School of Hard Knocks vs. No Child Left Behind

Education describes a form of learning where knowledge, skills and habits of a group of people are transferred to the next by way of teaching, training, research or self-education or self-directed learning called autodidacticism (autodidactism). The word educations derives from the Latin word educatio or educo meaning “a breading, a bringing up, a rearing” or “I educate, I train.” Another form of education, people regularly refer to as the School of Hard Knocks refers to the education one receives from life usually a negative experience and often different from formal education. The phrase was actually coined by Elbert Hubbard in a Cosmopolitan piece written in 1902. The phrase has seen popular uses in music and movies with notable examples such as the 1977 musical Annie and a popular song by Jay Z in 1998 “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).”

The phrase typically describes someone whose level of wisdom comes from life experiences rather than academic experience but considered equal. Many people will use this response when asked about his or her education especially when they lack extensive formal education but have life experiences that are just as valuable or more practical than formal education. Education plays an important role in everyday life whether formal or informal learning takes place as it teaches us survival skills, team work and how to function in the world we live in. Education is essential in order to advance the world we live in, so why is so little importance given to education and those who carry out the process? It seems because of the devaluation of education that street experience versus formal education has taken the spotlight for many as governments cut spending for education and leaves many child in the wake of  its destruction.

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” –Oscar Wilde

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” –William Butler Yeats

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” Will Durant

Let’s start with the philosophy of education which encompasses both the applied philosophy referring to the academic field which examines the definition, goals and meaning of education and the educational philosophy used to nurture a specific vision or type of education. As an academic field, the philosophy of education refers to “the philosophical study of education and its problems…its central subject matter is education, and its methods are those of philosophy”. The subject not only covers the process of education but the education discipline itself including the aims, forms, methods or results of the process of educating or being educated. Because of the approaches used to study education, education belongs to both the field of education and applied philosophy taking from the fields of  metaphysics, epistemology, axiology and the philosophical approaches (speculative, prescriptive, and/or analytic) to address questions in and about pedagogy, education policy, and curriculum, as well as the process of learning, etc. A good example of this concept can be seen in the study of relationships between upbringing and education in the form of values and norms present in both. There are many approaches to education and the philosophy behind it making it a diverse field and hard to define in one way.

Modern education follows many of the hallmarks of the earlier philosophers. Plato’s educational philosophy followed the ideal Republic where in individuals should be subordinated to a just society advocating removal of children from the mothers’ care and becoming wards of the state. The child would be then assigned to various castes with the highest receiving the most education and in turn protecting the city while caring for the less able. The education would be holistic with facts, skills, physical discipline, music and art leading to a well rounded individual. Plato viewed talent as not genetically predestined therefore can be found in any social class insisting that the suitably gifted will be trained by the state so they may be qualified to take part in the ruling class. This is called selective public education whereby the educated minority of  a population by virtue of their education and inborn educability are sufficient for healthy governance. Plato in his writings discussed the idea of elementary education being confined to the guardian class until the age of 18, then two years of military training and then higher education for those who qualify believing that elementary education made the soul respond to the environment and higher education illuminates the search for truth. Both girls and boys received the same education. Many centuries after Plato’s death, Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel echoed many of Plato’s ideas in their writings, but Immanuel Kant believed that education differed from training as the former requires thinking and the latter does not therefore in addition character development and moral maxims were also important. Kant like Plato was a proponent of public education and learn by doing.

Aristotle had a different take on education according to fragments of his work On Education that still exist and brief passages in other works. Aristotle saw the importance of human nature, habit and reason in the cultivation of education as equal therefore repetition is key to developing good habits. The teacher would lead the students systematically rather than question the listeners to bring out their own ideas as Socrates did so only with adults. Aristotle found it important to balance the theoretical and practical aspects of subjects. Some subjects mentioned in his writings include reading, writing, math, music, physical education, literature, history and science as well as the importance of play. The overall purpose of education in Aristotle’s eyes was to produce good and virtuous citizens for the polis as the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.

