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Kulinski1 Andrew Kulinski Eng.

112 23rd April 2013 Megan Keaton

The Critical Issue in Education The American education system has been in a dire state for quite some time now. During recent times, other countries continuously developed and innovated their education systems. Americas education system failed to keep up with the standard. Based on math and reading skills, American education is ranked seventeenth worldwide (Emmeline). Having a failing education system is a bad sign for a countrys future. The future workforce needs to have a quality education to create a powerful economy. An educated population leads to great advances in civilization itself. Americas very form of government relies on informed citizens making enlightened civic decisions. Even after being aware of its short fallings, American education has seen little improvement. The largest attempt to reform education was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. No Child Left Behind fell under heavy scrutiny by the public and failed to make any difference in global competitiveness. Since then, everything under the sun has been blamed for the failing education system. Teachers, students, economic hardships, and even society itself have all been accused of hurting education. One goal or aspiration needs to be formed to fix this flawed system. This one central focus needs to be on the biggest aspect to the education process. The teaching profession has been holding back education with a lack of accountability, lack in quality training, and unfair benefits. Considering that teachers play the biggest role in education, at least some attention is to be given to them. A big problem is that the quality of teachers needed is few and far between.

Kulinski2 This is because the education requirements to become a teacher are much lower compared to other countries. The entry requirement for permanent employment as a teacher in all Finnish basic and high schools today is a masters degree (Sahlberg). Private and charter schools attract the best teachers out of college because of better benefits and pay. Regular public schools get the graduates who did not get hired by a private school. Inner city schools, that need quality teachers the most, hardly ever get the teachers they need. One of the most critical problems with teachers is that there is lack of accountability. The reason teachers should be accountable for their students academic success is because it is their job to educate. There needs to be a way to determine if a teacher is doing their job right. That should be determined by the performance of the teachers students. Teacher accountability is central to fixing the education system. A reason why there is no accountability among teachers is that there is no competition among schools. Yes there are private schools that compete with public education, but the vast majority attend public school. Education is basically a government run monopoly. It does not matter if a school has poor teachers; those students have nowhere else to go. Another major reason why teachers are not accountable is that there is no precise way to measure a students performance. The annual standardized tests created by the No Child Left Behind Act attempted to solve this problem. Those tests were ineffective because they hardly evaluated any real academic skills. The tests usually include simple multiple choice questions that tests students on their ability to regurgitate information. Another surprising issue has occurred in teaching. Ridiculous amounts benefits and pensions have been given to teachers who simply do not deserve them. Benefits such as a major pay raise for merely teaching for a certain amount of time regardless of how well the teacher does his or her job. The amount of benefits varies from region to region across the country.

Kulinski3 Tenure is another benefit that has been abused in education. In most states, tenure laws exist with the purpose of preventing teachers from being wrongfully terminated. A noble cause, but in reality these laws make nearly impossible to fire a teacher under any circumstance. In New York City, where these laws are strongest, there have been cases where teachers who have accused of sexual misconduct and could not be terminated. All of these benefits and tenure laws have been supported and even enforced by the teachers union. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association together have 4.7 million members. All of these members pay hundreds of millions of dollars in national, state, and local dues, much of which is funneled to political causes (Klein). Almost any attempt to weaken tenure laws or change teaching benefits has been fought by the teachers union. According to a Department of Education internal analysis, the average NYC teacher works fewer than seven hours a day for 185 days and costs the city $110,000$71,000 in salary, $23,000 in pensions, and $16,000 in health and other benefits (Klein). Reforming the teaching position is not the only solution to the education system, but it is a critical one. Requiring more education to become a teacher would be very beneficial to education. A teacher is a very important job in society. This importance would be better demonstrated if more was required to become a teacher. Teachers would be viewed closer with doctors and lawyers. Finland improved its education system immensely by simply making a teaching degree harder to obtain. Requiring more to be a teacher would prevent people who are not meant to teach from gaining a degree and start teaching. Right now someone can easily gain a teaching degree in college along with another major. Someone can spend the majority of their life in one profession not relating to education and become a teacher because they picked some

