It is no secret that the education system, especially in the USA, is broken and neglected.
Kids are held to one standard of greatness while coming from uneven backgrounds. Standardized tests crush students' hopes and dreams and make them believe they are less-than on a daily basis.
Teachers aren't even required to care about teaching to teach. Schools are understaffed, under-funded, and sad.
Here were some of those answers.
Failure Is An Important Tool
Students should be allowed to fail.
Absolutely. You can't learn from your mistakes if they're never seen as mistakes.
Destroying Good Teachers
My mom is a high school teacher in the US. The biggest problem (at least in her school district) is the administration not focusing on the students, and pushing for making the district look good. So to answer the question: I would add more checks and balances to the district administration to force them to do what is best for the students.
A few years back, the board in my mom's district decreased teacher funding, but the superintendent's salary got a big boost which put him over $200k.
Half the actual course material has to be tossed so half the year can be used to teach students how to pass the standardized tests.
The past few years they have been having an issue with the administration forcing the teachers to pass the students to make the district numbers better. I'm not talking about bumping up a 60 to a 70, I'm talking about passing students who have not turned in a single assignment the entire year and turn in all their tests blank.
The current Corona rules for remote schooling are as follows: If they made contact with the teacher at some point, minimum grade of 70. Take the best score out of the 2 halves of the year (students use this to do no work in the second semester since they passed the first semester).
Every year has been getting worse according to her. More and more high school seniors can't do basic multiplication. More students getting aggressive and yelling at teachers mid class and not being held responsible. I should mention, this is not a low income town, it is full of middle and upper middle families.
My mom loves teaching, she has been doing it for over 30 years. But it has gotten to the point where she just wants to retire asap so she can escape the drama.
Rights Out The Window
I'm only a substitute teacher, so I'm not sure if my opinion is relevant, but here it is:
For classes that have special education students in them for mainstreaming, I'd make it mandatory that a para-educational professional (aide) be assigned to that student, and the teacher should receive an extra stipend for each of those students that they have in the class. Because while it can be rewarding to teach such students, it is a lot of extra work, and should be compensated.
I'd also consider more intervention for kids who act up in class. I'm referring to kids who actively don't want to learn, and are disrupting class by choice on a continual basis -- I'm NOT referring to kids that have an IEP or disability that gives them a logical reason for behavior issues. If there are kids who have disengaged, we need to find out why. If they have a destructive home life, maybe the school can initiate some community outreach from social services. But if the kids are doing it just to amuse themselves, they should be pulled out of class, and if it's a chronic problem, maybe homeschooled or something -- because they are violating the right to an education of the other 29 students in that class. Just my opinion.
Side note: I've subbed for over a dozen different elementary schools, and I've noticed that the schools that have very active principals tend to have fewer behavior problems.
Higher Ed Is A Business
College professor here: I don't think people realize how bad the adjunct system is in higher education. In fact, I don't think most people even know what an adjunct is. Long-ish post below for those who want details but the TL;DR is that most college classes now are being taught by overworked, underpaid part-timers while full time faculty are slowly getting squeezed out of the system and this represents a severe threat to everything higher ed is supposed to stand for:
For a whole host of complicated reasons, full-time faculty can't teach every single class that's needed in a given department, so some part-timers are necessary to fill in for extra classes or to teach highly specialized courses that may only be offered once a semester. These part-timers are called adjuncts. In a healthy academic environment adjuncts only make up a small portion of the college faculty (say 25-30%) and are often either professionals in the field teaching college as a side-gig, retirees looking to keep themselves busy or something along those lines, and they are well compensated for their work.
Outside The USA
UK, inner-city London school, deprived area. My views are:
Staff aren't treated as professionals or trusted to do their job. Curriculums are too rigid. Schools are engineered towards exams rather than encouraging genuine passion for education and building robust social skills.
Teachers are held to account for poor exam outcomes, which defies ALL logic. Too many holes to jump through and excessive marking for staff with lack of planning time, so lesson quality is often poorer than staff aspire for. Too many useless and overpaid middle-managers and senior leaders who justify their existence by creating more work for everyone else. Academisation needs to be absolutely obliterated (we are in the 3rd poorest borough of the country where over half of all kids live in poverty and our Academy Trust CEO somehow justified taking home a quarter of a million pounds in his pay packet every year purely because Academies can determine their own pay structure to some extent. Literally "taking food from the mouths of babes").
Teaching Assistants are underpaid and undervalued but essential for large classes with students who have complex needs. Class sizes are too large so children get neglected. Schools are becoming miniature welfare states responsible for teaching, child protection and social services, feeding, toilet training, policing and parenting kids and not enough responsibility is being pushed back onto parents or kids themselves (especially teenagers.)
I can probably think of more... but I will stop there.
As I understand it, schools are funded based on property taxes of the town/area/neighborhood they're in. This leads to poor areas having underfunded schools. Maybe they should be pooled at the state or federal level and then divided among schools on the basis of number of students enrolled or something along those lines. Every child in the country should have access to the same teaching resources as every other child.
I realize throwing money at the problem isn't going to fix all the problems, but it seems like the best place to start.
It's All Practical Applications
People working for the state and national level education agencies (ie TEA, Department of Education) should be required a few times a month to go work in schools. Not just the high income private type schools, but also the Title 1 schools. It would also be reasonable for them to visit different school districts, again to get a fair picture of what is going on.