Aristotle was not alone in his belief about realism in education and a more practical applications of the learning process. In the 11th century, Ibn Sina wrote about the maktab or elementary school in the medieval Islamic world often connected to a mosque. The Chapter entitled “The Role of the Teacher in Training and Upbringing of Children” acted as a road map to teachers working in these schools saying that children learn better in classes than from a private tutor due to competition and emulation among pupils as well as the usefulness of discussion and debates taking place. Ibn Sina believed children should be taught primary education from the age of 6 to 14 learning the Qur’an, Islamic metaphysics, language, literature, Islamic ethics, and manual skills. Secondary education involved specialization where pupils begin to learn manual skills regardless of social status and given a choice of what subject to specialize in that could be pursued as a future career. This transitional stage needed to be flexibility due to the age of the pupil when they graduate as the emotional development and subject may not reach the desired result at the same time for everyone. The empiricist theory of tabula rasa developed by Ibn Sina argues that the intellect at birth will only reach its full potential with education therefore the only way to gain that knowledge is through learning about the world through experiences and questioning the world we live in. In the 12th century, Ibn Tufail demonstrated this theory as a thought experment in his novel, Hayy ibn Yaqzan,where he depicted the development of a feral child’s mind from a tabula rasa or clean slate to that of an adult in complete isolation from society on a desert island with experience alone. The Latin translation of this novel influenced John Locke’s formulation of tabula rasa in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In his essay, Locke outlines how to education the mind expressing that education makes the man or that the mind is a clean slate with nine tenths of what makes the man being education. What first makes an impression on the mind are the association of ideas one makes when they are young that are most important than those that come later. As Locke explains, for example a maid convinces a child that goblins and sprites are associated with night making the idea to the child scary therefore imprinting that darkness is something to be frightened of leaving the child unable to cope with darkness. The theory lead to a powerful influence on 18th century thought leading many educational writers to warn parent not to make negative associations and led to the development of psychology.

Jean Jacques Rousseau believed that Plato’s theory was impractical due to the decay of society and differed in his theory of human development as Plato held people were born with pre-destined skills but not inherited while Rousseau held that one process was common to all humans. The process, according to Rousseau, was intrinsic and natural as the primary behavioral manifestation was curiosity. This is different from Locke’s tabula rasa in that Rousseau believes that the process is active deriving from the child’s nature driving the child to learn and adapt to its environment. In his book Emile, Rousseau wrote that children are design and ready to learn from their surroundings in order to grow into adults but due to corruption in society have failed to become virtuous adults. Therefore, removal from society and conditioning the child through changes in environment, setting traps and puzzles for him to solve or overcome will allow correct development. HE advocated that adults be truthful with children never hiding the fact that their authority in teaching came from physical coercion or “I’m bigger than you.” At the age of 12 the child should engage as a free individual in the ongoing process of their own without adult interference allowing the child to suffer the consequences of their actions and advise himself in such a way to learn and grow.

“Rousseau divides development into five stages (a book is devoted to each). Education in the first two stages seeks to the senses: only when Émile is about 12 does the tutor begin to work to develop his mind. Later, in Book 5, Rousseau examines the education of Sophie (whom Émile is to marry). Here he sets out what he sees as the essential differences that flow from sex. ‘The man should be strong and active; the woman should be weak and passive’ (Everyman edn: 322). From this difference comes a contrasting education. They are not to be brought up in ignorance and kept to housework: Nature means them to think, to will, to love to cultivate their minds as well as their persons; she puts these weapons in their hands to make up for their lack of strength and to enable them to direct the strength of men. They should learn many things, but only such things as suitable’ (Everyman edn.: 327).” Émile

