What Went Wrong with America\'s Schools?


Education is the key to any countries economic success. For a country
to be economically sound, the business and industry within that country must be
financially prosperous. In todays high tech world economy, businesses and
industries need well educated employees to prosper. Therefore, the
deterioration of a countries educational system should be considered a major
economic problem. Between 1965 and 1980, the performance of American students
dramatically declined, the educational system fell backwards, and it is
affecting todays schools, as well as the future of the US\'s work force.
During that 15 year period, US students\' test scores severely dropped in
comparison to other industrial countries. After 1980, the dropping scores
leveled off, and recently, they have begun in increase. But American students
must play catch-up with the rest of the world, and todays public school system
is not prepared to facilitate the major leap forward that our educational system
needs.
Before 1965, America\'s public school system was producing better
educated students with less money and fewer supplies than today. Each class was
approximately 40% larger than today\'s classes, and they functioned with about
one-third of the real dollar expenditures of present day schools. They taught
with fewer books and less equipment, and did not have any of todays audio-visual
material and equipment. Then, between 1965 and 1980, real dollar expenditures
per student doubled as teacher to student ratio dropped by one forth. Yet, with
more money and fewer students per class, student achievement deteriorated in
every available measure. In 15 years, national SAT scores declined by 5 points
annually. That 75 point drop has put the US behind greatly, and has left todays
students with a lot of ground to make up in order to reach other countries test
score levels.
The cause of this dramatic drop can not been attributed to any one thing.
The decline was sudden, sharp, and affected every region and socioeconomic
group in the country. Because the 60\'s and 70\'s were a time of major changes,
nothing that happened in that era can be ruled out. But a few major changes
within the educational system have been linked to the decline.
The first major change was the unionization of teachers. Before 1960,
there were virtually no teacher\'s unions. Then, starting in 1960, there was a
large movement of teacher\'s unions. By 1970, more than 50% of all teachers were
members of one union or another. Today, around 75% of teachers are unionized.
Teachers strikes, which were almost nonexistent before 1960, now seem to mark
the beginning of fall. While the new unions help to give teachers more job
security, higher pay, and pension plans, they often affected the educational
process.
Another major change in the educational system was that schools began to
become more centralized. This started soon after WWII. After the wars end,
there were approximately 100,000 school districts in the United States. By 1970,
that number had reduced to less that 20,000. The physical unification of school
was not as important as was the financial centralization of schools, which began
in the 60\'s. Before the unifications, local school boards raised about 60% of
their own school funds, mostly with real estate taxes. The bulk of the rest of
the needed funds came from state government. By 1980, though, local school
boards were receiving 60% of their funds from the government and generated only
40% of their own funds. Those schools that received increased government funds
first were some of the first to decline. This added to the theory that a
schools performance is hindered by the bureaucratic controls over them that are
less responsive to the school\'s and parents\' concerns. As more money was coming
from the government, the teachers and parents had less of a say in how those
funds were spent.
Recently, the educational system has shown improvement, and test scores
are improving as well, but it is still not enough to bring us up to
international levels. US students are playing catch-up with other countries.
But many schools do not have the needed financial support to increase the
learning environment. The government support is not available because taxes do
not bring in enough to cover all of the governments needs. This lack of school
funds forces schools to lay off teachers, which increases class sizes and puts
more work on the already overworked teaching staff. Schools are also starting
pay- to-play program with their sports and school sponsored activities. Some
schools are being forced to completely eliminate art and industrial education
classes. Colleges are also affected by the shortage of funds. As government
funding