Today, it worries me to see that the first few search terms that pop into Google when you type “America’s education system” are “broken”, “bad”, or “failing”. The number of schools closing each year is growing. While there are various reasons for these closures, the fact of the matter is, many aren’t performing as they should.
We know our education system is failing, so how do we fix it? Well, philanthropists, researchers, education reformers, and government officials are all looking for the silver bullet that is going to improve the lives of millions of children. The problem is, they assume that with the silver bullet, they’ll be able to fix the problem overnight. We know there’s no silver bullet. In fact, we’ve previewed a few solutions on our blog in the last month.
You may be thinking “Rome wasn’t built in a day” but, I don’t blame those stakeholders for the haste. Every year we don’t improve our education system, kids suffer the consequences by attending subpar schools. Unfortunately, while this kind of urgency will turn positive intention into short-term impact, I believe it will also lead to mid-term destruction or long-term obsolescence.
So, why will change take so long? Here’s our take:
1- Teacher Training Programs Can’t Keep Up With The Growing Population
Between 1950 and 2010, the population in the United States doubled in size from 150 million people to 300 million people. With this growth in mind, our school system and teachers are responsible for the support of more than 50 million children every year. Worse yet, this number continues to increase.
But, this isn’t the biggest problem. Aside from the fact that new children enter the US public education system each year, teachers aren’t given the tools and training to keep up with this growing demand. In fact, more than 50% of teachers who left teaching reported that their workload was more manageable in their current position than in teaching.
The problem doesn’t stem from a lack of certifications and degrees. In fact, there are more degrees today than ever before. Unfortunately, while many teachers have bachelor’s and master’s degrees, only a small minority have one in an academic field. The biggest challenge we face is that, in a time where children are expected to meet higher standards in math and English among other subjects, there is a mismatch between teachers’ academic preparation and the ever-growing demands of the classroom.
2- The Problem Isn’t Exactly The Same Everywhere, Meaning Frequent Adaptations Are Necessary
A question that many ask today is: with so many evidenced-based programs and solutions, how have we not managed to fix our public education system problem yet? There are too many variations for these solutions and programs to work without having to consistently make adaptations. In simple terms, there is no “one size fits all” solution to the problem.
The root of the problem is not incompetent design and innovations. Rather, a twofold challenge of scale and complexity. Before implementing a solution or program into an institution, we first have to consider geographic location, economic index, and demographics, among many other factors. And, with more than 50 million children, all with different backgrounds to consider, what works for one student could not be a solution for another.
While many are quick to say that our public education system is the same as it was 50 years ago, others would say that the system is slowly improving. There is no doubt that today’s schools aren’t perfect. Because of the scale and complexity of our system, it will take a long time to tackle every issue that the public education sector faces today.
3- The Stakes Are Too High To Promote Risk-Taking
To make significant changes quickly, entrepreneurs, educators, philanthropists, and the government would have to take risks. While some of these would be for the better, others would be for the worse, putting thousands if not millions of children in jeopardy.
These under 18s are someone’s kids. They are the future of our country and the world we live in. We can’t make big decisions based on only small amounts of research. Also, unlike in other fields, we can’t experiment on mice and other animals to find out the impact of a study.
There is also a time factor to consider. If a child completes 9th-grade with the help of specific teachings, you can’t ask them to retake it in a different way because you believe there is a more effective method they can learn to pass. Aside from being unrealistic and slow, the costs of these methods are high. With this in mind, it’s impossible to find solutions if you move too quickly.
The Key to Reforming America’s Public Education is Patience and Time
Every president, governor, and education reformer wants to revolutionize the public education system. The problem is, they only have a short amount of time to prove that their program or solution works before the next person comes along to try theirs.
The key to reforming America’s public education system is time and patience. Despite the fact that test scores aren’t overwhelmingly impressive and that there are gaps across racial, ethnic, and income groups, these scores are up over the past 40 years. This is thanks to the various programs currently in place that are designed to help children succeed.
At Practice Makes Perfect, we only use curricula and solutions that are tried and tested and have shown positive results in the past. With the help of trained professionals with successful experience implementing new programs into public schools, you can help reform America’s public education system one step at a time.