Modern philosophers of the 19th and 20th century approach the concepts and concerns that encompass the philosophy of education and the education discipline using a more pragmatic approach. John Dewey, in Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education, states education in the broader sense means the social continuation of life given the unavoidable facts of birth and death that each member of a social group must follow therefore making education a necessity for life to go on. Dewey in his time saw the importance of education reform pointing out that authoritarian, strict, per-ordained knowledge approach of modern traditional education was more concerned with delivering the knowledge and not enough with the child’s actual experience. A successor and colleague of Dewey, William Heard Kilpatrick, a US American philosopher and a major figure in the progressive education movement developed the Project Method for early childhood development. This form of education organized curriculum and classroom activity around a subject’s central theme believing that the role of the teacher should be to guide rather than coerce students. Kilpatrick believes that the child should direct their learning according to their interests and explore their environment using natural senses. Therefore, people in favor of this method reject traditional schooling focused on memorization, rote learning, strictly organized classrooms and typical forms of assessment. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian committed to educating the impoverished peasants in his nation and collaborating with them in liberating them from oppression, saw education as “the banking concept of education” where students were empty accounts needing to be filled by teachers. Freire suggests that reciprocity must be present in the teacher and student relationship rather than the teacher student dichotomy making the roles of the participants in the classroom reversed where the teacher learns and the learners teach. Of course critics have claimed that this idea masks rather than overcomes the teacher’s authority. However, many aspects of his philosophy have been influential in debates between participatory development and development generally.

There are many schools of thought about how the education process should unfold in order to benefit the student the most. Perennialists see education as a way to teach the things that will forever be important to all people everywhere and will be the most important topics in the development of the person. Unfortunately, since most details of fact change over time, these are not the most important and principles not facts must be taught. For example, people are humans one should teach about humans first not machines or techniques therefore people are people first workers second leading one to teach liberal topics not vocational topics in order to instill reasoning and wisdom rather than facts first. Educational progressivism looks at education based on the principle of humans as social animals who learn from the activities of others. Progressivists believe children learn as if they were scientists similar to Dewey’s model of learning where 1) They become aware of the problem,2) They define the problem, 3) A hypothesis is proposed, 4) They evaluate the consequences of the hypotheses from one’s past experiences and 5) They test the likeliest solution. Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist, did his epistemological studies with children concluding that child education is important and is capable of saving society from collapse. Jerome Bruner, his book The Process of Education and Toward a Theory of Instruction, argues that any subject can be taught to any child at any stage of development and felt that interest in the material was the best stimulus to learn rather than eternal motivators such as grades. The idea of discovery learning promotes a process of constructing new ideas based on current or past knowledge encouraging students to discover facts and relationships on a continuous basis building on what they know. Educational Essentialism believes that children should learn the traditional subjects thoroughly and rigorously with children learning less complex skills to more complex skills. William Chandler Bagley, an education professor at University of Illinois, saw the value of knowledge for its own benefit, not just as an instrument, criticizing his colleagues for failure to emphasize the systematic learning of academic subjects. Based in Marxist theory, critical pedagogy sees education as a way to help students develop a consciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies and connect knowledge to power and ability to take constructive action drawing on radical democracy, anarchism, feminism and social justice. Waldorf education or Steiner-Waldorf education takes a humanist approach based on Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner who believed learning is interdisciplinary, integrating practical, artistic, and conceptual elements. This relies on imagination in learning developing thinking that includes creative and analytical components. The goal is to provide young people the basis to developed as free, morally responsible and integrated individual with each child fulfilling their destiny. Schools and teachers design and define their curricula within the collegial structure. Democratic schooling is just that where teachers and students   participate freely and equally in school democracy. The decision making is done among student and staff on matters of living, working and learning together. Neill sees the happiness of the child as important in the decision of upbringing and this happiness grows with a sense of personal freedom. By depriving the child of happiness in childhood, Neill believes that the unhappiness experienced in repressed children will express itself in the form of adult psychological disorders.

