The American education system is an endeavor dedicated to helping students with varying degrees of strengths and skills across a very large, very diverse nation achieve lifelong success. Consequently, the United States needs a far clearer approach to education versus admonishing one of our great social experiments based on results in other countries. To improve our educational system, we need to first provide direction by establishing uniquely American objectives. The world is forever changing rapidly to the point available knowledge cannot be possibly adsorbed by many of the world’s most productive workers, thus America must become more dynamic by teaching students how to learn instead of specific benchmarks.
To ensure the American education system can create dynamic, life-long learners, a universal measure is required. Unfortunately, standardized tests primarily assess knowledge base with their very static questions versus evaluating concept training. For example, a book can reveal the distance from the Earth and the Sun, but the important science question is what kind of information would allow a student to calculate the answer and the important math query is whether or not the student can formulate a correct answer with that information. Only by evaluating the learning abilities of students in a variety of diverse subject areas can tests reveal students have been educated to learn throughout their lives.
The past does not guarantee the future, so students must learn to invent and innovate in order to compete in a global marketplace. This translates into a need for students to be able to explore areas of study where they have an opportunity to experiment and develop creative thinking. Unfortunately, pursuing counterproductive efforts, which narrow the spread of available classes and the focus of those classes to the severely limited assessment parameters of current standardized tests, appears to be the current trend in formal schooling. The maths, sciences, languages, and arts need to go beyond traditional curricula and classroom settings to encourage students to explore their world.
As a result, teaching tools need to support a more dynamic learning environment. While utilization of the internet allows teachers to take advantage of far more tools, items like textbooks and workbooks need to move away from a model where authors layout lessons to one where they support teachers and their lesson plans by providing relevant information and problem sets based on national expectations. In turn, teachers must have training and the authority to act as independent professionals able to engineer their own curriculum.
Furthermore, attracting good teachers into subject areas requires individuals with degrees in specialized fields versus just those with teaching degrees. Only by reforming teacher certification to favor individuals with specialized professional degrees and broader experiences while creating greater accessibility for all teachers can schools get the teachers they need to build better curricula. Of course, specialized and quality teachers also deserve and are motivated by incentives. By working with teacher unions to develop rewards, schools can work toward encouraging quality education and improve those teachers who are not up to par.
Of course, teachers must also be able to rely upon each other. Districts can help improve teacher and student performance by facilitating cooperation among all teachers to share successful approaches and provide support for fellow teachers. Meanwhile, parents must be involved, thus schools need to do a better job of integrating themselves into their communities. When schools cut funding for extracurricular learning and nonclassroom learning, such as field trips, they narrow the learning spectrum of students as well as isolate educators from their community.
The objective of school is to provide students with the highest quality, greatest number of tools for success in life. If teachers could focus on tools like knowledge retention skills, conflict resolution techniques, languages, statistical training, and problem solving skills when students are younger versus more traditional activities, students would be better prepared for far more focused learning in middle school and high school as well as college. Trying to remember information, for example, is time consuming and makes learning inefficient, thus improving recollection will drastically advance schooling. With a broad range of learning skills, students could then focus on learning in specific subject areas and investigating complicated, unanswered questions.
Moreover, teachers need to be empowered, so they can help their students get the tools these young individuals need to become truly successful lifelong learners. Furthermore, once our objectives as a Country are clear, adequate funding is needed to give teachers necessary resources. The most effective way of educating children for their future is to teach them how to learn now and in the future. This has to be the goal of the American education system, so all students can utilize their own strengths with the learning tools quality teachers would be able to provide them.