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45 Ways We Could Improve Education

The Voyager staff was asked for ways education could improve. This is what they wrote.

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45 Ways We Could Improve Education

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The primary/secondary grading system needs to be changed

 

A new modification was enacted last year—the primary and secondary grading system. This grading system, in our opinion, sets students up for failure. If a student fails a primary assessment, like a test or a project, but gets 100’s on the next three secondary grades, like a quiz, their grade won’t budge. With this grading system, students aren’t given a fair chance to improve their grades because one type of assignment has more of an effect than the other.

2. Bring back PAPER!

   It is true, technology makes our lives easier, but to an extent. An over dependence has developed. It is apparent that curriculum has changed along with the advancements of the times. Incoming classes don’t even know how to write in cursive. Many of them don’t have to write essays on paper. Homework assignments are now being done and submitted electronically through Google Classroom. We take tests on our iPads. Classrooms are being filled with carts of laptops instead of stacks of looseleaf. Binders are being replaced with iPads. Bringing back paper would benefit student focus, possibly a student’s ability to study, and it would teach them independence, which so many lack. It seems as if work loads are being multiplied due to the fact that things can be assigned and submitted so much faster through technology than if they were done on paper. This could create a better classroom experience for students, potentially a smaller workload, and it would encourage students to be well-rounded.

3. Put less emphasis on technology and more on reading

There’s an immediate reason why test scores have been lagging compared to other countries, and part of it can be contributed to our lax cell phone policies. Firstly, before more serious measures are taken, it pains me to say that schools need to force their students to conceal their cells’ and focus more on expanding their horizons through literature and other novels they might find interesting. France has decided to implement a no-cellphone policy where students must dispense of their phones in lockers before heading off to the class for the day. A more effective and inexpensive alternative would be disabling the wifi for students.

4. Listen to the student’s opinions on a teacher

Great, a teacher has been working at the school for four years and a day, receiving tenure. But does that make them a good teacher? Student’s opinions on a teacher should matter the most because students are the ones being taught by that teacher. Their future is in the hands of the teacher, so shouldn’t that teacher be the best a school can find and not a lousy teacher who has a tenure? The school should make the student’s opinion on teachers a priority when deciding if a teacher is good or not even if they have a tenure. School’s may see that a teacher has tenure and assume that the teacher is good but they aren’t the ones being taught in the classroom. Students want whatever is best for their future and if having a lousy teacher will affect their future, then the students will want change.

5. Change tenure rules

Tenure is a concept that’s prevalent in schools across the country. Some teachers can adapt with the changing society but others remain stuck in their ways. In my four years here, I’ve been lucky to come across only a few of said teachers.

6. Replace the iPads with Microsoft Surfaces.

The Microsoft Surface is both a tablet and a functional laptop. The iPads are hard to handwrite notes on and typing on them is not great. With the Surface, comes a pen that makes it possible to handwrite notes if the student chooses to do so. If the school is going to spend the money on the technology, get technology that can be used for more than browsing or looking at notes.

 iPads cause more bad than good. It’s extremely hard to learn how to calculate the measurement of a major arc in a circle when the student in front of you is playing fortnite and to your left is watching “The Office.”

7. Teachers need to be evaluated based on their skills rather than be kept around based on tenure.

Shoe shopping while the class does busy work isn’t beneficial to the teacher or the student. Ever since I heard and saw that, neither me or my classmates took what she said seriously. How are we supposed to care about what we’re learning when the teacher shops during class?

  A teacher that consistently forgets what she did the day before? People in this class learn nothing because they spend half the period catching their teacher up on what they taught the day before. Tenure needs to not be the main reason that these teachers are still around. Checks and evaluations need to be made based on observations and anonymous reports from students.

 

8. Enough of “lecture lethargy”

I can not help but wonder why this phenomenon goes unchanged, and more and more students are bored in classes. In order to solve this problem, schools need to make vast improvements how they teach, when they teach, and how they expect students to retain information.

