What do we now know about the US education system, in a Nutshell?
Created through Historic Events
Government directed mandatory public education was driven by the growth needs of big business at the end of the 19th century, and later the military for WWI. The US was switching from an Agricultural to an Industrial nation. People moved from the sparcely populated countryside to densely populated cities in search of better jobs. There was unprecedented European immigration, which tripled the US population. The educational goal was basic reading, writing and counting literacy and common national outlook. The schools were generally successful at meeting the goals. Teacher union(s) formed to protect the most effective element of the system, the teachers.
Where We are Today
We have moved from the Industrial age to the Digital age. UNESCO, the "intellectual" agency of the United Nations, no longer recognizes the simple set of technical skills for reading, writing and counting as literate. According to UNESCO, to be literate one must be able to use "skills in ways that contribute to socio-economic development, to developing the capacity for social awareness and critical reflection as a basis for personal and social change". The US does not want to be rated as an illiterate nation within the United Nations, therefore the Common Core Standards were proposed. The Common Core, Science, and Social Studies Standards emphasize critical thinking skills and knowledge of key facts necessary for understanding. They are a significant departure over 20th Century education that enables children to have more choices, self-sufficiency, and fulfillment in their adult lives, as well as contributing to solving the major problems of tomorrow. The major problem is that school systems took federal money for nearly a decade to prepare, but teachers were not taught these skills in school when they were young, or taught how to teach these skills to their students. Highly rated education colleges continue to teach what they taught last century, even today. So tomorrows teachers will be equally unprepared.
Without outstanding leadership, the larger an organization gets, the harder it is to change. This is true about the public education system, with $600 billion per year revenues. As compared to other nations, the US education system has slightly below average outcome (97%, due to math scores) and one of the worse effectiveness (74%), with only Iceland doing worse. US gifted children's scores are equal to average scores of highly academic nations, like Finland and Japan.
Research has found that teaching effectiveness has the largest school impact on academic achievement. Effect of a bad teacher lasts 3 years or more, and derails some students’ academic achievement. On average, a highly effective teacher increases a child's academic outcome by 15 percentile points per year. This has been translated to a $10,000 increase in yearly salary for the child as an adult. After 3 consecutive years of highly effective teachers, a child’s outcome increases an average of 40 percentile points.
Most effective education includes a blend of high quality human and computer teaching. The two teaching methods can be synergistic, being most effective in different ways. High quality blended teaching has been shown to counteract the effects of extreme environments found in big cities.
As a higher percentage of educational funding came from state and federal resources, a significantly lower percentage of the funding made it to teachers and kids, from 65% to current 37%. Costly regulation activities increased. The teaching profession became less fulfilling, decreasing teacher effectiveness and the qualifications of some entering the profession. Student academic outcomes did not increase.
Shaped by Auditory Language: English
A culture is shaped by language and cultural institutions. Written language is a set of shared arbitrary symbols that are used to communicate. A person’s ability to learn or communicate through a language depends on how well that person's underlying thoughts or concepts align with the style of the language.
World languages come in two forms, visual and auditory. There are thousands of visual languages (Mandarin Chinese) and many auditory languages (English, Romance, Germanic/Slavic). The figure to the right shows the word woman written in two visual languages, Modern Chinese and Ancient Egyptian, and the auditory language, English.
Most people in this world speak visual languages, and learn through the natural mapping of visual information to concept meaning. These are "show me" learning cultures. Studies have shown that written Chinese literacy requires a knowledge of between three and four thousand visual characters. As a language that grew out of multiple sources, English is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn to read and write; with 26 letters, 52 letter shapes total with upper and lowercase, 44 sounds with 150 regular spellings of the sounds and roughly 1000 irregular spellings of the sounds. Learning your ABC's is just one tiny piece. Children from text-based "tell me learning" cultures, like 20th century US, are expected to learn through mapping of acoustic information to concept meaning. Visual thinkers store concepts primarily in visual long term memory. Young visual thinkers can have problems translating the information in acoustic utterances (just sounds) to auditory (sounds with word meaning) to visual concepts, later followed by written text to visual concept meaning. Some do not learn the acoustic utterances. Some learn the acoustic utterances and letter sequences, but not the shared meanings.
