TED Conversations

Daniel Powell

This conversation is closed.

Why isn't REAL reform taking place in our education systems? Education is broken, but do any of the current reforms really change anything?

Of the 34 developed countries in the OECD, the United States ranks in the bottom one-third in math and science scores and graduation rate. Our nation isn’t catching up, either, it’s falling further behind. At least 11 countries are making academic gains at double and even triple the rate of American students. Despite nearly 30 years of reform efforts, little has changed. None of the proposed reforms by President Obama (listed on the White House page for education reform) fundamentally change the educational system.

“…overall, the United States has the same teachers, in the same roles, with the same level of knowledge, teaching in the same schools, with the school day organized the same way, with much the same set of tracked courses, with the same materials, and much the same level of parental support.” –Jal Mehta, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

In making this comment, Mehta urges us to look at educational reforms that will upend the current system. Education reform is needed, we all agree. If we’re going to change education in America, then we need to be serious about making real changes that fundamentally reshape our educational institutions. I challenge educators in America to join the conversation, and to propose profound changes to the system that will disrupt the status quo and challenge traditional education.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jul 19 2013: Daniel,
    I have been beating this drum for years. The failing our our general public school systems is appalling. I lay the problem to school management and intervention by the federal government using tax funds to sway educational policy. I look at the historical education policies. Founding fathers encouraged free public education to insure the people had the where with all to sustain the new constitutional republic they founded. And yes, progressive policies of the early 1900s became the new gospel of academia and found it's way into public education. What has been lost is most young high school graduates have no idea how they are governed and sadly don't seem to care.
    I also hold that we need to help young people find their place in society. Not every young adult needs to to to advance education programs.... the country is up to it's armpits in lawyers and you have a hard time to find a plumber.
    So, we have not teachers, but facilitators giving out workbooks on the state exams to insure the funding stream stays solvent. We have a federal department of education with a national policy that all children are created equal, with the average IQ, the average size and weight, the average nutritional requirements, are the average goal of going to the average college as all children have equal rights to be average. With all the mismanagement of local schools and the mindset of federal bureaucrats, I am surprised that we are doing as well as we are.
    • thumb
      Jul 19 2013: I would say that we are doing as well as we are because of the desire of the students to learn. I believe that there IS a desire to learn, but we are not tapping into it correctly. It's the ability to tap into that desire that the very best teachers possess. Studying this process and focusing it is ultimately important. Bill Gates is doing much to improve our understanding of what it takes to be a great educator. I'm getting off topic here.

      I agree that the standardized testing is failing our school system in many ways, and I believe that it would help our schools if we redesigned this system or eliminated it altogether. Finland has a great, and successful method of standardized testing that I think we should emulate here.

      What do you propose?
      • thumb
        Jul 19 2013: It is not about testing. Its about management.
        So, how to fix it. Any public school system above the individual schools and principals should be removed and a new minimal management group be installed. The new managers would be responsible for limited logistics and personnel support. Security, transportation,food service and non instruction services would be contracted out or eliminated. Principals would be responsible for their schools and the teachers. Teachers would establish the specific teaching syllabus from a very general guide line of curriculum.
        Or the alternative.... any idea better then what is now happening...
        • thumb
          Jul 19 2013: This is a great idea Mike! Is there a platform already written out to implement something like this? What's the first step?
      • thumb
        Jul 20 2013: There is nothing new in my proposal, it is basically how Finland does it.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.