9. English teachers need to implement writing in their agendas

In my two years of high school, I have only done a handful of writing assignments, most of which were in-class essays to go along with novels. Most people can argue that writing is the most important thing a student can learn in high school. However, so many English teachers manage to bury it in a pile of 20th century literature and Shakespeare’s plays. Students need to learn how to write creatively and research-based. 10 years from now, we aren’t going to need to know all of Act 1 Scene I of Romeo and Juliet, but rather how to write a compelling argument for a job.

10. Shorten the amount of homework and do most of it in class

Homework causes stress and stress causes kids to feel the whole weight of the world on their shoulders. Many kids spend hours a night on their homework and don’t have any time to do anything else, like interact with their family. One night, I spent 3-4 hours on my homework and couldn’t eat dinner because I was so tired after I was done. Instead of doing all of your homework at home, teachers should do most of it (if not all) with the students in class that day. Many students find themselves learning the lesson well in class but totally forgot once the lesson was about once you get home. Doing the homework in class with the teacher will help stop that problem while also shortening the amount of homework that the student has to do at home.

11. Start school later

Waking up at 5:30 to 6:00 in the morning is torture, especially when teenagers only get an average of 7 hours when they should be sleeping for 8-10 hours to function at the highest level. A study has shown that only 15% of kids reported that they get 8 and a half hours of sleep on a school night. If schools started later, kids would be able to get more sleep but more importantly, the kids would do better in school because they got more the 1-2 extra hours of sleep. I, along with other students found ourselves  yawning the whole morning of school.

12. Keep schools safe

Violent kids do not belong in school. With all of the violence going on in schools, safety for students is extremely important. Student shouldn’t have to come to school thinking that they aren’t safe. Kids come to school to learn, not worry about losing their life. The only thing that a student should worry about in school is their upcoming algebra test. I recommend that schools have a police car or two in front of the school and one in front of the main entrance. The safety of schools is tremendously important for the future.

13. Breaking up Summer

In recent years, many school districts in other states have opted to break up their summer break and disperse is at various times throughout the year. This has a very positive effect on students. Instead of a three month break, students have smaller two-three week breaks during the year. This limits the time during Summer where students forget information from the previous year, and can also prevent student burnout.

14. Standing desks

I can personally attest to how terrible it is sitting in a high school desk all day. You get muscles cramps and get tight. When you stand up after a 45 minute lecture, your body feels like it hasn’t moved in years. Getting standing desks for students would help them improve leg blood flow, help with their posture, and help students become healthier in general.

15. PE: Opt out for varsity athletes

Varsity sports are very demanding on students, especially if they take high level courses. I often find myself working on homework on the bus on the way to games. It hard enough trying to play a sport, but trying to get finished all of school’s work is sometimes an impossible task. Opting out of PE for varsity athletes would be a good solution. Because the athletes already get their recommended sixty minutes of exercise. This is redundant. Letting the athletes use the PE period would be a better solution.

16. Classes toward college majors

High schools need to start aiming high school courses toward colleges. By senior year, most kids have an idea of what field they want to pursue, so colleges should allow students to take similar classes they would take in their field of study. This would allow kids to stay focused during senior year, when “senioritis” runs rampant.

17. Focus on collaboration

  Competition is a good thing, but collaboration is even better. Collaboration reduces a hostile peer environment. When students compete, their minds are trained to think they have to constantly compare themselves to someone else. It is great if a student performs the best in their class, if they do it to push themselves and accomplishes that goal for his/herself. With collaboration in the classroom, students would be able to bounce ideas off others and get ideas that they might not have otherwise thought of. If students had to work with others, they’d be, hopefully, more friendly and accepting of other people. They might even make a new friend.

18. Increase Pay for Teachers

    Regardless of if a student chooses to pursue cosmetology, carpentry, or engineering, there would be no dispute that education is vital. With that, teachers help shape the minds of students. They leave a significant imprint, sometimes without realizing it. The environment in which teachers operate is just as important as the environment students operate in. Students can often overlook the role of a teacher and fail to provide recognition and appreciation for them. Everybody loves to get recognized for their hard work, and that recognition typically comes in the form of a periodic raise. At Eastern, teachers receive a raise based off of degree (level of education), and how long they’ve been teaching. This is a factor that contributes to why some teachers aren’t dedicated to inspiring their students. Either their pay doesn’t reinforce all of their hard work, so they slack off, or teachers become tenured in and get paid comfortably, so they figure that slacking won’t affect their pay. Teachers need to start being paid based off of performance. This eliminates any wiggle-room for teachers to put anything less than 100% of their efforts into their lessons and activities, and provides an incentive to truly do what they are paid to do.

