America’s schools need to change: Here’s how

Caroline Crow, Guest Writer

The American education system is setting its students up for failure. 

Pressure is put on students to get good grades and get into college. They are taught how to learn facts and memorize them for a test, without knowing why. High school also does not teach the basic life skills the students need to be learning. Changes must be made in order to help students succeed in life. 

In the United States, there is an emphasis placed on the grades and scores students receive as opposed to making sure they actually learn the material. As a junior in a California high school, I have experienced the stress of trying to get good grades and do well on exams. These evaluations for students can greatly affect their mental health. 

In a 2002 study by the University of Michigan, 80% of the 600 college freshmen surveyed based their self-esteem on their academic performance, more than based it on any other factor. These students had higher stress without higher grades. 

While standardized testing and grades can be used to gauge the level a student is at, that is about all they are useful for. 

In the words of Thomas Armstrong of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, “standardized tests occur in an artificial learning environment: they’re timed, you can’t talk to a fellow student, you can’t ask questions, you can’t use references or learning devices, you can’t get up and move around. How often does the real world look like this?” 

With the concentration on standardized tests, teachers begin to only prepare students for those tests, and then the students only study for them, forgetting everything after. By evaluating students solely on these assessments, their worth is determined by how well they have memorized what they are being taught. The focus needs to be shifted to individuals’ learning and not just getting good scores. 

The American education system does not teach its students basic things they need to succeed in life. One may excel in advanced calculus, but what good will that do them if they don’t even know what a credit score is? High schools in the United States do not teach how to manage finances, how taxes even work, self care, or life skills. 

One important tool that schools need to be teaching is how to manage stress. Financial coach Kalen Bruce says that “new studies from the American Psychological Association are showing that kids are more stressed than ever, and it’s getting worse.” 

Another ability students should be taught is cooking. Jacob Akins says “cooking is essential to life and very beneficial to eating healthy, and therefore being healthy… The basics of cooking, food pretreating and preparation, safety and hygiene, should be taught to all students as basic curriculum.” 

So many important experiences are not learned and schools tend to focus on goals and end results, however habits and skills are much more valuable, and are long term. American high schools need to start teaching their students how to thrive on their own, not just how to look good on a college application. 

US schools teach students how to prepare for tests and regurgitate information. When so much pressure is put on test scores, and not the understanding of the material or the growth of the individual, students lose interest in learning. Long term tools like how to have good habits and how to study in order to actually retain information should be a bigger focus than preparing for a quiz that students will never remember anything from. 

American schools do not help develop the skills all students need to succeed in life after high school. These are the effects of this school system, which need to be addressed as the problem that they are.