Overcoming the problems with the American K-12 school system


Along with crisp, golden-brown leaves and the final goodbyes to summer comes yet another school year filled with homework, tests, and most of all, lots of lectures with at least 20 other students. While we have used the same school system for decades, we have failed to adapt it with the modern day. 


Ever since the Industrial Revolution, the United States has been using the same exact school system, causing many issues, because as times and technologies have changed over time, so have the needs of the students. 


In the article “US Educational System is Broken – Let Me Explain”, Marc Miller of CareerPivot asserts that “Little has changed in our K-12 educational system, but the kids have changed a lot. It is failing so many of our students.”


Students in the American school system spend 13 years developing an obsession with grades and the ability to regurgitate information, coming to realize that achievement is more important than understanding, as said by the article “The American Education System is Broken” by Nikhil Srinivasan, Associate Product Marketing Manager at Google. By doing this, we are causing them to damage their critical thinking skills, which is essential in modern-day society.


In “Rote Learning vs. Critical Thinking: How an Online Math Tutor Can Help,” Rupa Gurumurthy, an education blogger at Hello Thinker, says that if students learn information through memorization, it “obstructs deeper learning, causing much of the information students learn this way later lost.” 


Critical thinking is “the ability to understand why things are the way they are and to understand the potential consequences of actions,” said critical thinking specialist G. Randy Kasten in the article “Overcoming Obstacles to Critical Thinking.” He believes that “the ability to think critically will benefit students throughout their lives,” saying that it is “one skill separating innovators from followers.”


Some might say that people simply have negative perceptions of the school system, pointing to how scores for standardized tests across a large number of age groups are much higher than they were in the 1970s. 


However, The Washington Post’s “How are America’s public schools really doing?” shows that standardized tests tell us nothing about a wide range of topics including “how engaged students are in class, how much they value learning, how they are developing as citizens, and how socially and emotionally healthy they are,” meaning that they don’t show the whole picture and should be taken with a grain of salt, and while test scores may have increased, in other parts, the school system is the same or even worse than it was in the 1970s. 


One of those areas is funding. In 1978, Proposition 13 in California froze property taxes. Since there are less property taxes being paid, less money is being put into the public education system, causing the quality of public education to suffer. 


“People are worried if this is going to continue or if the lawmakers are going to address Proposition 13,” Holly Herrington, world history teacher said. 


In order to improve our education system, changes need to be made. While most of these changes would be drastic, they are necessary in order to better educate the leaders of the future. 


Changing the basic structure of a classroom to better suit the needs of modern-day students would be ideal, but would take a long time to be implemented. However, there are other ways we can fix the system quicker without entirely uprooting it.


“Our schools tend to be understaffed and our teachers tend to be underpaid, so as a result, we don’t always get the highest quality of teaching,” Jennifer Wright, College and Career Center counselor said.


To truly fix our education system, we as a society need to first take baby steps. For example, we could at first start with giving teachers more deserving salaries so that they would have more motivation to help students or by increasing the funding of education to increase the quality of it. After that, we could look to see about changing the school system as a whole to better fit with modern times. Only then would we reach a level in which the school system is good for students. 


Otherwise, we risk overwhelming everyone — teachers, administrators, students and parents alike.