19. Administration

   People sit in the cafeteria with friends during the lunch period. Sometimes jokes are told, and there are happy, very loud laughs. Almost immediately, a teacher walks over to those friends with a scowl on their face. They put quite the amount of energy trying to tear down someone’s happiness and enjoyment. While switching classes, a student sees their friend, so they decide to talk for a minute, clear from traffic. The students are ten feet away from their classroom, and there are three minutes left before the bell rings. A teacher walks down the hallway and yells at them to get to class. For what? No doubt about it, there needs to be discipline and order within a school. However, if students aren’t in the way of others or being disruptive, why bother them? A handful of teachers and administrators put off a miserable, over-protective parent kind of vibe. Everyone is here to learn. Why can’t we learn kindness, tolerance, and how to have a good time? That would make for a much better school environment.

 

20. Not changing the teachers

Each year we change the teachers in every subject. Now this is just dumb to me since we should just keep our teachers and it would help with students. The teachers could find ways to help improve their students, since they can progress over time and they will know how to conduct lessons.

 

21. Smaller classes

It’s hard for teachers to teach big classes. It’s way better to have smaller classes and to allow the teacher to focus more on a few students than a lot. It would improve a lot of performances because it would allow the teacher to focus on a few students without that might effort. There should not be 27- 30 students in classes (besides Gym and Health). Classes should range between 17-20 kids per class.

22. Better ways of finding good teachers

There are too many teachers, doing teaching for just money. I believe schools need better qualifications for teachers to pass for the job. Teachers who WANT to teach, and can come up with ways to release information to students. We could give out higher pay which could only motivate teachers with good

23. Harsher consequences for skipping class

I’ve seen many kids just skip class easily, by going to the bathrooms or nurse. This is valuable time for studies and learning. People have been smoking, skipping, it’s too easy for that in many schools. More hard pressure on grades, and we shouldn’t have many warning about it either. 1 warning should be enough for the student to stop if they know their grades are at stake.

24. More classes in major field

Sure basic algebra, math problem solving is fine for an English major to learn. But we should have qualifications for classes we don’t want to take for graduation. If it doesn’t suit the student, they shouldn’t be forced to do it or not graduate.

25. The Anti-LGBTQ Experience

LGBTQ peoples face social obstacles in high school in every avenue and turn. For starters, teachers have permitted students to integrate homophobic and transphobic saying into everyday high school culture. Despite the growing use of “insults” such as fagg-t and q-eer, many teachers, even those who witness the use of such language, turn a blind eye and fail to penalize those who use such insults. Some teacher even go as far as to speak said hateful expressions in classroom discussions themselves. Schools, including Eastern, must begin to educate students in LGBTQ studies, including how to be respectful towards an LGBTQ person. Overall, Eastern need to function as a safe place for LGBTQ peoples and not a place for discrimination, embarrassment, and depression.

26. Sexist Dress Code

The issue of dress codes that body shame adolescent girls arises in most discussions of school problems. In today’s world of the MeToo movement and the Time’s Up movement, it seems foolish to marginalize women and force their conformity to old-fashioned standards. Instead of furthering ideas of women being naturally promiscuous and having a sole purpose to attract men, which many school dress codes will have people believe, schools should embrace the idea of femininity and advocate for gender equality in the classroom, in the workplace, and for clothes that one is allowed to wear. Overall, school officials, including those at Eastern, should understand the fundamentals of today’s fashion and allow female women to express themselves without body-shaming them.

27. Ban single use plastic

If someone can go through four years of high school and still think that Eastern doesn’t recycle, there’s a problem. It goes beyond the logistics of separating plastics from food waste—it’s indicative of a careless school population in the wake of increased environmental detriment.  

