Stack of BooksRead an interesting op-ed piece about the high drop out rate in the United States. According to this piece, the U.S. high school system is out of date and does not prepare students for life. Students graduate without basic skills and even basic knowledge of historical facts. It is one more piece attacking our public education.

As an educator who has taught in both public and private schools, I am well aware that there are many problems with our educational system. However, studies comparing U.S. students to the world often fail to consider that in we educate everyone. For the most part students channeled into college prep and vocational tracts. Part of the “American Dream” is that if a student is willing to work hard enough they can achieve a college education no matter regardless of test results. Instead of college, being for the elite is almost we have a sense of entitlement regarding higher education.

The obsession with test scores in my opinion has greatly harmed our educational system. In an effort to prepare students for the almighty tests elements of the curriculum deemed not essential has been jettisoned. In many cases, education consists of teaching to the test. That does not prepare students for anything beyond a test. In some cases, it is possible to do well on the tests without gaining basic skills. Several years ago the basic skills test in Texas for third graders focused on only on solving word problems in math. Students were to select the operation but not actually solve the problems. In fact in training for teachers we were instructed to discourage students from solving the problems because it slowed them down on the tests.

While No Child Left Behind was intended to help at-risk students and students in low performing schools. In my opinion, it has created an emphasis on teaching only basic skills. Students will meet the standards that are expected of them. It is better to have higher standards and provide remediation or extra assistance when needed.

One last thought, I was shocked several years ago when we moved to a different state and discovered that it is assumed only very few students will be able to enter a 4-year university upon graduation from high school. I had a school administrator inform me that only the elite students would gain direct admission into a university. I was instructed to lower my standards because the students were headed for community college. In many cases, community colleges are taking the place of high schools. They must provide prep courses to bridge between high school and a 4-year university.

Yes, many high school graduates are clueless and ill prepared for life. Yes, our educational system has serious problems. It is time for to get serious about fixing the problem instead of making more laws, regulations or adding more tests. It is time to provide schools with the funding needed. It is time to give educators the respect, support and pay they deserve. Change is not going to happen with more federal intervention but with local grassroots support.What are you doing to support schools, teachers and students in your community?