There is no doubt in my mind: the American education system is in deep trouble and needs reform. According to a recently published report of the world’s best education systems by the education firm, Pearson, the US ranked 17th of 40 developed countries. Finland and South Korea, leading the study, received high rankings because they “tend to offer teachers higher status in society and have a “culture” of education.”
As a 22-year veteran California teacher, I live this every day. In recent years, I have witnessed the decline in the culture of education in my community as well as nationwide. While some might think funding is the root of all problems, I have some other ideas about how we can start to tackle education reform in America:
- Put students first. We need to start every discussion around the concept of what students need, not what the district needs, the state needs, or the federal government needs. Students are our clientele, and we need to make decisions as if we were creating reform for our own children. Thinking about kids first, and creating reform that is best for educating, nurturing and protecting ALL students is the first step.
- Create opportunities for student engagement. America needs to reform our thinking about the primary purpose of schools: is it to churn out a citizen who is proficient at bubbling in answers on a test, or to develop creative, innovative, collaborative citizens? By prioritizing the arts, humanities, and sciences equally, we allow children opportunities to learn in a variety of disciplines. Honoring student exploration and discovery alongside standards will help develop confident, creative adults who can tackle the global issues facing their generation.
- Invest in teacher training. Like any profession, teachers need relevant, high quality training to move forward. America needs to support teachers by providing professional development as part of a teacher’s contract, with time to implement and refine throughout the school year. Training that is focused on student-centered strategies, led by qualified educators with like-minded goals, will strengthen our workforce and help bring American schools back to the top of the world’s education systems.
So what can we do? Do we sit back and watch our systems disintegrate, watch quality teachers leave the profession, and see our students stifled, bored, and falling behind? I think not. Now is the time to let your voice be heard. Stand up for education reform – our children deserve it.
*image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net