Have Public Schools Failed Society Term Paper

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If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might very well have viewed it as an act of war. (a Nation at Risk) [1]

This is what a Nation at Risk reported after conducting an in-depth study of the performance of students in public schools in the United States compared to performance of their counterparts from other countries. Public schools in the United States have failed us miserably not only because they are producing mediocre students but also because this is happening at the expense of millions of taxpayers' dollars. No other country appears as serious as the United States does about bringing reforms to its public education system. Every year tens of thousands of articles and reviews are published on various studies conducted on the subject of public education and what can be done to improve the system yet despite all this, public schools are still failing to meet the expectations of educators, parents, government and the public on the whole.

In this regard, the most comprehensive study was conducted in 1966 now known as the Coleman Report. James Coleman produced this report with the help of U.S. Office of Education and made some startling revelations about public school system in the country.

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Around 600,000 students from 3,000 American public schools were surveyed and found that public schools were contributing very little to student achievement. The report concluded as reported in a Harvard study, much to the mortification of those who sponsored it that, hat "schools are not very important in determining student achievement. Families, and to a lesser extent peers, [are] the primary determinants of variations in performance."(Hanushek, 1991: 4)

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The report further gave evidence to support the claim that extra spending on public schools was unnecessary and couldn't found any correlation between higher expenditure and student performance. The data revealed "no strong or systematic relationship between school expenditures and student performance." (Hanushek: 6) This report confounded everyone including the government and educators and reaction to it was severe. Many claimed that data was not properly collected and others decided to ignore the issue altogether lest it turn into something colossal that they weren't prepared to deal with.

But Coleman report was probably the most unbiased and authentic study on the subject to date because results and student performance now prove that higher expenditure has done little to improve public education system or student performance. And ignoring the Coleman Report resulted in consistent and persistent increase in public schools expenditure.

In 1993, a new digest containing various statistics was published by U.S. Department of Education. The digest revealed the trends in public education in last 25 years and observed that since 1970, expenditure per student had doubled from $3,100 in 1970 to $5,700 in 1993. [3] Similarly salaries for teachers in public schools increased almost 18% between 1982 and 1992. But while we might not find anything wrong with increased spending and rising salaries, it is the impact of higher expenditure that leaves most people stunned.

In 1991 U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander revealed that 80% of parents gave C. Or lower grades to public education citing a poll. [4] but what was more stunning than this were findings presented in a 1983 report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education entitled a Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. The report clearly declared that our public school system was producing absolutely no quality students and our schools were marred by mediocrity. It found that students from American public schools performed miserably when compared to their counterparts in other countries revealing that "average achievement on most standardized tests is now lower than 26 years ago"[5] the report concluded that "the average graduate of our schools is not as well educated as the average graduate of 25 or 35 years ago, when a much smaller proportion of our population completed high school and college. The negative impact of this fact (on society) likewise cannot be overstated." [6]

Very little, it appears, has changed in the years since the publication of this report. American students from public schools continue to perform poorly with SAT scores falling from 543 to 505 in verbal section, and from 516 to 511 in math portion between 1967 and 1997. And the performance of American students appears even more miserable and appalling when compared to students from other countries. Teenage students from 20 countries participated in standardized tests in science and math managed by the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, New Jersey, as part of the second International Assessment of Educational Progress and it was found that "In almost every category, 13-year-olds in the United States ranked among the lowest of all those taking the tests." (Fisher, 1992)

In math, the results were simply shocking as American students ranked 19th out of 20th, one place ahead of Jordan. Math results were studied carefully and it was found that Asian students' "performance was better than the Americans even in the first grade, and that as the children grew older, the gap widened progressively."(Fisher) Results at home are similarly gloomy. In 1990 for example, 20,000 students nationwide were tested in what was called the Science Report Card. These students were 4th, 8th and 12th graders and the test was conducted as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress to trace the progress of students in public schools. It was found that fourth graders' performance was "fairly decent" which unfortunately "deteriorated over the years, reaching the lowest levels by twelfth grade. Only 45% of the high school seniors performed at or above Level 300, and only a pitiful 9% could reach 350." (Fisher) the Report Card reached the conclusion that "a disproportionately low percentage of these students possess in-depth scientific knowledge or the ability to accomplish even relatively straightforward tasks requiring application of thinking skills."(Fisher) Education Secretary Alexander termed these results as an "alarm bell that should ring throughout the country." (Fisher)

There is large body of compelling evidence to prove that our public schools have failed us badly. Even government sponsored studies and reports often reveal a decline in students' performance in public schools despite ever-increasing funding for public education system. A 1990 report entitled "America's Challenge: Accelerating Academic Achievement" that there had been no improvement in student performance in public schools and in most cases, it had regressed. It was found that students in public schools couldn't communicate properly since their writing and comprehension skills were poor. Scholastic Aptitude Tests also proved that "the average verbal scores of college-bound high school students had dropped to their lowest level in a decade." (Germani, 1990) in response to these poor results, director of the Educational Excellence Network observed that, "the child entering school today is likely to get a very unsatisfactory education. Every indicator of outcomes -- employers, SAT scores, international comparisons -- show it hasn't changed a thing."(Germani) More studies with even more alarming results have come forth showing dramatic regression in extent of general knowledge of students produced by American public schools. A 1992 survey found that "only 45% of Americans know that the world goes around the sun once a year. A third believe that boiling radioactive milk makes it safe to drink... 54% reject the idea that humans evolved from earlier species." (Fisher) Another survey of 2,000 American students revealed that most American public school students were vaguely aware of even some of the most basic universal facts. Almost 63% believed that "the earliest human beings lived at the same time as the dinosaurs." (Fisher) Yet another shocking report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that "only 17% per cent of 17-year-olds could solve multi-step mathematics problems such as finding percentages; less than… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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