Unfortunately, the translation of these ideas into practice have been less than stellar as the field of education continues to debate what the best overall approach to education is. The classical education movement calls for a form of education based in Western culture which focuses on education as understood and taught in the Middle Ages. The term has been used in English for centuries and has changed over the centuries in definition and scope. In the 18th century, the defintion embraced the study of literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, history, art, and languages. In the 20th and 21st centuries the term refers to a broad based study of liberal arts and sciences, as opposed to a practical or pre-professional program. As the term infers, this system calls for rigorous and systematic teaching of Grammar, Dialect and Rhetoric. Charlotte Mason a British educator believed that children were born persons and should be respected as such by being taught the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason. According to Mason, children should be introduced to subjects through living books not through abstracts, selection and compendiums. Another school of thought, believed in unschooling where educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through life experiences such as play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interactions rather than traditional school. This method encourages children to lead themselves and adults to facilitate the activities. Unschooling methods try to maximize the education of each child and fill in the gaps believed to exist in traditional schooling. John Holt in his 1964 book, How Children Fail, asserted that the failure of schoolchildren was not despite but because of the schools.

Since 1952 a right to education has been created and recognized by some jurisdictions as laid out by Article 2 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights where all parties who signed guarantee the right to education but not to a particular level or quality, while at the global level the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 guarantees this right under Article 13. Some governments have made it illegal through history to educate a child at home. Various totalitarian regimes for example have mandated indoctrination through propaganda in the Hitler Youth and propaganda in education under various communist regimes. There are three forms of educational learning defined by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): formal education, informal education and non-formal education. Formal education encompasses the institutionalized teaching and learning in relation to a curriculum established for a predetermined purpose according to the schools in the system. The emergence of secondary schools in the United States did not occur til 1910 when a rise in big business and technological advances in factories required skilled workers. In order to meet the demand, high schools created a curriculum focused on practical job skills preparing students for white collar or skilled blue collar work. This proved to be beneficial for both employer and employee as the investment in human capital caused employees to be more efficient and effective at their jobs while lowering the cost for employers therefore higher wages for employees with secondary education. Children with disabilities were often in the past taught bu physicians or special tutors as these children were not eligible for public education. However today, many children with severe disabilities are able to attend school because of early physicians who set the foundation for the individualized instruction and functional skill education available today. As secondary schools of yester year became the traditional high schools of today, vocational schools have replaced the secondary educational system of 1910 where direct and practical training in a specific trade or craft takes place. Higher education or tertiary is non-compulsory education that follows secondary school or high school. In most developed countries up to 50%  of the population now enter higher education at some time in their lives making it important to national economy both in its own right and as a source of trained and educated personnel for the rest of the economy.

High rates of education have become essential for countries to be able to achieve high levels of economic growth. However empirical analysis tends to supports the prediction that poor countries should grow faster than rich countries due to the adoption of cutting edge technology already tried and tested in rich countries. Unfortunately, this transfer of technology requires know how by managers and engineers who are able to operating machines or production practices borrowed from the leader in order to close the gap through imitation. Therefore, a countries ability to learn from the leader is a function of its stock of “human capital.” Universal Primary Education is one of eight international Millennium Development Goals making progress in the last decade though obstacles remain including securing charitable funding, conflicting donor priorities, immature aid architecture, lack of evidence or advocacy for the issue, corruption in the education sector especially in Africa, demand is not as high in developing countries, indigenous government reluctant to take on recurring costs and economic pressure from parents for children to work rather than go to school. Education as it becomes increasingly international has led to the spread of mass schooling where everyone has a right to be educated regardless of his or her cultural background and gender differences. The system also promotes the global rules and norms of how schools should operate and what education is. Even with variations in the local, regional and country level, the similarities shared by schools enable the exchange among students at all level increasing the globalization process.