  According to Container Recycling Institute, in 2014, the U.S. sold over 100 billion plastic beverage bottles. That’s only bottles—not including plastic bags, straws, or other single use plastics. We at Eastern have contributed to that statistic. Every day, I see plastic forks and straws all over the floors and filling trash cans, when we should instead be taking motions to reduce and ultimately ban single use plastic at Eastern to contribute to a more sustainable earth.

28. Creativity in the Classroom

  In the spring of sophomore year, my basement looked like a scene straight out of Halloween.  My hands were caked in crimson blood, as the paint dripped down my arms and pooled at my feet.  Countless nights I transformed my basement into a host for the gory Julius Caesar stabbing to prepare for Mr. Michael Fulton’s Shakespeare play project. It was a provocative, albeit grisly, experience.

  But immediately after disrobing my Roman garments, I went into my next class and filled out the same scantron sheet that has been embedded in my mind since I entered the mundane educational system.  How is it possible that one of my classes can incorporate such creativity into assignments, while I take objective tests in my other classes? Every teacher in this school should have the courage to incorporate these daring assignments into their classwork to engage their students in work that has more interdisciplinary connections.

29. Create a more comprehensive “life course” as opposed to personal finance.

The idea of personal finance on paper sounds like a solid one, but in reality, personal finance does little to inform students of how to handle finances and what adulthood may actually entail. What high school students need is a course that teaches them how to file taxes, how to invest, how to open a bank account, what’s a mortgage, etc. Personal finance informs you, but only on the basics and in a less memorable way. What students need are the life skills that will help them during and after college.

30. Teachers need to be more understanding/accommodating.

Though teachers use the old “I was a student once too” line all the time, it sometimes seems hard to believe with the amount of work they give. On average, a high school student spends three and a half hours on homework every night. On top of that, most students play sports, play an instrument, or are in a time-consuming club. Teachers often seem to forget that high schoolers have lives outside of school, and that seven hours of schoolwork inside the building is more than enough. With limited homework, students could have more time for extracurriculars, which are also extremely important for college, and would be able to do the work they’re assigned more diligently.

31. Get rid of administrative study periods

By far the most ridiculous rule that Eastern has decided to implement is the punishment of an administrative lunch period if any student is even a second late to school. Since January, rooms 10 and 11 have been filled with students who got stuck in long lines of cars, and the new parking rule is to blame. Cars have to wait in long lines to pull all the way around by the front of the building instead of being able to make a left turn like before. This new rule has made the long-standing traffic issue at Eastern much worse.

32. Improve teacher evaluations

A teacher that works four years and one day is tenured and is basically locked into a job for ever. It does not matter how good or bad a teacher is, they are tenured and locked into a job.

 Also teachers are observed once or twice a year. Often times they act fake during the class period and do not create an accurate description of how the teacher teaches.

 I think a new way of evaluating teachers needs to be done. Lets instead filter out the bad teachers and assure that only the best teachers are teaching the students.

 We should also include student input. Students should rate their teachers fairly (not I don’t like this teacher because they’re mean) that way we know the teachers that the students like.

 

33. Less Factory, More Humanity

High school is a factory. The teacher is the worker. The student is the product. The school takes the student, teaches them obedience and compliance, and spits them out the other end as quickly possible.

  Think of the things you first learned in school. Take a second before continuing. Now, did one of the lessons you thought about include raising your hand to speak? I’m guessing no.

  This form of obedience has been embedded in us since elementary school. Don’t speak unless you are called upon. Don’t tell me the solution unless I first give you permission.

  Ironically, teenagers don’t want to be labelled as obedient, yet we are becoming more obedient as the years and grades pass.

  Breaking the process is as easy as keeping your hand down in the classroom. Call out instead.

  Giving students this freedom is a simple way to improve the class experience. Teachers already have enough trouble getting their students to participate. How does making students put out the energy it requires to raise their hand help?

  You might be worried that this could cause interruptions, but why be afraid of this?

  Several students might have the answer and call it out at the same time. People agreeing with us is a wonderful feeling, especially when it’s this spontaneous.

  But let’s say that a student has a question during the lesson. Should the student still call out? Of course.

