Problems with the American Education System

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

The goal of this lesson is to encourage the reader to think about the problems with the American education system. Several problems that are currently plaguing the American educational system are discussed.

Where Do We Begin?

When you stop to think about what the specific problems are with the education system in the United States, a knee-jerk reaction might be to think, 'Oh boy! Where do we begin?' But then once you actually stop and give it some thought, it's not as cut-and-dried as you had originally assumed it to be. We all know that there are problems within our educational system, but what exactly are these problems?

Three Major Issues

The problems within the American education system can basically be broken down into three issues: problems with testing, problems with money, and problems with focus. I will briefly discuss each of these here.

1. Testing: In the last ten or fifteen years, an over-reliance on the annual testing of our students has developed, especially within public schools. While some standardized testing is necessary, and even useful, when it comes to assessing student performance, the shift toward an annual high-stakes test has become excessive. As a result, and because in many cases teachers' jobs or merit raises are tied to student performance, students are taught how to take 'the' test rather than being taught their subjects in a more traditional manner. This constant focus on the test, rather than a focus on learning what is in the curriculum, can deprive students of an authentic experience in the classroom and can also lead to excessive test anxiety.

2. Finances: It is a wonderful thing that there is so much federal money available to support education. Truthfully, without this federal money, many states, which are themselves deprived of resources, would have a difficult time funding student education. However, often this federal money comes with certain 'strings' attached. For example, a wealth of funds is available to fund special education, but with that money comes conditions that individual districts often have a difficult time meeting. The problem is that the people in the legislature who put the restrictions on these funds are so far removed from the individual districts that they cannot relate to what the situation is like in particular places. As a result, many districts are either forced to forego obtaining these funds or have to make square pegs fit into round holes. In other words, if District A wants the $5 million dollars available for the school lunch program, they must ensure that at least 60% of their students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. And needless to say, it doesn't always work this way.

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