According to the global report done by the Pearson firm, the United States places 17th in the developed world for education, while Finland and South Korean top the list of 40 developed countries with the best education system. The rankings according to Huff Post are calculated based on various measures such as international test scores, graduation rates between 2006 and 2010 and prevalence of higher education seekers. Pearson’s chief education adviser Sir Michael Barber tells BBC the highest ranking countries tend to offer teachers higher status in society and have  a culture of education. As funding is always crucial, the study does note that cultural support of learning is even more important as evidenced by high ranking Asian countries where education is highly valued and expectations are high. Finland and South Korea, although they differ in method, hold the top spots because of a shared social belief that education is important with an “underlying social moral purpose.” The purpose of the study is to help policymakers and school leaders to identify key factor that lead to educational success. The research utilizes data and figures from government spending, school entrance age, teacher salaries and degree of school choice as well as measured socioeconomic outcomes like national unemployment rates, GDP, life expectancy and prison population. The study also highlights the importance of high quality teachers and improving educator recruitment. According to Huff Post, these are the finding from the report:

There are no magic bullets: The small number of correlations found in the study shows the poverty of simplistic solutions. Throwing money at education by itself rarely produces results, and individual changes to education systems, however sensible, rarely do much on their own. Education requires long-term, coherent and focussed system-wide attention to achieve improvement.

Respect teachers: Good teachers are essential to high-quality education. Finding and retaining them is not necessarily a question of high pay. Instead, teachers need to be treated as the valuable professionals they are, not as technicians in a huge, educational machine.

Culture can be changed: The cultural assumptions and values surrounding an education system do more to support or undermine it than the system can do on its own. Using the positive elements of this culture and, where necessary, seeking to change the negative ones, are important to promoting successful outcomes.

Parents are neither impediments to nor saviours of education: Parents want their children to have a good education; pressure from them for change should not be seen as a sign of hostility but as an indication of something possibly amiss in provision. On the other hand, parental input and choice do not constitute a panacea. Education systems should strive to keep parents informed and work with them.

Educate for the future, not just the present: Many of today’s job titles, and the skills needed to fill them, simply did not exist 20 years ago. Education systems need to consider what skills today’s students will need in future and teach accordingly.

The ranking, according to Huff Post is not a surprise, as the gains made by U.S. students in recent years are nothing to write home about. A report published by Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance found Latvia, Chile and Brazil making academic gains three times that of the U.S., while Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia and Lithuania have improved twice the rate. Between these 11 countries, researchers estimate the gain to equate to two years of learning. Although the U.S. did not lose academic during the 14 year study from 1995 to 2009, the U.S. has not made the gains or improvements that other countries have made. The study only confirms that foreign students have surpassed their American peers academically. A 2009 study found American students ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science behind China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Finland.  Groups like Students First headed by Michelle Rhee, former D.C. school chancellor, have raised concerned calling for reform to the education that can’t compete. Many experts have said the low performance and slow progress seen in math could threaten the country’s economic growth.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was enacted by Congress in the United States with bipartisan support reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act including Title I becoming a federal aid program for disadvantage students. The act supports standard based education reform by setting high standards and establishing measurable goals to improve the individual outcome in education. The Act does require each state to develop assessments in basic skills to all students at a select grade level in order to receive federal school funding, however it does not assert a national achievement standard as standards are set by each state. NCLB has expanded the power of the federal government in public education through annual testing, academic progress, report cards, teacher qualifications and funding changes. Critics of NCLB often focus their attention on standardized testing as a means for teachers to narrow the subset of skills needs to increase test performance rather than focus on acquiring a deep understanding of the full, broad curriculum referred to as “teaching to the test.”  The adminstration  of the tests have been inconsistent and poorly planned even violating the  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which states schools must accommodate disabled students. For example, scores were once invalidated due to a group of blind students because testing protocol did not specify that the teacher or aides could read the questions to the students  as it is normally acceptable in this situation. In any case NCLB overrides IDEA where they differ as it was passed after. Some also argue that the testing negatively impacts non English language immersion schools particularly Native American languages which are endangered and in critical need of new speakers. Native student who learn their native language have lower rates of dropout and higher achievement than those who learn English yet NCLB requires young students to take the test in English disrupting the learning in these schools.

