Elementary, Middle, and High School
As a public school student, high school teacher, and the daughter of a now-retired first-grade teacher, I've had a behind-the-scenes look at the stress teachers deal with. The stereotype of “lazy teachers who get the summer off and are just glorified babysitters” is a lie. It's an insult to me, my mother, and the many thousands of educators who reach into their own wallets and spare time to do the best for their students.
Teachers work hard and do not deserve the extra stress of low pay and poor benefits. Improving the quality of America’s schools starts with making the teaching profession more respectable and enticing. This will attract more new blood and better skills to the field. In short: Teachers deserve a serious raise.
Teachers should not be reaching into their limited personal finances for essential school supplies. This is a work expense, so work should pay for it, just like almost any other job. Schools need enough funding for supplies.
The government wastes money on voucher programs to send some students to private schools. No reliable evidence shows that vouchers accomplish anything to benefit students since private schools have no accountability. By taking away high achievers from public schools, vouchers create the illusion that public schools are always lower quality. I propose spending that money on improving public schools.
As for public charter schools, many provide great services to their communities and student populations who may not be served as well in the main public schools. However, many charter schools take public money and then offer subpar quality education or outright close without notifying students or parents. Therefore, charter schools require much greater oversight.
As a high school teacher, I also propose an overhaul the school curriculum. Most students learn how to write a proof in geometry but never learn basic banking and skills. And last I checked, food is a necessary part of human existence, so why are nutrition/home economics mere electives? Furthermore, civic education is grossly lacking. Many students graduate not knowing how local, state, and federal governments work. Students need more than half of a course of government. To raise healthy, engaged citizens, schools should teach essential real-world skills and knowledge. Higher-level academic skills are great, but students need more everyday skills.
And don't even get me started on Common Core and No Child Left Behind. These are why we need more educators in the government.
The boom in standardized testing really began when I was in school. Even though I personally never had a problem passing them, they were still hellishly stressful. My joints never made cracking sounds until I hunched over my desk for the FCAT in 7th grade. They still crack to this day, even after seeing a chiropractor.
Large private corporations make huge profits from creating these tests and evaluate them based on grossly inconsistent rubrics. For example, graders may be told to see more essays that would earn a 3 according to the rubrics as 2s just so the test can have the corporation's desired results. Essentially, the state and federal governments are wasting gigantic sums of money on corporate profits whiles only hurting students.
Furthermore, these tests cause teachers to teach what is on the test rather than skills that students need outside of the test, lest they lose pay. Measuring teacher pay based on student performance may sound good on paper. However, the algorithms used for this are usually insane, assuming that a new group of students should somehow score higher than the previous year's students, that all students from low-performing to gifted should get similar scores, that students can somehow score higher than the maximum allotted points, and/or that all students have the same cultural background. I recall a story from my mom and a section on a reading test asking students in Florida to read a passage about how much kids like snow. Why should something so asinine determine a teacher's pay?
I would like to see standardized testing, at least in its current form, abolished and the introduction of new standards that measure students based on the skills they need to know, not what some corporation in another state thinks they should know for profit.