Issues With the American Public School System
Updated: Nov 16
May 20, 2021
The American public school system is far from perfect, but the list of top issues is constantly changing. Some say that the emphasis on standardized testing is destroying the quality of public education while others believe that schools are too crowded and parents are too uninvolved. The fact of the matter is that each public school system has its own problems depending on where it is located, the local demographics, the amount of funding it receives, and a myriad of other factors.
If you were to ask parents from one hundred different school districts about the problems they see with the public school system, you would probably get 100 different responses. Although there are many different problems with the American public school system, recent data collected from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows that the academic performance of American students is significantly lower than their international counterparts. School systems are evaluated on a wide variety of factors, but there are some issues that tend to fly under the radar which still have a significant impact.
In the United States, teachers are woefully underpaid, and yet they are expected to do twice the work they actually get paid for. For a teacher, the day doesn’t end with the last bell – most teachers stay after school for several hours or they take their work home, grading papers and developing lesson plans late into the night. Furthermore, many teachers struggle with inadequate funding for educational programs and they end up spending a lot of money out of their own pockets to benefit their students. But why are teachers so undervalued and why is American interest in education continuing to decline? In Finland, it is considered a great honor to be a teacher and, in Singapore, it is a highly selective field of work.
Research conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed a declining interest in education among Americans. The top three topics with the most interest were the U.S. economy, terrorism, and job creation. These topics are certainly important, but it is often overlooked that some of these are actually relevant to the quality of the American education system. For example, a report published by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation indicated that if the United States could increase their PISA scores by just 25 points over the course of the next two decades, it could lead to a serious financial gain for the U.S. economy – as much as $41 trillion over the lifetime of the generation currently being born.
Many schools simply don’t receive enough funding so they must make difficult decisions about which programs to fund and which programs to cut. Unfortunately, it is often arts programs that get the ax. In fact, while she was the First Lady, Michelle Obama reported that as many as 6 million school-age children had no access to arts education and another 6 million only had minimal access. In many schools (including New York City public schools), there are no art teachers, and, therefore, no art programs. In cities around the country, public schools are closing their doors which means that thousands of teachers are losing their jobs and many programs are losing their funding.
In many school systems, the arts are considered less important than math and science. Studies have shown, however, that the arts provide significant benefits for students. Art programs should not be considered a luxury – they are important for helping children to solve problems and to create. Art also helps children to develop motor skills, to improve their problem solving and critical thinking skills, to develop visual-spatial skills, and to develop language ability. Arts programs also help students to develop cultural awareness, which is very important as American society becomes increasingly more diverse. There is also a strong correlation between arts education and improved academic performance in other aspects of education, such as math and science.
The sad truth is that there are many problems in the American education system. Some of these problems are overwhelmingly large and often interlinked with other issues. Unfortunately, there may not be much that you can do personally to improve these problems. What you can do, however, is educate yourself and become an advocate for the American public education system.