The incentives for improvement under NCLB has caused many states to lower their standards to achieve academic proficiency. Since each state produces its own tests, a state can make the statewide test easier to increase scores such as Missouri who openly admitted that they lowered their standards to improve their testing scores. In a 2007 study by the U.S. Department of Education, the differences in states’ reported scores was due to differences in the stringency of their standards. Many argue that local governments have failed their students making it a necessity for federal intervention to remedy the issues like teachers teaching outside their area and complacency in the face of continually failing schools. NCLB focuses mainly on reading, writing and mathematics which all relate to economic success. Combine with the late 2000s recession, some schools have cut or eliminated class and resources for subject areas not part of the NCLB standard reducing these non-essential programs by 71% since 2007 in order to give more time to math and English. Physical education is not covered in the NCLB Act, however due to the First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Campaign” and the growing obesity crisis, NCLB has actually imporved the quality and quantity of phyiscal education. According to research, 2005 study at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, fitness is globally related to academic achievement. The opportunities, challenges and risks for science education posed by No Child Left Behind insist that improving science education world wide should be a priority as the focus has remain mostly on math and language arts limiting a child’s opportunity to experience, learn and do more. In 2012, President Obama granted waivers from NCLB requirements to several states with 8 out of the 32 waivers granted being conditional as their programs are under review. “In exchange for that flexibility, those states ‘have agreed to raise standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness,’ the White House said in a statement.”

According to Diane Ravitch, No Child Left Behind and the Damage Done, after ten years of NCLB little progress has been made in the way of education reform. She believes that sharp reductions in the achievement gap should of been seen between racial and ethnic groups and chidren from different income groups, but we have not. As she brilliantly put it, “They are the same children who were left behind 10 years ago” and NCLB has “become the Death Star of American education” inflicting damage on students, teachers, schools and communities. Ravitch has seen and heard her share of teachers and parents across the United States fed up with the unfair nature of the Act causing many schools to close because of low performance according to unrealistic standards and now with the Obama administration backing this wrecking ball many are now looking to privatization and community fragmentation. In 2011, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan siad 82 percent of our nation’s schools would fail to make adequate yearly progress and according to Ravitch in 2012 the Center for Education Policy reported that the secretary overstated as only half of the nations schools failed this year. Ravitch fears that the law if continued will cause every public school in the United States to fall under the label of failing school by 2014. According to a CEP study, Massachusetts, the nation’s highest-performing state by far on NAEP, had 81 percent of the schools failing to make AYP. But in lower-performing Louisiana, only 22 percent of the schools did not make AYP. Comparing the same two states on NAEP, 51 percent of 4th graders in Massachusetts are rated proficient, compared with 23 percent in Louisiana. In 8th grade, again, twice as many students in Massachusetts are proficient compared with Louisiana, yet Massachusetts has nearly four times as many allegedly “failing” schools! The top rated high school in Illinois failed to make the AYP with its special education students not making enough progress. Finally a report published by FairTest, The Lost Decade, showed that the progress on NAEP was far more significant before the NCLB Act.

David Cohen, John Dewey Collegiate Professor of Education and professor of public policy at University of Michigan, believes the problems lies in the education infrastructure. In his book, Teaching and Its Predicaments, Cohen argues that fragmented school governance and a lack of coherent infrastructure have made it difficult to improve teaching and learning as well as equip those involved with valid knowledge of improvements. Referring to infrastructure, social systems can also have an underlying foundation or framework as in traditional infrastructures. Traditional school systems around the world include the following in their infrastructure: student curricula or framework, exams to access learning of curricula, instruction to teach the curriculum and teacher education aimed at teaching teachers how to teach. The United States however do not have a unifying infrastructure due to fragmented government i.e. local control and traditions of weak state guidance on curriculum and teacher education. Programs like IMPACT do not focus on efforts to reform teacher performance and accountability but rather assumes the weak individual teachers are the problem. The problem is not the few bad apples, but the non system offering no guidance or support for strong teaching and learning because of no infrastructure. The weakness is systemic not individual. Even with the support of President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan as well as business, state legislators and several large foundations, programs like IMPACT according to Cohen cannot improve the systemic problem.

