws as currently a child’s success depends entirely on the amount of money their family has or pure luck, causing a country founded on the basis of equality and equal opportunity to strip its future generations of the opportunity they deserve. Thus, the United States must reform the public educations system by addressing the plethora of problems laced in the system and then work to create a well-rounded and successful education system that benefits all American children, regardless of income, neighborhood, or luck.

Public education in America is rooted in chance as the quality of schools tremendously fluctuates based on location, strong teachers can be the difference between graduating and dropping out, and the luck of a charter school lottery heightens a child’s percentage of getting accepted into college. No child’s future should ever be so heavily weighted on such random chance but sadly, unfair chance is not the only major issue. In the U.S., they are over 2,000 “dropout factories,” meaning schools where only 40% of students graduate. One of the reasons for such poor outcomes is due to the failing neighborhoods that surround the majority of dropout factories. Poor neighborhoods set bad examples for young children, as they know more people that have gone to prison than have gone to college. These failing high schools are partly due to the inadequate feeder elementary schools that fail to establish any type of proper foundation for learning.

Reforming the education system in America is an overwhelmingly enormous and difficult task. The saying “it is easier said than done” is aptly applicable here, as dozens of politicians and presidents have all tried, without much success, to usher in a new era of effective schooling. One idea to improve the system is that modern day reform should begin with ending all tenure. Public school teachers earn tenure after just a few years of teaching, meaning that they are protected from being fired even if they prove to be a poor and inadequate teacher. Once teachers earn tenure, they can practically stop teaching without any penalty and their students suffer as a result. Because eradicating tenure would be so difficult due to the expected backlash of the Teachers’ Union, the former Chancellor of D.C.’s Public Schools Michelle Rhee’s idea is the best option: teachers would have the choice to remain on tenure or to reject tenure and have the possibility to double their income depending on their success. Hopefully, this method will eventually lead to the transition into the full destruction of granting tenure to teachers and allow school boards to actually recognize and reward excellent teachers.

“I think the biggest barrier to improvement in the education system is the excessive safeguards that educators have, namely tenure and unions,” Senior Warner Speed said. “Without the ability to terminate underperforming teachers, administrators who want to improve failing schools are helpless. But in order to remove tenure and teachers’ unions, teachers need to be paid much more so that they will have the necessary savings to deal with sudden terminations that tenure and unions prevent. Higher wages will also make teaching a more in-demand profession, raising the competition for jobs and in turn increasing the number of qualified candidates.”

The next step would be for school boards to evaluate each individual teacher. Poor teachers are the root of the failing schools and they must be sifted out through the implement of some sort of efficiency evaluation.

“The teacher qualification system must become much more rigorous so that all the teachers have to pass very hard tests and know how to handle classroom situations,” Senior Sam Roffwarg said.

The addition of a standardized teacher evaluation will come along with the implementation of a national standard school board with consistent regulations. Both the federal government and individual states fund their own schools and similarly set their own standards for that state. There are over 14,000 different school boards across the nation, each with their own unique standards.

“Public school systems are severely failing and receive no funding from the districts they’re in,” Roffwarg said.

The federal government needs to step in and issue a set of general regulations that the nation must follow. This would make comparing test scores easier, create a national standard for all students, and disprove the assumption that low-income kids are incapable of learning.

Because charter schools have limited space, they are required by law to hold lotteries in order to ensure fairness for what students are accepted, however, these lotteries play with people’s emotions, and, more importantly, no child’s future should be left up to the spin of a painted ball. Charter schools should accept kids based on a child’s grades and recommendations from former teachers. Sadly, this may be an unrealistic goal because it would be exceedingly difficult for already struggling charter schools to sort through hundreds of applications as well as ensuring that the recommendations were reliable.

America’s public education system is wrecked with disaster due to the infestation of poor teachers, contrasting school regulations, and the unfairness of chance. Other countries such as Sweden prove that a wonderful and effective education system is attainable with government dedication and creative minds. If some schools have already shown that having a strong administrative system with excellent teachers makes the difference between a good education and a poor one, why hasn’t our country taken that cue to ensure that all schools have that paradigm of success? We have the role model, we know what to do, but the implementation of a reformed educational system will take years to develop as our outmoded current system tenaciously hangs on.

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The student news site of St. Andrew's Episcopal School
The American Education Epidemic