A few thoughts on education reform:

We can all agree that education reform needs to happen in the United States.  BUT, how do we go about it?

Waiting for Superman is a 2010 documentary about the failures of the American public school system.  I recently watched this film again in my History of Education class taught by Professor Dennis Showalter.  Sure–it is a phenomenal film and makes you think about our education system.  But how do we fix the achievement gap?  Waiting for Superman implies that the “Superman” to help fix our education system is the charter school model.

But wait, are charter schools the answer? At the organization level charter schools sound perfect (in the general sense): principals get to choose ‘right fit’ teachers, teachers have the opportunity to get school-time for class planning, students are immersed in a college preparatory atmosphere, students are motivated to do well, and so forth…

In reality, charter schools are vastly underfunded compared to the traditional public schools (the film dismisses this); the film almost dismisses socio-economic status, we need to think about bettering the home life and life styles of these families in conjunction with bettering the school system; and Diane Ravitch (a well-known education historian) commented that charter schools really aren’t that successful (1 in 5 actually succeed).

Education reform is multi-faceted in its problems and methods to reform. We need to consider ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, and funding. We need to think about how to avoid teacher attrition–statistically, there is a higher turnover rate in charter schools than traditional pubic schools. How are we bettering family life? How are we getting parents involved (especially if some parents may have to work 2 or 3 jobs to maintain a basic lifestyle)?

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article called”U.S. Students Remain Poor at History, Tests Show.”

American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject, according to results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.

While there are problems with the test the students took (National Assessment of Educational Progress), this points at a crisis that charter schools can’t simply solve. What are we to do to promote holistic education reform?

2 thoughts on “A few thoughts on education reform:

  1. Amy '12

    I completely agree that charter schools are not the only answer, and that every school should not be modeled after charter schools, but haven’t they raised questions and challenged peoples’ notions of traditional education? In this way I think they have provided an important step in education reform.

  2. Melissa '12 Post author

    Amy, I completely agree. The spotlight on charter schools have challenged notions on traditional education. My own research this summer is on charter schools, but the more I delve into the literature I find that not all charter schools are equal (some are in urban areas, some are for-profit, some run under different management organizations). I’ll admit that I am pro-charter schools; however, I’m curious how do we make charter schools more effective. One of out five charters schools are considered a success–that’s daunting!

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