A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, and is context rich. Visual languages, like visual thinking, are rich in context, space oriented, event oriented, and encourage story-telling and collective cultures. Self is a right brain concept. This concept extends to those you are close to and your "community". Visual cultures place a strong emphasis on how all members of the community relate to one another. Impersonal communication is considered very rude.
Auditory languages use little or no context for communicating, and do not assign a role to listener. Auditory cultures stress time. Communication can be a single word or command. A great deal of shared knowledge is assumed, even when there is no evidence. Time is stressed.
Left-Brain Oriented System
Current US education system is geared for one type of brain, verbal left brain with moderate global connectivity, which is present in 25% of the students. All students benefit from total brain teaching. About 60% of students are visual right brain thinkers, and rely more on visual right brain learning mechanisms, especially those with less global connectivity. It is estimated that 40% of students are not reading or doing math at grade level. The average child labeled with a learning disablity has an IQ that is average to above average. So they have the ability to learn, but 80% of teachers view them as retarded, because this is what they have been taught. The US education system is actually right-brain teaching disabled. Educationally highly effective nations have nearly abolished learning disability labels in favor of effective teaching. By providing disabled teaching, then publically labeling a child learning disabled is grossly unfair and a damaging triple whammy to children, due to the impact of negativity stress on learning.
Teacher’s and education researcher's perceptions have a major effect on a child's education. There is a large overlap in behaviors exhibited by gifted, ADHD, and ADS labeled children. Educators are warned to be careful to not mislabel. It so happens that both gifted and ADHD labeled children's cortex mature 2 years later than average. A highly respected education researcher took the nearly identical MRI data from both studies, and concluded for the gifted that later maturation was a benefit that allowed greater adaptablity, whereas for the ADHD, the later maturation indicated a deficiency, propagating the myths that learning disabled children are defective and gifted are superior. Not all right brainer's could be labeled gifted, but the gifted are a group underserved by today's education system that are studied with a positive light. Research that studies effective methods of serving the gifted needs in an integrated school, very often apply to serving the needs of those that are labeled disabled, than those designed to study the needs of the disabled.
Functions that occur in your dominate hemisphere are simply easier for you to develop. People often feel that others that struggle with what you view as simple, are inferior, but those that excel in things that you struggle with are superior. Actually, they are only different. What needs to be praised and admired is the effort people take to learn or create.
Because current laws and policy require the label of disability to enable service, it is important that the labeled children understand they are not learning disabled. They can learn! They need to know that their disability label has more to do with not fully understanding impacts of lifestyle changes and an education system disability, and this is what we are going to do about it. Now the parents and child are back in control and the child's sense of security is reestablished. Visual thinkers need context to understand, and do less well in impersonal Industrial societies and Big Business where people are objectified. The good news is that the Digital world favors and needs the visual thinkers.
As mentioned earlier, forty-five states agree to and received federal funding for the adoption of the Common Core Standards over the last decade. The standards are a positive step, but delivered poorly. They require the memorization of fewer unessential facts in favor of more critical thinking skills. Stepping up the levels of the Blooms Taxonomy for better recall and more effective teaching. Unfortunately, few teachers have been taught to teach that way. Some states, with less than 30% of their students currently meeting the achievement level, have not reacted constructively to their preparedness to the standard testing starting in 2014. The US businesses will continue to import talent from other countries and outsource jobs. This could create a lost generation of US children and teachers, if parents and communities do not step in. The children impacted the greatest are those labeled learning disabled and gifted.
A principal's most important job is the finding and retaining effective of teachers. Research has shown that this is rarely being done because school districts do not evaluate principals on this, and parents do not demand it. On average, greater than 99% of teachers receive a satisfactory rating on their yearly review, so school systems do not reward highly effective teachers, encourage average teachers to improve, or ineffective teachers to leave. Research has shown that communities are successful in retaining the most effective teachers by recognizing them and making their careers more fulfilling. Kids and parents know the best and worst teachers; most principals do not or do not choose to act on it.