The key to the education system in our country: one man’s view
by Pamela Eldridge
At the October luncheon for Alaska Press Women, Jeff Jones, publisher of Alaska Publications, brought strong opinions about public education in the United States.
As Jones sees it, the current catch phrase and federal mandate of No Child Left Behind means students are taught to pass tests, not necessarily encouraged to learn. They must pass these tests to avoid falling behind federally mandated testing levels. They must stay above these levels for the schools to keep federal funding. Spending per student has never been higher; conversely, literacy rates continue to fall. Jones feels that Americans have “abdicated the responsibility” of educating children to the government.
“Unless we’re willing to pull our heads out of the sand and face the reality of the current climate in this country as it relates to education, I think that we’re going to be in a lot of trouble,” Jones said.
Jones related a story of an elder at the Anchorage Pioneer Home who had an eighth grade education. “He gave me a copy of a test that he took in the eighth grade in Washington State. Seniors [in high school] couldn’t pass that test today. It is incredibly more complex and difficult and given to eighth graders. Not only are our kids failing, but we’re not preparing them for the workforce.”
Passing tests does not equate to employability. Jones cited a statistic that, in the United States, 20 percent of all recent graduates from high school are illiterate and innumerate. A 2004 study revealed that Minnesota businesses spent $40 million on remedial training to ready people for employment. Although reports indicate test scores are up, Jones said, “look at the questions that are asked on the assessment tests. They are watered down dramatically.”
As a world super power, Jones surmises that the United States should have public education figured out, but the facts reveal problems. “Our mantra is ‘No Child Left Behind.’ We’re trying to make sure Johnny is literate,” Jones said. “We’re not working on a world class education system. We’re bringing up the rear, but we’re spending an unprecedented amount of money. More money is not the answer.”
Jones cited several studies comparing literacy rates to federal spending, drawing comparisons that high spending levels do not equate to high quality education. Jones feels we push the responsibility for our children’s education onto the government. Yet it is our responsibility as parents and concerned family members to make sure our children receive a proper education.
“We need to love our kids enough to make certain they are truly being educated. Our involvement in their lives is key to all of their successes and all of their failures,” Jones said. “Without that, the tireless efforts of the best educators result in nominal performance as our children are not fully engaged because we are not available to ensure their success. The compelling nature of our love must be evidenced in the home. If not, the classroom will reflect the emptiness of our efforts as parents.”