Can we count on our children’s minds to protect America’s future?

The advances in technology extend beyond humans breaking the sound barrier or reaching the moon. Using the Internet, we now have the capability to travel the world without leaving the confines of a room. Today, we are facing two essential questions. Firstly, do we have an American education system that develops well-rounded, insightful, and dynamic future leaders? Secondly, do we have strong curricula in the fields of Science, Engineering and Technology to inspire and advance the innovators within the students?

 

The late President John F. Kennedy once said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”

According to studies conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the performance of American learners in the areas of Mathematics, Science and Reading is on a decline.

And it does not help that States are cutting back on school budgets, effectively affecting programs and in drastic cases even reducing school year.

LZ Granderson, a CNN contributor, wrote an illuminating article about how to make American education  compete globally. He opines US students will benefit from year-round school system and longer calendar days. Many States, since the ‘80s, have adapted year-round scheduling except for Wyoming, Mississippi, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Regardless, the US school cycle remains 180 days. Countries like Japan that show high academic performance by students have longer school days. Japan, which is consistently on the list of countries with good performing students, has 243 school calendar days.

Granderson’s article is not only about year-round schooling schedule. He also thinks that maybe longer days will improve student performance. So here is a question: Is there a correlation between the length of time spent in learning and test scores?

Granderson also made a point when he mentions that although American 15-year-olds are nowhere, in the field of academic substance, on the list of top 10 OECD nations, these students, however, show more confidence in their academic skills than students in virtually all OECD nations, according to test results.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a telling observation when he pointed out, “This stunning finding may be explained because students here are being commended for work that would not be acceptable in high-performing education systems.”

The US system and families may have been consistently successful in rearing self-assured kids, but records will indicate they failed to promote academic substance worthy of global competition. Simply put, we have highly confident children who have very little to show for.

Being a military family that relocates frequently, I learned early on that my kids’ academic skills had to be, at least, one year above their enrolled grade level. Primarily, so they do not have to include academics in the list of things they have to adjust to in the next duty station; also, so that they will not lag behind performing students from all around the world.

My perspective changed slightly throughout the years of exposure to various educational systems within the US and other countries. While overseas, my two older kids had schools that provided well rounded and globally competitive learning experience.

When we moved back to the US, I immediately realized one year is not enough to maintain global competitiveness. Now, they have to work toward standards at least two years above their grade level and pursue endeavors outside the framework of a regular classroom.  Unfortunately, this task has become more challenging for my family. Resources are scant and support are limited to school’s conflicted learning objectives, action plan, and implementation. 

Global America means connecting the map of the US of A to the rest of the world.

We have a Charter which has global competitiveness in its mission, but the standards it set for its high school students are focused only on college admission to California colleges and universities, its home State.  This is a huge fundamental problem – having schools with flawed perspective of what global means and entails.

Talking about parent’s role, we need to understand we are not only responsible for our children’s education; we are also accountable for it. Education is always a family event. Although it is especially hard for some parents who need to work extended hours to put food on the table, or for those who are faced with other difficulties, we still need to pull ourselves together to make sure that the kids are acquiring and developing adequate learning tools.

Education begins at home and transcends beyond the four corners of a classroom. Parents are every student’s own academic advocates. We will continue to be until our children are old enough, strong enough, and skilled enough to be their own.

Again, will longer school days benefit American students? My answer is, not with a defective system, and definitely, not without a paradigm shift from families.

I hope that families and schools recognize there is a sense of urgency to revolutionize not only our approach, but also our way of thinking when it comes to education. We have to look at it in a global perspective, and by this, I mean breaking boundaries and connecting the map of the US of A to the rest of the world.

After all, our continued progress as a nation and world leader depends on the future minds of the children whose education is our responsibility and accountability.

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