Courtney B. Michigan

Numbers or Human Beings?

The need to reform the United State's Education System.

         Dear President of the United States,

          My lips have known the taste of coffee since I was eleven years old. My adolescent energy was fading due to my exposure of a new world known as secondary school. I desperately needed the caffeine to push me to study for tests, to push me to finish my homework, and to push me to cross all of my t’s and dot all of my i’s. My blurred vision would seek the late hours of the night illuminated on my alarm clock. I would count the possible hours of sleep I would get if I finished. Perhaps three or four hours of sleep- if I was lucky, maybe five hours. When 6 o’clock rolled around, my groggy self would rise, make some coffee and go to school for eight hours. In the cycle of twenty four hours, I would drink three cups of coffee a day and I wasn’t even a teenager yet. It’s not just me who struggles with this lifestyle. This lifestyle is among my friends, acquaintances, my high school, my community, and across the country. Nationally speaking, the lives of many students revolve around school. From an adult’s perspective, this lifestyle means that students are diligently working for their future, but they don’t see at what extent is too much. We sacrifice everything for school; our minds, health, relationships, and experiences outside of the classroom in order to maintain a stellar grade point average. Our U.S education system misses what happens behind the scene’s of a student’s life. The only things that our education system see’s are numbers. GPA. ACT. SAT. Our education system doesn’t see the amount of dedication and ambition a student has, it’s not always reflected in a student’s grades. A student can work their hardest to maintain a good grade; staying after class to receive help, doing extra homework for practice, and getting tutored, but can receive a grade that’s less than ideal. For over one hundred and twenty five years, our education system has taught students how to memorize, prioritize which assignments are more important to accomplish in order to receive some rest and the ability to cram for a test because of the lack of time students are given. These skills are not useful for the outside world. Students need tools to guide them to succeed not only in just secondary school or college, but in the workforce and in life in general. It’s 2016. The time of change and revitalization. It’s time to reconstruct our education system and grading system. The United States needs to care about the wellbeing of students rather than obsess over what their grade point average is. Personalizing the education system will increase the success rate of students rather than seeing numbers. In order to fix and help improve the educational system in America, we need to care about the mental health of students, ban standardized testing, and eliminate letter grades. I know. With these opinions, I’m perceived as a lazy millennial who has no work ethic and always whines when it comes to problem solving. I suppose I shouldn’t blame you for this mindset, sixty percent of Americans believe that millennials have no purpose and contribute nothing to this country. Millennials and younger generations may not be as skilled or have a great of a work ethic as older generations, however our current education system is contributing to the millennial’s problems. The truth is, the United States has created a disaster. Younger generations of the United States are more educated than ever because the U.S has put much emphasis on receiving a top notch education but high school students and older students are missing out on opportunities outside of the classroom, making them ignorant on the skills needed to succeed in the real world. In current times, students are more concerned with scoring high grades rather than gaining skills that are relevant to their life or maintaining their health. We need to fix our education system quickly. The students of today hold the future of the United States of America, whether our country drastically improve or fall through the cracks, this is why we need to do something.

        In an article that was written in 2014, ‘American Psychological Association Survey Shows Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults,’ a disturbing fact was expressed.

“As psychologist Robert Leahy points out: "The average high school kid today has

the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s."

           Let’s do a mini history lesson, shall we? In the 1950s, the technology and medicine was not as advanced as today. That era failed the mentally ill, making the victims feel riddled with anxiety and have no hope in getting better. At that time period, they were not understood by society and most likely was not being treated properly. Sixty seven years later, high school students anxiety levels in 2016 matches an average psychiatric patient sixty seven years ago.It’s understandable why a patient’s anxiety levels are high, but a high schooler’s anxiety levels match that? This is ridiculous. The U.S has turned the blind eye to students’ amount of stress and sleep deprivation, to the point where their anxiety levels matches a mentally ill patient, who was receiving maltreatment in today’s standards. When I read this statement, however, this didn’t surprise me. I can’t tell you the amount of times my friends have vomited because their grade is on the line, the thing that they have worked so hard for. I can’t tell you the amount of times where my friends have crumbled in front of their peers in a classroom because they are nervous about the grade they are receiving. I can’t tell you the amount of times my friends stay up all night, with no sleep, but goes to school anyway because they wanted their project or essay to be perfected. The unhealthy things that students do because they strive for the perfect grades. Their health is the last thing on their priority list. The United State’s education system needs to recognize that the mental health of students is dwindling because of the poor structure of education. I realize that the United States can’t emotionally help every individual child that isn’t taking care of themselves mentally, however, if we made the education system more personalized this wouldn’t be an issue. The school system needs to train teachers how to be more conscious of detrimental students. Perhaps, spending a few class sessions giving students the tools to take care of themselves. Afterall, learning how to take care of your mind is more vital and will impacted the rest of a student’s life than learning about absolute value.