  It makes no sense to continue explaining something that a student does not understand. Not only are they busy taking in the information that you are giving them, but they are busy remembering their question and jotting down notes while you continue to speak. One-handed, of course, because they have to keep one of them in the air.

 

34. Teach Real World Math Ideas

Another change that should take place comes in the math department. Instead of teaching us how to factor an equation or use the quadratic formula, teach us how we use those skills in the real world. Why should I have to do practice problem after practice problem like a robot. I should instead be taught to how math applies to my life in the real world.

 

35. Funding should go to more valuable investments, not iPads.

Having iPads is not beneficial to students education. In some aspects, it helps but in others it just presents one more way for students to not pay attention to what is being taught. I’m no saint, I often sit in class- when my iPad is actually charged- playing games and not doing my work. There’s no checks on it, I can essentially play the entire class period as long as I look like I’m doing my work. Signing in and signing out on iPads takes longer than it does to sign in on paper. It makes signing in when you’re late take longer- just ask the ever growing line of students waiting to sign in the morning. The money spent on having iPads for every student could be going to more useful programs, such as the music or art departments.

 

36. Students need to stop expecting so much out of teachers

This doesn’t have anything to do with the school system and administration itself but when students stop demanding so much of teachers it makes school days go by easier.

  Teachers lives’ don’t constantly revolve around every single one of their students. Teachers don’t have to go out of their way for you and when you stop expecting them to, you appreciate it more when they do. I never expected anything and then when I had two of my teachers check up on me, it made me have more appreciation for them and what they do.

 

37. Summer reading is an assignment that no longer needs to be assigned

Summer reading is an assignment that gets put off until the first week of school. If you’re lucky you’ll get one out of ten kids that have actually read a new book. My summers have been filled with my parents talking about how summer reading was never a thing when they were growing up. Reading is done throughout the school year. The assignment just makes people dislike reading. I love reading but summer reading always ruffles my feathers. I never like being told to do something- even if it’s something that I like. It takes all the enjoyment that one gets out of reading.

 

38. Invest more in art and music

Aside from academia, schools need to invest more resources in creative classes, like art and music. According to the recent results of the Nation’s Report Card, students scored a 147 in music and 149 in visual arts out of 300, a decrease since the test was first administered in 2008. The arts offer students a break from rigorous coursework, as well as open them to new interests and potential career paths. Learning musical rhythms and notes aids with memorization and concentration. According to a study by Americans for the Arts, students who regularly participate in the arts are four times as likely to be recognized for academic achievement. The arts improve moral and brain functionality in students. With large budget cuts proposed the American government, both the arts and students with suffer.

 

39. Accommodate the different learning styles of each student

The old model of 8 hours in square classrooms, followed by hours of homework alienates those who would learn better in an alternate environment. According to a the Alvie Kohn’s “Homework: New Research Suggests It May Be an Unnecessary Evil” from the Huffington Post, homework only shows a modest positive correlation between standardized tests, yet there is no evidence that students really understand the material. Instead of having a real understanding of what they learn in courses, students memorize information for an exam, then forget. There are also many students who need entirely different teaching strategies, some not including homework. According to learningstyles-online.com, there are seven different learning styles: visual, aural, physical, social, solitary, verbal, logical. If a physical learner who learns best when performing the activity has a visual teacher who only writes notes on a board, that student will perform badly because they are unable to learn in that way. Schools tend to attribute poor test performance to laziness and poor studying habits, but the lack of varietal teaching is also a string factor.

