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The Fault In Our School Systems

Why recent reforms have been hurting the American school system

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Photo source: washingtonpost.com

Photo source: washingtonpost.com

Photo source: washingtonpost.com

Dana Yu

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Students sit row by row, hunched over tiny plastic desks. The room is pin-drop silent. Occasional paper to pencil scratches break the forced quiet.

“Time’s up.” The students lift up their heads, backs cracking from their strained positions. These students are used to the usual routine from years of preparing for and taking standardized tests.

Year after year, students take countless exams, but are these tests truly beneficial to the overall success of the children? Based on current U.S standings, things are looking bleak for the American education system.

American education systems are not what they used to be. Ever since the elimination of the No Child Left Behind act, the U.S has been going through reforms to better fit the needs of the growing society. The Common Core curriculum has been prevalent in the reforms, but the overuse of standardized testing in the new system has been putting the United States farther and farther behind in national rankings.

Students of the U.S today are enduring Actual Dana 2more and more standardized testing, but the quality of these tests are not appropriately fitting what children really need to learn in order to succeed. Holly Bontkowski, an expert in writing tests  and an award winning teacher, has stated that children’s critical thinking skills have been deteriorating because of
how standardized tests have been written. “…the mistake that America has made in their testing is teaching to the test,” Bontkowski claims. She is trying to tell that teachers are beginning to educate children on how to answer these basic exam questions instead of thinking things through and carefully analyzing them. Educators are building their entire curriculums based off of the questions that will appear on standardized tests, but instead they should be making tests that examine proficiency in learning.

How Are Standardized Tests Written?

Standardized tests are generally formatted with four levels of understanding. Level one is being able to find an answer that can be found directly in the text. This level of questioning requires the least amount of deeper intensity analysis. On the other hand, level four is the highest level of questioning – requiring true investigation and critical contemplation. In standardized testing, the questions asked are primarily level one and two. Therefore, teachers end up only educating students to be able to answer level one and two questions as these are the only types of questions that need to be learned for a higher test score.

Educational Mistakes

Despite the fact that the U.S. spends the most money per student―approximately a whopping $11,841 in 2011―overall test scores are far behind those of countries such as China or Finland. According to a BBC news article written by Sean Coughlan, an award-winning education correspondent for BBC News in London, the United States is in 28th place in the national rankings despite being first economically.

Recently, states have been using several tests to determine growth in a student. Nevertheless many of these tests are not arranged similarly and cannot be compared to one another. As a result of this distinction, both time and money is wasted on writing these tests that do not accurately display any significant data. As noted by Bontkowski, “If you don’t

have tests that work in the same philosophical line…you’re comparing apples to oranges. You end up wasting a lot of time.”

In the same manner, the way that teachers are instructing is not beneficial to students in the long term. Many high school students are not taught how to meet basic needs such as cooking or the arts; instead, they are spending the majority of their time on subjects they might never pursue or apply in the real world. These students are interested in expanding their financial skills, but the opportunity is not there for them. In fact, only 17 states require high school students to take a personal-finance class to graduate, according an annual survey released by the nonprofit Council for Economic Education (CEE).

Can Any of This Be Fixed?

As previously mentioned, there are numerous issues regarding Common Core standards. Fortunately, there are several possible solutions to these concerns, with the first step being to reduce the number of standardized tests. This way, teachers can focus more on having students really analyze rather than simply having them answer basic comprehension questions.

Along with the first step, improving the content within those few standardized tests are essential. Changing questions to level three and four analysis will help children develop their brains and prepare them for the future. Improving curriculum would be beneficial as well. Instead of solely focusing on standardized tests, teachers would be able to create interesting and interactive lessons that would appeal both to the curriculum  as well as the students.

Ultimately, reforms have been difficult after the No Child Left Behind program. The newly established Common Core nation wide curriculum has its many flaws, while maintaining few positive aspects. The overuse of standardized testing restricts and hinders the growth of our young citizens. They are not learning what they truly need to know for a successful life, and they are not learning to develop deep analyses. Nevertheless, there can be improvements that will salvage what has become of the American Education.

 

 

Works cited:

“Education Expenditures by Country.” National Center for Education Statistics. Institute

of Education Sciences, May 2015. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.

Farzan, Antonia. “High Schools Are Finally Beginning to Require Personal Finance

Courses.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 02 May 2015. Web. 11 Oct.

2015.

“Study Reveals How Many Standardized Tests Students Take amid Common Core

Academic Standards.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 26 Oct. 2015. Web. 18 Oct.

 

 

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