Education Problems and Solutions: Part 3

VI. Solution: Let Teachers Teach In Sections I-V, I have outlined the case of an education system in need of a philosophical overhaul. Consistently, teachers are the ones ignored when it comes to education reform. Learning has taken a back seat to assessment. Common Core has had a significant effect on teacher turnover rates, and that costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually. In 2009, the rate was 9%. Compare that to 2013, where the rate was 20%.

Salaries of teachers have actually declined 1.3% over the past 13 years, but that is not the main reason for teacher attrition. The leading reason cited for leaving the profession is dissatisfaction with working conditions. In my research I've often read that more support is needed in order for teachers to do what is asked of them. The actual problem is the task itself.

Teachers did not get into the profession to instruct kids on how to fill in multiple-choice questions. The learning environment has been disrupted to satisfy the needs of data-collecting testing companies, and those who feel that tests and data are the best way to speculate a child's future worth.

A former teacher writes, "I work hours past my contract every day and work every weekend, and it is still not enough. The problem is this “new generation” is demanded to do more. Since the 80's and 90's, the education system has added...a myriad of high stakes tests, Common Core Standards, and teacher evaluations that are tied to pay, to name a few..." In my year of research and activism pertaining to Common Core, I have seen and heard thousands of anti-CCSS statements from teachers. Our government plugs their ears and continues down the wrong path.

Solutions must arise in order to restore the learning dynamic in classrooms and to eliminate data-mining by third-party testing companies. As parents, do we want someone hired from craigslist at $11.05/hr, with no teaching experience, grading your child's essay questions?

VII. Solution: Learn From Others Without Losing Ourselves

Programs such as Race to the Top are haphazardly pieced together in reaction to other countries outperforming us on... you guessed it... standardized tests. Here is what we can learn from two of these countries: Finland and Singapore.

Finland values their teachers. Ironically, the United States has moved away from the education model of the #1 rated country instead of towards it. A US teacher who visited Finland expected something grand, but what he found out surprised him: less is more. A six-year-old Finnish child is one year away from the first day of school, learning and exploring in a way that is natural for a young child. A six-year-old US child is answering multiple-choice questions on standardized tests. The education requirements for being a teacher is rigorous in Finland. In the US, teaching credentials can now be obtained in five weeks, especially for certain charter schools. The school day in Finland is roughly five hours. The average school day in the US is nearly seven hours.

Finnish children deal with much less homework than US children.

Would an education model that is based more on Finland's model help children learn more and discover their passions? I think so. For economic reasons we may not be able to implement all of Finland's child-friendly education policies, but adjustments towards that model would certainly improve teacher and student morale.

Singapore is a country that is quite the opposite to Finland, but there are lessons to be learned from their system as well. The word meritocracy is used to describe their style of education, which places a heavy emphasis on competition.

An insightful piece that critiques the Singaporean education model can be read here.

This article echoes what I have read on other occasions about Singapore. The education system is excellent at preparing future manufacturing- and service-based workers, but lacks the ability to produce innovators and risk-takers like the US. Comments from the citizens of Singapore themselves warn that heavy competition amongst children can create a hostile, self-centered culture.

Singapore is infinitely better than the US, however, at helping disabled children be competitive with those children more fortunate.

Singapore Math is widely accredited, and it could be an option for US children who could benefit from it. Personally, I would consider the subject to be "logic" as opposed to "math", as seen in this question that went viral.

We call ourselves a "melting pot" in regards to culture in the United States. For education, it is wise to use discretion in what we add to the pot. We are a unique nation of hard workers, risk takers, and creative minds. Our education system is in need of new ideas.

VIII. Solutions: Ideas to Improve US Education

In this section I will discuss three more ideas that would greatly benefit our children to be prepared for the world of tomorrow. I envision a bright future to include children who are rewarded for actual achievement instead of assessment.

The solution that I am most passionate about is the idea of introducing gardening as a core subject. Some schools have gardens now, but I'd like to see this happen nationwide. Throughout the K-12 experience, children will learn more than just how to tend a garden; they will also receive age-apprpriate books and other preparatory materials.

One pioneer of this idea is REAL School Gardens, featured in this article.

Benefits include:

* Children will have another opportunity to learn with a hands-on approach.

* We will teach future generations the benefits of being more self-reliant, encouraging them to grow their own small gardens, and to appreciate a healthier way of eating. It could put a dent in the amount of mass-produced, unhealthy food many of us eat out of convenience.

* It will help with the tedium of the grammar- and math-heavy curriculum we have today.

I say more gardening, less tests. That means we must stop rewarding companies with Federal money to spend their days creating more and more assessment tools. Remember the comment I quoted in Part 1 that mentioned "billions in edtech dollars" influencing the course of education? The problem with "EdTech" right now is that it is focused on assessment.

Federal money should be awarded to businesses that create technology which improves the learning process, not the testing process.

As a child--and now as an adult--I have always taken offense to the excessive homework in K-12 education. Finland is doing much better than the United States in overall educaiton proficiency, and that country gives out an average of 30 minutes of homework a night.

The concept of a flipped classroom is a weapon to combat the tedious busywork children are required to do off school hours. Instead, they are learning concepts at home and doing the work at school. Interactive electronic devices like "Notebooks" can enhance the learning experience. Here is a more in-depth article on the subject.

While the idea may not be best suited for every subject in every classroom, children deserve more options to have an individualized learning program not based on a "one size fits all" model.

In conclusion, Common Core (CCSS) has placed far too much emphasis on assessment and not enough on the value of teachers and students. Children who enjoy learning are more likely to develop and pursue their passions--and stay out of trouble. We must shift our focus in education to new ideas, new technology, less data-driven speculation, and less testing.

Thank you for reading! =^..^=

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