Introducing Schooled: A Rantt Column On The Issues Plaguing Our Education System

The present and future of education in America
Thousands of public school teachers on strike in Chicago — September 2012 (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong, File)

Thousands of public school teachers on strike in Chicago — September 2012 (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong, File)

Co-written by Kaz Weida

Welcome to Schooled, the first installment of Rantt’s series on education. In Schooled we will be discussing the issues plaguing our education system, taking a closer look at the education policies proposed by the Trump administration, and conducting interviews with those who are directly impacted by the Trump administration’s policies. Our points of focus encompass topics of priority for the current administration, parents, and students.

A look at alternative education methods, such as homeschooling and vocational training, as well as, vouchers and charter schools. Encompassing all personal family choices for their children and the legislation the Trump administration chooses for America.

As we learn more about how children learn, we see how the public education system is not “one size fits all,” leaving families and students disenchanted. School choice is not just the buzzword heard ‘round the world during the Betsy DeVos hearings in January. School choice, in all of it’s forms, is an opportunity to better the individual student on a personalized level.

However, the definition of “school choice,” Secretary DeVos holds dear is almost exclusively focusing on charter schools and school vouchers. While not inherently bad policies or failed approaches, many fear that school choice in it’s holistic meaning, will get passed over in favor of Secretary DeVos’ own agenda.

Our hope for this section is that you see school choice as not just school choice but as a window into each path for academic and personal success. Education comes through experience both in the classroom and in life. As each of us is unique, so is our philosophy to learning and personal edification.

Assessment, Standardized Testing, and Curriculum

An evaluation of evaluation methods and competency based education models; as well as the Common Core debate.

California Achievement Test. Stanford Achievement Test. Wechsler Achievement Test. SAT. ACT. Common Core. The mere mention of each of these tests and curriculums can strike fear into the hearts of students and teachers alike.

At the core of the controversy surrounding education is a movement to change how we assess competency and test for understanding in our schools. Decades of research across the educational system indicates our current methods rely too heavily on standardized testing and unfairly penalize poor schools. We’ll examine innovative approaches to assessment around the world and discuss whether competency based learning can be a model for the future of education.

The recent implementation of common core was problematic and became highly politicized. While most educators support common core and the consistency it brings to curriculum standards from state to state, many parents remain perplexed and vehemently opposed to common core principles. In Schooled, we’ll take a hard look at how we teach, test, and assess students in this country and how we can propel education in America to the head of the class.

Special Education

One of the groups which struggle the most for funding and recognition, special education programs such as early intervention, head start programs, and parent education are vital to pushing the ball forward for some of our country’s most vulnerable students.

We know early intervention is important, especially for special education students. However, like most issues surrounding education, America has failed to invest properly to ensure the success of our most vulnerable kids. The special education community has become a powerful voice in the nation, advocating for kids and pushing real change in education.

During the Betsy DeVos confirmation, special education teachers, parents, and activists beat a steady drum of opposition and warning as they saw the federal government positioning to hand off responsibility to states for education special needs children. Schooled intends to expose the current administration’s education policy and the irresponsible push for charter schools and vouchers that’ll leave our special needs students lagging behind.

Student Debt and Higher Education

A deep dive into the higher and higher costs of higher education, the controversies surrounding for-profit and online universities, and the culture of academia.

The tuition is too damn high, but it wasn’t always like this. Despite the cost of higher education, many colleges and universities are in legacy ending financial straits leading to closures, massive layoffs and program cuts.

So how did we get here? And what do we do now that we are? If what we’ve seen the past ten years is any indication, many schools have no idea what to do. There are administrative shake ups, cut programs and employee benefits; angry alumnae, current students, and faculty. The academic community, in it’s mostly insulated culture, responds with varying degrees of compliance.

However, the issues with higher education don’t start and end with fiscal irresponsibility. There are for-profit colleges, like Trump University, which blatantly take advantage of those who want to get ahead. By exposing the fraudulent nature of these institutions, we see a pattern of businesses treating education as a commodity rather than a right.

Technology in Education

The access students have to technology in the classroom based on funding greatly impacts their pursuit of careers in STEM and their understanding of the tech-heavy world and their ability to compete we live in.

As we rapidly advance in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, our future depends on the interest and proficiency American students have in these careers. Equal access to the internet in both public and private schools, as well as adequate funding for science programs is essential to staying competitive in the global market.

The new space race of the 21st century, is the pace in which technology proliferates itself. Our STEM educators must create a culture of innovation and problem solving in order to keep the next generation economically and technologically competitive. We must lead by example to help raise up a new generations of forward thinkers.

Gender, Health & Nutrition

As children and teens develop, it is imperative that education provide students with tools to navigate their mental, sexual, and nutritional development.

The overall health of our students is closely tied to their success in school. It may seem like a no-brainer, but for many, the correlation between holistic care and educational excellence is not so seamless. Many schools and educators fail to give their students the tools they need to manage their emotions, stress, and look for signs of mental instability.

How we address, or don’t address, sexual and reproductive health in our schools is detrimental to the well-being of American students. Bodily awareness is crucial to adult autonomy. By not instilling our middle and high school aged students with the tools to navigate their changing bodies, sexual safety — including consent and abuse — we perpetuate stigmas, shame, and a culture of misinformation.

During her husband’s administration, First Lady Michelle Obama, made it her personal cause to educate and encourage healthy food choices and exercise both in and outside of school. How these mandates will hold up under the administration of a man who has a button in the Oval Office for Diet Coke is still up for debate.

Education that aides in creating a culture of wellness which focuses on the person as a whole as opposed to fitting our youth into a conveyor belt of mediocrity, is not only a smart thing to incorporate, but a responsible act of care.

Teacher Turnover and Credentialing

As bureaucratic oversight continues to encroach on credentialing, we take an investigative look at teacher shortages and the factors of low pay and high turnover.

Teacher turnover has reached critical mass in this country and we’re currently tipping over into dangerous levels of shortage that may threaten the entire education system. The current administration’s push to loosen the stranglehold on teacher credentialing could help in the short term, but it may have devastating long term consequences for the quality of education.

We entrust schools to educate the next generation, ensuring the prosperity of an entire country by feeding a steady supply of future innovators, academics, and entrepreneurs and yet fail to provide many teachers with a living wage and basic resources. In Schooled, we’ll explore why our failure to support teacher pay, appropriate retirement benefits, and issues with credentialing threatens the future of our nation.

Schooled // Education / Education Reform / Politics / Schools