 

40. Unnecessary Homework

The sheer volume of homework has reached an unacceptable level. It has proven a detriment to a vast majority of students, particularly those in advanced courses. Students, pressured with extracurricular activities, athletics, volunteering, and other activities, fail to have the time and energy to successfully undertake the unnecessary amount of homework school instructors are assigning. According to the American Institutes for Research, “For high school students, the positive line [for homework] continues to climb until between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours of homework a night, after which returns diminish.” However, when viewed from the perspective of many Eastern students, this estimate is laughably low. From my personal experiences, I estimate having anywhere between 3-5 hours of homework on any given night. Additionally, I must accompany several hours to study for seemingly never ending exams. I can conclude, without being fraudulent, that homework, the majority of which is unnecessary and not conducive with learning, is inhibiting my ability to inform in avenues of life other than school. Homework, according to numerous research studies, should be assigned in small quantities that aids in better understanding material discussed in class. It should not be handed out in such a manner that students are stressed to the point of tears and mental illness. Unfortunately, unnecessary and excessive homework continues to be the norm in many schools, including Eastern

 

41. Address the Drug Epidemic

With the stresses of school and peer pressure infecting the minds of today’s youth population, many students find relief in the forms of drugs and alcohol. According to a survey of high schools students conducted by The Recovery Village, an addiction treatment center,“35% drank some alcohol. 21% binge drank (consuming an excessive amount). 22% rode in someone’s car who’d been drinking. 10% drove after drinking.” These statistics represent a serious problem afflicting today’s student population, but rather than face the problem directly, schools metaphorically sweep the issue of the drug epidemic under the table. Many schools, treating the drug epidemic as a taboo subject,  attempt to “fix” the problem by issuing punishments without any regard to the person behind the drugs. Instead of providing emotional counseling, providing addiction treatment, and discussing safer alternatives for stress relief, schools decree the suspension or expulsion of a student, covering their eyes and hoping the issue magically disappears. Schools should be asking why a victim has started using drugs and how the school can help in counteracting this problem. Schools should address the problem as a serious issue affecting real people rather than a taboo cookie-cutter subject. Schools should help victims of drug abuse rather than punish them.

 

42. Unnecessary Course Requirements

The majority of older individuals will agree that the material they learned in high school has had very little impact on their later professional careers. From complex analyzations of Victorian Era novels to geometric proofs of polygon relationships, courses are by far and wide useless. By the installment of common core standards and course requirements, students across the country are forced to take courses that hold very little interest and importance. Marion Brady wrote in an article for the Washington Post, “Very few of us could pass the subject matter tests we once took, or would agree that being unable to do so significantly handicaps us. How can we ignore the implications of that fact?” In my own experience, I must question the necessity for such courses as four years of physical education. Without these required courses, students would feel free to partake in classes that would greatly interest them and that would aid them in their unique futures. As such, common core education requirements should be discarded in the manner of education officials disregarding the wishes of parents, students, and teachers alike. Open curriculums result in a greater population of students being both happy and interested in school, and they should thus be considered as a solutions to many of the problems facing schools across the Nation today.

43. Put less pressure on students to perform well on standardized tests

Standardized tests do not determine a student’s intellectual aptitude. It’s unfair to evaluate a student who may not necessarily excel in the English language field but is adept creatively in woodworking or another skill.  PARCC and other assessments are disappointing in that schools have to focus so much time, effort, and money into teaching by and for the test when they could be using valuable classroom time to explore a new skill or nuance not covered on a standardized test.

44. Adapt the 1:1 initiative

  Ever since the introduction of iPads into my class at Eastern, I haven’t seen much benefit. We have incorporated more technology into classrooms, yes, but with varying success.  This all comes back to the devices our administration chose to implement: iPads. iPads are restrictive in their approach to surfing the internet, document editing, and other useful applications.

  Eastern should re-budget to change the 1:1 initiative to include a more useful device for high school students, like Chromebooks or Macbooks.

 

45. Change protocol for lateness

  I have yet to meet a person who does not know the story of the boy who cried wolf.  Yet here we are at Eastern, in the second-semester, and we’ve been extending attendance almost every day.

  Why are we allowing students to come in late while others follow the attendance times posted in the student handbook?  Frankly, it’s a show of bad character. If we allow students to come in late every day, not only does it disrupt teaching, but it sends a message to the school population that the starting times for class don’t have to be followed.

  I have a handful of friends who don’t even pay attention to the first bell anymore.  Instead, they say, “If it’s going to be extended anyway, why should I get up early?”

  Instead of enabling this behavior, Eastern administration should take tougher discipline to students who don’t pre-plan well enough to make it to school on time.  We are preparing for independence in society, after all.

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