           To further my solutions to improve the United State’s education system, it’s best if America gets rid of standardized testing because it greatly stresses student and has a negative impact on school districts and teachers. Standardized testing happens everywhere across the United States, but there was a particular case that occurred a few years ago that I would like to discuss in the state of Texas. According to Valley Central News, the cost of standardized drastically increased. In the year of 2003, it cost Texas $9 million dollar a year, whereas in 2009, Texas had to pay $88 million dollars. The money that is used for a few hour test, could be put to better use such as school funds to better a child’s education! The majority of the time, teachers have to pay out of pocket to purchase supplies for the classroom due to budget cuts. It makes absolutely no sense that a state is capable of paying several million dollars for a temporary test and doesn’t have enough money to buy supplies for a classroom or fund an educational field trip. Not only is money an issue, but the fact that timed tests judge how well a student is doing in school. As a student who has terrible test anxiety, I can definitely say that a test doesn’t determine whether you are academically inclined especially if you’re rushed and forced to manage your time. Many people argue that standardized testing make schools and teachers accountable for their methods, but it’s impossible to do such thing if a child is judged in a rushed hour long test; A student can be excellent academically, but hasn’t mastered time management quite yet or has test anxiety, can receive poor test scores. In addition to, schools don’t receive feedback from test scores on what they can do better and what teaching techniques can help students. By the time school districts receive their test scores, students and teachers have forgotten what subjects the assessment was asking the students. Schools, teachers, and students cannot learn from their mistakes / There’s no point to standardized tests, the tests cost a large sum of money, a lot of unnecessary stress for the students, and schools can’t learn how to improve their teaching skills. The United States needs to get rid of testing.

             In order to ameliorate our U.S education system, we need to eliminate letter grades. Letter grades express if a student understands a subject, such as being knowledgeable about the rise and fall of Mesopotamia. If you understand it greatly, you will receive an A. If you find a topic confusing or if you make a few mistakes on an assessment , you will receive a bad grade. Somehow, our education system has blown letter grades out of proportion. Somehow, if an individual is well informed about a topic, the student will score higher and that test score contributes to their future. There is one school in particular that steers away from this logic in San Diego. They have absolutely no letter grades. This amazing school is called, High Tech High. This project based school teaches students how to work together, how to communicate ideas and teaches students skills that are relevant to their future. These attributes are more essential to a student’s life than the capability of cramming knowledge that an individual won’t remember two weeks later. I remember telling this concept to my father, who believes in tradition and is very conservative, responded that kids would take advantage of having no grades, I have mixed feelings about this statement. At High Tech High, the graduation rate is 97%, one of the highest in the country. These students have made use of their time, and have absorbed skills in this school environment. From my observation, the kids that earn ‘bad’ grades become discouraged and assume that they are bad at the topic or subject, whereas if you’re learning from projects with no grades, you’re allowed to make mistakes on the way without a grade point average to worry about and you’re surrounded by kids who will help you complete the project and help you learn from mistakes. A student should learn from their mistakes without worrying if their future is at risk in order to go to college. If the nation got rid of letter grades, students would be more inspired to learn and pursue their passions. Students wouldn’t be forced to sit at a desk for six hours like they are now; they would learn hands-on skills and the impacts of participation in projects are more prolonged. A project based school is something I dream of.

     The U.S education system is ranked fourteen across the world. We can do much better than this. Let’s improve our education system by making it more personal rather than viewing our American students are numbers. We need to care about our student’s mental health, we need to get rid of standardized testing and we need to eliminate letter grades. If we are capable of doing these things, the future of America will be very bright and perhaps American’s will change their mind about millennials and the younger generations not having a purpose in life.

In best regards,

Courtney Blackett  

Clarkston Community Schools

Eisele ELA 10 Honors 4th Hour

4th Hour

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