Kulinski4 extra credits in college. The best benefit, not to mention, would be that teachers come out of college much more prepared than in the past. Increasing accountability among teachers would also create many benefits in education. With the use of a standardized test, data on how students are performing can be created. Teachers who are truly talented at what they do will be rewarded and recognized. Ineffective teachers who prevent students from reaching their potential can receive better support or in severe cases be terminated. Students can also realize their true academic ability. Having reliable information will make education more efficient by having accurate information. Reforming teaching salaries and benefits will make teaching a more rewarding profession. Rather than basing salaries on seniority, where teachers can receive higher pay by doing nothing, salaries would be based on performance. Pay based on performance will give an extra incentive for teachers perform better. There is more than just one problem in education. Not just teaching has been holding education back. Other problems such as funding and standardized tests have all undeniably effected education. Isolating one problem in education is unrealistic. Standardized tests were made mandatory for each state after the No Child Left Behind Act. This was an act created by the federal government and was even fought by the teachers union (Schabner). No child left behind was a piece of legislature created solely by the government, not teachers. The standardized tests created by No Child Left Behind have caused serious problems. The tests were designed to be a way to measure students academic performance. Drastic consequences were given to schools that performed poorly on these tests. These consequences can be so severe that schools can lose federal funding. Since so much emphasis has been put on these tests by school systems, curriculum revolves around memorizing specific mundane material. A high

Kulinski5 school teacher in southern California claims in his article that Since so much emphasis is placed on standardized tests, for teachers and students alike, a good portion of the school year is dedicated to it. This means that instead of using innovative, creative, fun, energetic means of educating students, teachers are compelled to teach to the test(Keener). The standardized tests required by the state and federal government have put teachers in a bad position. The problem lies less in teachers but more in the implementation of No Child Left Behind. Funding lost due to the recession is a problem that has nothing to do with teachers. Economic hard times result in cut backs in funding. This results in teacher layoffs which then leads to large class sizes. Large class sizes, along with harsh conditions such as poor maintenance have affected the quality of education. Standard after school programs like tutoring have been cut in schools across America (Texas). Charlottes own local school system has experienced its own cut backs also. Layoffs and school closing became so common that the superintendent resigned, leaving the school system without a leader (Helms). No amount of teacher education or accountability can change this problem. Lost funding is caused by a weak economy. Blaming teachers for problems caused by no funding does not solve anything. Other factors are effecting education other than teaching. Yet the countries that are surpassing America in education are facing the same problems. The entire world is in a recession, more so in some areas. Yet, these countries still have funding adequate enough to create better educated students. Countries like China rely heavily on standardized tests and still excel in academics (Liepmann). There are always going to be problems in education, finding a solution that works is the question. The countries that have implanted solutions involving teachers have seen the biggest success. A 2001 study wanted to answer one question about education. Which policies and institutions are most conducive to student

Kulinski6 performance?(Woessmann).According to the results of this study If schools and teachers can use their intimate knowledge of their students to choose the best teaching method, then they can teach more effectively. But if they can use their influence, whether acting collectively or individually, to reduce their workload, then students learning opportunities will suffer(Woessmann).

Works Cited Klein, Joel. "The Failure of American Schools." The Atlantic. N.p., June 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2013. <>. Keener, Danny. "Why the Current Education System Is Failing Future Generations: A Note From a Teacher." PolicyMic. N.p., Feb. 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2013. Zhao, Emmeline. "Best Education In The World: Finland, South Korea Top Country Rankings, U.S. Rated Average." The Huffington Post., 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2013. <>. Helms, Ann. "4 CMS Board Members Commit to Running Again." The Charlotte Observer Apr. 2013: 3B. Print. Sahlberg, Pasi. "The Secret to Finlands Success: Educating Teachers." Stanford

Kulinski7 University, Sept. 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. <>. Texas, Stormi. "Education: Schools Cutting Programs for the Budget | News." Education: Schools Cutting Programs for the Budget | News. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. <>. Liepmann, Erica. "Education In China v. America: The Question Of Standardized Tests." The Huffington Post, 17 Nov. 2010. Web. 08 May 2013. <>. Schabner, Dean. "Teachers Challenge No Child Left Behind." ABC News. ABC News Network, 07 Sept. 0000. Web. 08 May 2013. <>. Woessmann, Ludger. "Education Next." Http:// Education Next, Summer 2001. Web. 08 May 2013. <>.