Over and over again you have people making decisions for schools they don't understand. They say things make sense on paper, but they don't see the impact it has in a classroom setting. I think that having them visit or better yet teach lessons to these kids will help keep them connected to what is truly going on.
Dick And Jane Are Bored
In English, a reform of the English spelling system would be most impactful. It would shave 2 or 3 years of "literacy" (decoding) "learning" (memorizing disguised as useless and boring games, useless and boring songs, useless and boring activities or Dick-and-Jane reading). In lieu, more crucial subjects (ethics, finance, relationships,...) could be learned and could be learned independently (since learners would be able to read anything that they like). Imagine the increase in motivation and interest. I doubt any educational reform could have more of an impact on so many learners (native or not) and especially on the lower socio-economic groups. Prove me wrong.
Socialize The System
The US does not have a system of schools. We have a multitude of systems. Some of them are even pretty good! On international standardized tests, however, all of these different systems average out to a middling result. I think these two points are fairly achievable and would help most, if not all school systems.
- Even out the wildly divergent levels of local school funding. Ideally by bringing underfunded schools up.
- Shorten the amount of time teachers spend with students. Teachers spend 6 to 7 hours a day with students. That leaves a pretty small slice of time (always at the end of the day when you are exhausted) to grade, write lesson plans, contact parents, receive training, or even just stop to reflect about what went well or badly. That all combines to cause burnout, poor performance, and an inability to improve your craft.
Ultimately though, I don't think US schools will show major improvements until a robust social safety net is in place.
Stinky Socks Is MY President
So much. For one thing, I would prioritize education over sports. Even now, I'm still salty over the fact that my senior year in high school, they cut electives and got rid of those teachers so they revamp the sports teams. Also, if you've never taught in a classroom, you are unqualified to make decisions regarding educational policies. Looking at you, admins. And lastly, no more catering to parents. Your kid doesn't do the work, too bad. They fail. And no, "stinky socks" was not the first president of the US. You are so not getting credit for that.
How We Fund Schools
Allowing students to fail and retake things. I think its important for kids to learn from their mistakes and then apply their new learning to the same task. Thats how it works in real life.
We learn a lot more from failure then we do with successes.
I also think that funding shouldn't be based off of the average family income in the area. This puts kids in low income housing at a HUGE disadvantage when in reality, they probably need the funding the most.
It's Called RACISM Kids
All teachers should have mandatory ESL and/or diversity education courses. I'm an ESL teacher (and black) and I can't tell you how many times I've had to coach a teacher through making content accessible for her one or two English language learning kiddos, or that their focus on the two black girls in the class who spend all recess teasing each other are not bullying/being aggressive.
The stereotypes that come out of even well meaning teachers is difficult to deal with. Like when a black student enrolls and the teacher finds out just mom is in the picture. "Oh, that poor soul, no dad. Again." Um no, you have never met this kid please stop. Or assuming all immigrant students and families from Asian backgrounds are easier to deal with than immigrant students and families from Latinx or African backgrounds. I taught in a city with a high Somali population and heard teachers talk about teaching at Somali charter schools and how those Somali boys are just so aggressive and they fight all the time and are so violent. Guess which kids got the cops called on them by teachers/admin the most, or were labeled as ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) or EBD (emotional behavior disorder). Special education labeling is highly racialized.
Educated people are not always very educated.
It Should Not Just Be Its Own Reward
Was a teacher for 7 years. Pay teachers more, and trust them with freedom. That's all. So many great teachers left because they couldn't afford it, and so much testing and accountability slows the good ones down.
It's not a prestigious position so there isn't competition for it.
You end up with only people who really wanted to teach and have a passion for it (awesome) and people who couldn't make it in their field (not awesome).
Our society doesn't value teachers like they should, and a lot of that issue would be fixed by paying them more (some kids respect people just for making money, the profession would attract better people and that would increase respect as well).
Also more freedom. Having so many restrictions and so much testing might be good for worse performing teacher but it is bad for strong teachers.
My last years was my first making more than the average McDonald's manager in my state, and it was close. We were planning on a third kid, I had lost my passion, and I was tired of not feeling valued by the system, respected, and safe. Now I build websites for double the pay.
Too Many Hoops To Jump Through
Quit with the endless paperwork. I spend more time on proving what I've done than the actual teaching itself. Endless goalposts shifting and duplication of paperwork (too many managers who need to justify their jobs/creating more shit to do). I just want to teach English to people who struggle.
Also, in the area I work in, the requirements of professional memberships etc can really add up. What for? So I'm a member? What does that do to help me in the classroom? Obviously I can claim them back against my tax, but it's the time and effort to jump through all the necessary hoops drives me insane.
Don't even talk to me about GDPR training, H&S training (and all the others) that need doing for EACH provision I work for. Updated every year. There is always something I need training on - that doesn't improve my CPD/overall knowledge, but just wears me down and bores me to death. Rant over.
Not a teacher but I'm training to be a teacher and I would eliminate all those standardized tests and replace them with tests that are like the ones done in the classroom already and are once a month this would eliminate so much stress for not only the children but, also the teachers.
Ten Steps Back
You would stay with one teacher for each tier of schooling.
One of the biggest issues is, every class might as well be a fresh start. You have a curriculum, sure, but every year is a gamble of how much foundation the previous class actually got and how much of the year will be review of things they should already know.
You could get so much more done if teaching a class was a continuous process with a consistent source of information rather than rolling the dice on who had Ms. Lewis or Mrs. Guerrero last year.