The quality of education in American high schools is the biggest area that needs improvement in my opinion. In many school districts, curriculum is focused around state testing and much time is spent making sure that the students perform well enough in order to receive federal funding.
In the district that I live in, this kind of test-focused education starts in the third grade and continues throughout high school. Many long-time teachers complain that because of this pressure for students to perform well on tests, education is not what it should be. With school budgets what they are right now in a bad economy, one can understand the need for districts to feel a stiffer competition for available funds. The problem is often that regular subjects are not being explored the way they could be.
Another area that needs improvement is special education. Many students are learning disabled either because of disorders like ADHD or even Autism. Many times, evaluations take several months to complete. Several months that a student is left in classes where they cannot keep up and valuable learning time is wasted. Budget cuts have made it more difficult to do the evaluation process even though by law, a student with a learning disability has the right to the same educational opportunities as other students without disabilities.
As a parent, I have witnessed first-hand how many students are passed through to the next semester or even grade level when they should be kept back. Schools do hold students back a year but it is normally done at the request of a parent. Many students are still being pushed through even though educationally, they are not keeping up with their peers.
Although there are state laws that require seniors to pass a test in order to graduate, a student could pass this test and still be deficient in important subjects such as Math and English.
We have made advances in areas such as making our schools more security aware but sometimes even that is a joke. Other so-called advances like programs to combat bullying have not been effective. Having a hour-long school assembly on why bullying is wrong is not enough. Teachers still look the other way and many are either not trained to recognize the student who may be a target or they are just too busy and overwhelmed to step in.
The political correctness nature of many school districts to maintain a students privacy often fails when it comes to protecting a student who is being bullied. The student who stands up to the bully is often punished the same as the bully. Many teenagers that I have spoken to still feel that “telling” makes being bullied worse. Obviously, the students don’t feel that the bully will be dealt with fairly.
The school’s “job” is to educate our young people and help to prepare them for the future. Whether they choose college, a vocational school or to enter the work force or armed services, they should have an educational background that prepares them for anything. Classes such as computer technology should not be optional but mandatory and start much earlier.
We are in a digital age and that needs to be a bigger part of the high school curriculum that our teenagers receive. More advisers are needed and advisers who are actually trained to focus on the individual student’s strong points and goals are needed.
Maybe high schools need to be re-defined as more than just being grades 9 through 12 and have more of a direct educational purpose. Offering more vocational courses, college-prep courses and courses on how to transition into young adulthood are all educational ideas that some high schools have but not all do.
Lastly, there is always the criticism that what kind of neighborhood the school is located in determines how good of an education the students receive. Education should be the same regardless of the economics of the neighborhood. This is an area where improvements need to be seen.