Yesterday we took a pretty grim look at the Top 5 Ways Schools are Failing Our Kids. In the end, we concluded those five problems are pretty intuitive, regardless of which side of the political aisle you prefer. So how is it we haven’t solved these problems yet?
1. Money/Power: As ugly as it is to say it, money and power are at the root of why our education system hasn’t been overhauled to better meet student needs. The current system directly benefits special interest groups and bureaucrats. They don’t want to lose money or power by rocking the boat. Student-centered reform would mean moving away from a system that currently revolves around what’s best for them.
2. Politics: Another ugly topic, politics has a way of creeping into society’s most important issues—or, in the case of education, controlling them. Politicians don’t want to lose the support of powerful special interest groups or become unpopular for making hard decisions, even if those decisions would benefit kids. Moreover, because politics can be a polarizing game, instead of bringing people together around the betterment of schools, for decades it’s produced a stalemate in reform.
3. Fear: Schools have been run the same way for a long time. Many people are simply afraid of making changes. Same old, same old is comfortable, and change is not. Unfortunately, the status quo isn’t working. As my colleague Jami Lund has written:
- A quarter of students do not complete high school on time. In some schools and communities, less than half graduate.
- Statewide, one in five tenth grade students is unable to read at the expected level.
- Of the few who attempt community college after high school, 57% need to be re-taught high school skills before the student is ready for college material.
- The number of schools that the state’s own accountability calculation designates as “persistently lowest-achieving” is embarrassingly long. Some schools have been on this list for more than half a decade—half of a student’s entire school career.
It’s time to get over our fear and start to fearlessly innovate.
4. Misinformation: Those who stand to gain from the status quo do a good job instilling fear in the public by spreading misinformation—or partial information—about important education reforms. We’ve seen this over the past decade with press that exaggerates the failings of certain charter schools while overlooking the successes of thousands of others—and the way they help their traditional public school neighbors to improve, too. (Click here for the facts about charter schools.) Similarly, in the past year online learning has been smeared in at least a dozen news stories across the country. In reality, online learning, while not right for every student, is producing great successes for thousands of students who would otherwise be left behind by the system. (Click here for the facts about online learning.)
5. Citizen Disengagement: For the past century parents have sent their kids to school and trusted the system to do a good job educating them. Many take for granted that their kids are getting a good education and are therefore disengaged. If parents and concerned citizens really understood the failure of today’s public education system, a revolution would be underway.
I’ve been a Negative Nancy this week. But don’t worry; it’s not all bad news. Next up: the Top 5 Reasons Digital Learning Can Mean Success for this Generation and the Next.