America is failing.
In the shadows of capitol buildings and corrupt businesses lies this country’s greatest injustice.
The America’s Promise Alliance, a nonprofit group that works to reduce the nation’s high school dropout rate, recently released its 2009 report, “Closing the Graduation Gap.”
The report supports the idea that one of the greatest variables to academic success is not one’s intelligence or work ethic but rather one’s residential address. The average high school graduation rate in the nation’s 50 largest cities is 53 percent, compared to 71 percent in the suburbs. Only 54.5 percent of the students attending Wichita Public Schools will graduate, and an even lower percentage of students attending Kansas City Public Schools will, at 53.5 percent.
The study continued to show that “nearly one in three U.S. high school students fails to graduate with a diploma.” It went on to state, “Approximately 1.2 million students drop out each year — averaging 7,000 every school day or one every 26 seconds.”
The federal government has assumed an increasingly larger role in what were once policy decisions agreed upon by states and local government — a trend that is likely to continue.
No Child Left Behind is as unmistakable as it is controversial. The law proclaims that by 2014 every American student will be 100-percent proficient in math and reading. Such a law is similar to asking that law enforcement end all crime. It is an idyllic and unreachable goal.
Teachers were hopeful when President Barack Obama moved into the White House on a campaign of change. Unfortunately, the change does not seem to be the type teachers had in mind.
Billions of dollars were allotted for public schools in the February economic stimulus bill. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has ensured that, in order for states to receive funds, governors must meet certain provisions. Governors must improve the quality of standardized testing and raise state standards. Further, they must pledge to create a data system that links all teachers to student test scores, as reported by a recent New York Times article.
The American education system is a schizophrenic lunatic. For example, students are told they are individuals with many special talents and teachers encourage personal creativity, while the federal government measures the value and success of students and teachers by numbers and formulas. Schools are supposed to be safe and secure environments for learning, while the government threatens thousands of jobs with the outcome of a mere Scantron.
In response to a study that concluded about half the children in our nation’s cities will not graduate, Duncan stated, “As the president said, every young person who drops out of high school is not only quitting on himself but is also quitting on his country.”
When 1.2 million people do not finish high school each year, the individual is not the problem. Rather, it is our broken education system and its unreasonable expectations and mixed messages placed on students and teachers alike. The federal government needs to act less like an abusive helicopter parent and more like a mentor who is ever present to provide states support when necessary.
Obama and Duncan need to understand the problem does not lie with our nation’s citizens but with its leaders who make all of the rules. They should stop blaming the powerless disadvantaged and understand “the buck stops” with them.
Bobby Gomez is a senior in elementary education. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.