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How to Fix the Public School System:
Model Schools Like the Real World
by Heather inks
Heather Inks
Experienced K6-12th grade educator
in public and non-profit schools and
former TIMs-Technology Integration
Mentor for a very large school district
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It is very simple to fix the public school
system. It involves a lot of change and yet it
would be more cost effective in the short
term and long term for tax payers and the
economy. Some people have a hard time
dealing with change, especially those
people who believe “I had to go through K-
12th grade and dealt with it, why should the
system be changed for the young people of
today?”
However, the young people of today are different than the bulk of the
youth attending public school 50 or 100 years ago when the current
public school system was designed. Our current school system was
designed before household computers, laptops, and the Internet hit the
scene-which changes everything, except our current public schools. The
technology, the economy, the marketplace, and the world is vastly
different than it was 50 or 100 years ago. It really should not be a
surprise that the current system based on times long past is not working
to produce the young people needed for the future. The current school
system is like trying to drive a horse and carriage on a modern highway
from Florida to DC for the honor students and like re-arranging deck
furniture on the Titanic for all the other students. .  

We have more knowledge and technology available at our fingertips than
ever before in history, students can find the truth much faster. Students
lose respect for people who lie to them (this includes the Easter Bunny
and Santa Claus lies) versus their friends who appear not to lie to them
(as they tell them in school that such beings don’t exist). Students don’t
have respect for teachers who cannot explain to them clearly how the
stuff they are teaching is relevant. Maybe students of today have a better
handle on the preciousness of their time and the public school system
is not serving them well because it is broken and was designed for
people of a different era.

Students will not take school seriously until it gets with the program and
is designed more like the real world. How so? Very simple. If you worked
at a job and realized that if you did excellent work, you would only be
given more work to do but no more pay would you bust your butt to finish
your work early? Nope, I don’t think so. If you worked at a job and the
slackers got paid the same and were scheduled to retire at the same
time as those who busted their butts, would you bust your butt to excel
day after day regardless? Doubt it. And would you take your bosses
seriously if they promoted people based on age and minimum
production levels and ignored or failed to advance those who truly did
outperform the rest consistently? Nope, didn‘t think so. And if you did
twice as much work as the employee next to you 10 times better, yet you
both were paid the same and were set to retire at the same year with the
same package, would you be motivated or apathetic? This type of
treatment might even inspire you to quit-it definitely would inspire me to
find another employer.

These seem like stupid questions, honestly, don’t they? Yet, we are
asking our kids to love a public school system that works exactly like
this. And we wonder why the students don’t respect adults anymore?
They don’t respect adults because adults don’t respect them, or their
time, or their dreams, or their interests, or their individuality, or their
intelligence.

The public school system of today is functioning more like a giant public
babysitting service where students socialize and play and fail to learn
how to read and comprehend effectively to succeed when they leave
school to enter the workforce or college. In fact, most students care more
about how they look and who they are friends with-and what their friends
think-then learning. Why? Simple. Because adults aren’t listening to
them and being smart brings no perceived benefit since everyone is
stuck graduating in the same year regardless of ability or knowledge
mastered.

Change the public school system to be more like a well designed
training program at a corporation. Decide what competencies students
should be able to meet to be promoted in each grade level or subject
area. If a student comes into kindergarten reading, writing, and doing
math on a third grade level, put him or her in 3rd grade or Level 3. If a
student can score a 1000 or a 1200 on the SAT-whether 10 years old or
16 years old-let them move on to high levels of math and college.

Instead of school being based on a “time-spent”  system structure like
our prison system, create a system where those students who know
their stuff get promoted out to enter the workforce, become
entrepreneurs, go to college, or discover the cure for cancer. Even in jails
and prisons, inmates who behave and show growth can be released
early. Don’t make all students have the same graduation date based in
“time-spent”  and chronological age rather than competency.  Public
schools feel like a prison that you can’t get out of no matter how smart
you are or how much knowledge you master unless you drop out. And
there is a growing number of honor students who are dropping out of
high school to attend college early. This is a blinking sign that the public
system is broken and needs to be changed.

If the schools changed this single issue, then our nation would see our
young people rise up to meet the challenge as this method has been
tried and proven successful  in special non-profit schools for troubled
youth. The troubled youth-when allowed to graduate when they met the
requirements via testing-all of a sudden lacked their former testing
anxiety, learned their subjects willingly, did their homework, stopped
taking drugs, formed study groups, create a school shop to raise money
for field trips, and graduated early yet they had been formerly told that
graduation would be impossible at a public school because they had
run out of time.

Sometimes we overlook the most simple, cost-effective, and logical
solutions because we are afraid of change and don’t want to believe it
could be so easy if we just let go of tradition. If we-the school system, the
administrators, and the teachers-would be willing to support and make
the changes necessary in our structure and teaching methods to
accommodate modern times and new generations of students, then we
would find that the students will rise up to meet the challenges and
reach their potential, former behavioral problems would diminish
naturally, and it would not feel like “pulling teeth“ to convince students of
the importance of their schooling. “New” ideas and “new” methods of
doing things is not such a bad thing, think about how different life would
be without indoor plumbing, electricity, refrigeration, and motor vehicles.
The public schools and public education systems are protesters -- or
very, very, very slow adopters -- to change.