The lack of infrastructure has extensively damaged high poverty schools where teacher accountability seems to be highest. The accountability policies of these sort of programs has made it so states are gaming the systems by setting the bar low or by districts and school personnel cheating. The positive side to these efforts is the public attention given to the long running education problem causing much private and public work to be done as well as drawn attention to the inequality in public education. However little support has been given to the infrastructure which could provide quality instruction needed by students. A coherent educational infrastructure teaching common curricula would allow for equal chances to teach and learn so valid judgement could be made about the quality of teaching and learning and how to improve the process. The common curricula would allow students a more equal chance of being tested on what they were suppose to have been taught. The lack of these resources has caused major problems in building shared occupational knowledge and skills making it difficult to evaluate students’ work with no common vocabulary to identify, investigate, discuss and solve problems according to Cohen.

On the flip side of this argument, students dropping out school is a sign of the failing educational system. According to Kate Convissor, teens drop out for many reasons, but the decision is not instantaneous rather gradual. Kids drop out of school following a long process of disengagement and academic struggle such as bordem or frustration with classes they don’t relate to, falling behind with no hope to catch up, and some teens report that no one cared about their school experience feeling pushed out by staff who see them as difficult or dangerous. What is known is the fact that kids who don’t finish school do poorly in life without a high school diploma making it hard to find a job and earning less when they do. The problems continue as non-high school graduate will likely have poor health, live in poverty and have a child at an early age. Nationally, seventy percent of inmates in prison didn’t graduate from high school. According to Convissor, below are the six factors that may cause a child to drop out:

Academic difficulty and failure. Struggling in school and failing classes is one of the main reasons teens drop out, and this pattern often shows up early. Students who fail eighth grade English or math, for example, are seventy-five percent more likely to drop out of high school.

Poor attendance. Teens who struggle in school are also absent a lot, and along with academic failure, absenteeism is an important future predictor for dropping out. As with the previous example, students who are absent for twenty percent of their eighth grade year (one day per week) are also highly likely to drop out in high school.

Being held back (retention). Linked to academic difficulty, students who are held back and who are older than the kids in their grade also tend to drop out.

Disengagement from school. Many kids who drop out say that school was boring and teachers did little to connect learning to real life. They didn’t feel invested in their school and they didn’t feel that adults seemed interested in them or their high school experience.

Transition to a new school. A poor transition from the smaller, more protected environment of middle school to the anonymity of a high school can cause a teen to have difficulty catching up-and some kids never do.

Other life factors. Pregnancy, family problems, and financial difficulties are all factors that distract a student from schoolwork and make keeping up more challenging.

The solution to kids dropping out is prevention as most children who dropout do not have the necessary support system to succeed even though most had passing grades. Kids do better when their parents care about what is going on in school and what is expected. When problems arise the child and parents have laid a solid foundation to deal with them. Every 29 seconds, another student dropouts resulting in more than a million American dropouts a year or 7,000 every day. According to Kid Source and National Center for Education Statistics websites,  here are some additional reasons kids drop out:

Socioeconomic Background. National data show that students from low-income families are 2.4 times more likely to drop out of school than are children from middle-income families, and 10.5 times more likely than students from high-income families.

Disabilities. Students with disabilities are also more likely to drop out. The National Transition Study estimates that as many as 36.4% of disabled youth drop out of school before completing a diploma or certificate.

Race-ethnicity. Hispanics and African Americans are at greater risk of dropping out than whites. Hispanics are twice as likely as African Americans to drop out. White and Asian American students are least likely to drop out.

Occupational Aspirations. Young people’s perceptions of the economic opportunities available to them also play a role in their decision to drop out or stay in school. Dropouts often have lower occupational aspirations than their peers.

According to Jenny Inglee,  a national survey conducted by Everest College found the top reason kids drop out to be parental support or encouragement while teen pregnancy came in at number two. The cost of kids dropping out affects the economy as a whole as the annual income for a high school dropout in 2009 was $19,540, while a high school graduate made on average $27,380 per year. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, if the number of dropouts continues to increase then nearly 12 million students will dropout over the next decade resulting in a $1.5 trillion loss to the nation. In 1970, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States ranked the highest in high school graduation where as today we are ranked 21st in  high school completion.

