Throughout the recent decades, America’s education system has resulted in a variety of achievements and consequences, causing an uproar of opinions all over the United States. Nowadays, it is mandatory for students to travel through primary and secondary education, proceed through 12 different grade levels, and then finally reach for the goal of obtaining a high GPA (Grade Point Average). Hence, new improvements, concerning the education system, have caused an outburst of negative consequences towards the students and teachers. The education system in the United States increases the amount of stress on students, therefore affecting their health; teachers feel pressured to improve their students’ academic performance, and the academic achievement of students have seen little improvement compared to foreign countries. Thus, the following solutions include: changing the primary goal for students in school, evaluating teachers based on their knowledge in teaching, and gradually increasing the education standards for students. Rather than training students for tests and skills that are only needed in classrooms, the education system should focus their attention on teaching students the knowledge they need for the real-world.
Americans have underestimated the health concerns between the education system and the students. As students are moving from one grade level to the next, the criteria that they must achieve are becoming more advanced. However, with the sudden increase of assignments to accomplish, the development of stress, pressure, and anxiety soon become part of a student’s daily life. For example, based on a survey that I had recently conducted, Education System Quiz, 42.2% of the students (35 out of 83 middle school students) answered that the assignments and information taught in school sometimes makes them feel stressed or overwhelmed. As a result, unhealthy habits begin to emerge, interfering with both the students’ personal life and daily routine. Based on the same survey, a majority of the students (out of the 46 students that responded back) explained that they sleep for a short period of time, their sleeping schedule has become a “mess,” and the amount of food they consume daily is slowly decreasing. Additionally, these “habits” affect how students function throughout the day, while causing them to feel fatigue or frustration. Although many Americans assume that students experience the most stress due to the education system, studies have shown that teachers are also experiencing similar emotions and struggles.
With high expectations to help their students improve their academic performance throughout the school year, teachers feel pressured to work up to those standards. As evidence, 72% of the teachers in a 2014 National Education Association survey, ranging from different grade levels, are feeling pressured from their school districts to improve their students’ performance in school. Hence, teachers “teach to the test”, which states that most of their lessons are solely based on the upcoming exams. Consequently, teachers feel responsible for their students’ final scores and are under immense pressure to please the students, parents, and school district. Therefore, if a student fails a test, the blame is usually placed on the teacher rather than the student. Additionally, some states have begun to judge a section of a teacher’s performance through the evaluation of their students’ academic accomplishments, revealing whether or not the teacher is an effective instructor. In a 2014 survey conducted by the National Education Association, 40% of the teachers surveyed have reported that their school districts have taken this judgement seriously. As a result, teachers have to provide students the necessary information to improve their students’ scores while trying to gain an excellent evaluation from the school district and a suitable income. Even with the aid of teachers, the outcome of the academic performance of students’ in the U.S. is still an unsolved challenge.
Based on the academic achievement of students in the U.S., currently, students can’t seem to improve their academic performance compared to foreign countries. Due to the varying standards between the states of America and other foreign nations, students are only learning the necessary information that will prepare them for the state tests, rather than focusing on the skills connected to real life situations (a requirement in some national tests). Based on the recent 2015 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), a national test for 15-year-olds that determines their knowledge in math, science, and reading, the United States ranked 38th in math, and 24th in both science and reading; therefore the U.S. is usually located in the “middle of the pack” as described by Drew DeSilver. Considerably, these results can’t seem to reach the average skill level of students in other nations, like Singapore and Finland, even with the improvements within the last decades. For example, on the PISA test in 2009, the United States ranked 23rd in science, while Singapore ranked 4th in the same subject. Consequently, students are continuing to learn below the required basic skill level resulting in low average academic scores. As evidence, in Tennessee (2007), the number of 4th grade students that were proficient in math was 90% throughout the state, but if the students took the international tests, only 29% of the 4th graders would be proficient. As a result, new solutions have developed throughout the recent decades to resolve these issues; however, it is a cycle that continues to bring false hope to many Americans.
The education reformers and government have used the same solutions for the past couple of years to “fix” the education system, yet, there are dozens of solutions that the reformers are avoiding. The first solution is to create an environment where the idea of succeeding on tests shouldn’t be the primary goal that the students need to achieve. Once students focus on this certain primary goal, they will loose interest on other motivations like understanding the importance of the subjects taught. Therefore, if this goal were to change, students can focus on information that can bring interest to them. As a result, students would gain more knowledge on information that would benefit them in their daily lives, resulting in students understanding these lessons with motivation.
The second solution is to judge a teacher’s performance based on their skills, rather than their students’ academic performance. Since each child learns at a different pace, the results of the students’ academic scores will vary for each teacher, therefore leading to inaccurate information. For example, a panel of experts, which can include a small group of students and school administrators, should test or judge teachers throughout the school year by “teaching a subject or topic”. By doing this, each teacher would be evaluated fairly based on their experience and knowledge in teaching. Hence, the assessment will be solely based on the teacher’s skills rather than the student’s knowledge.
The third solution is to gradually increase the standards each school year so that the students could steadily improve. As students move from one grade level to the next, the expectations for students are set at a high level. Thus, some students can’t keep up with the pace, which results in them falling behind. However, if the standards were to gradually improve, every student will be able to succeed together without having to feel the pressure to meet the expectations. As the standards will continue to grow slowly, students will learn to improve in their studies and academics, while helping them prepare for upcoming major exams, like the end of the year exams or college ready tests.
Currently, the education system in America has caused a variety of consequences related to the students’ physical and emotional well-being, causing a part of the evaluation of teachers to rely on their students’ improvements, and furthermore, the academic scores in the U.S. have remained the same compared to foreign countries. Thus, there are three of the infinitely many solutions that will help improve the education system, for example, by increasing the standards gradually each year. Through the analysis conducted at Albright Middle School, there has been evidence of health risks related to emotional and physical concerns for students. Additionally, there is an increase in observations of teachers, as they are expected to improve their students’ performance in school. However, even with all of their efforts, the academic performance of students continue to remain below the other top performing nations around the world, leading to different perspectives on America’s education. If the education system continues to remain the same in the next few decades, then the consequences will soon lead to a new system of despair.