The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts, according to George E. Curry, remains an important reporttold from the perspective of the students is a joint project by the Civic Enterprises and Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The report begins with “An Open Letter to the American People” that gets directly to the point: “There is a high school dropout epidemic in America. Each year, almost one third of all public high school students – and nearly one half of all blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans – fail to graduate from public high school with their class. Many of these students abandon school with less than two years to complete their high school education.” According to Curry we should all care, as the report continues with, “Dropouts are much more likely than their peers who graduate to be unemployed, living in poverty, receiving public assistance, in prison, on death row, unhealthy, divorced and single parents with children who drop out from high school themselves.” The report talks about the silent epidemic from the perspective of those who quit instead of finished as “The central message of this report is that while some students drop out because of significant academic challenges, most dropouts are students who could have, and believe they could have, succeeded in school…This survey of young people who left high school without graduating suggests that, despite career aspirations that require education beyond high school and a majority having grades of C or better, circumstances in students’ lives and an inadequate response to those circumstances from the schools led to dropping out.” Some recommendations made in the report include:

– Provide a more supportive academic environment at school and at home that would improve the student’s chances of remaining in school- Improve the teaching and curricular to make school more relevant and engaging

– Offering tutoring and summer school for struggling students

– Operate a more disciplined classroom

– Make sure that students have a strong relationship with at least one adult in the school

– Improve communication between parents and schools

– And parents need to improve their communication with their children.

“The majority of parents were ‘not aware’ or just ‘somewhat aware’ of their child’s grades or that they were about to leave school,” according to the report. “Nearly half of the respondents said their parents’ work schedule kept them from knowing more about what was happening at school and 68 percent said their parents got more involved when they became aware their child was on the verge of dropping out.”

No Child Left Behind, according to Andrew Kirschner, offers only a partial examination of a child’s value while the educational community believes teachers should education the whole child rather than a fraction of the child’s potential. No credit is given to singing, dancing, drawing, speaking, problem solving, building, or playing an instrument even though many students will build a career using these talents as Kirschner explains. Student can do a variety of noteworthy charitable and kind acts, but in the eyes of education only tests matter. The testing procedures that followed the Act have negatively impacted the teachers’ interest in teaching and students’ engagement in learning. The students are factories with no energy or creativity from teachers as they spit out what they are told to teach from politicians who think they know what students need. As many would agree, the politicians who authored and supported this law failed trying to keep students from failing.

The solution to education in the United States encompasses a multi-faceted approach requiring students to meet state testing requirement while at the same time tapping into the potential that exist in every child. As Kirschner explains, teachers should require “students to demonstrate their knowledge of reading, writing, science, math, history, and other subjects”, while students should “demonstrate content knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge in these areas as part of an evaluation process that determines the depth and scope of their education.” Besides just a basic understanding, teachers need to provide more experience learning such as service projects. The evaluation of students should include these additional measures in order to demonstrate growth. In the workplace and global community, there is a lot more involved than performing on tests as a student needs to excel in acceptable human behaviors such as manners, organization skills, leadership ability, work ethic, creativity, and collaboration with peers. While recent STEM initiatives, innovative charter schools and service learning project show a glimpse of progress, stockholder as Kirschner puts it need to empower educators to prepare students to compete on the global stage. Students must think bigger learning to think and find creative ways to build new businesses and solve global problems in order to add purpose to their work therefore retaining quality teachers and preparing students to thrive. The system must shift from traditional educational methods of teaching and learning to a more experience based approach. These opportunities will impart life long lesson that will remain accessible to students over a lifetime and make the planning well worth it. The students as Kirschner puts it need to come back to the hallways, stop doubting their worth and stop asking what they did wrong. They didn’t fail, we as a society failed them. The time is now to wake up and pay attention so teachers can tap the potential of every student and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities they face ahead.

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