Here is a persuasive essay on why the United States should move to a year round schooling schedule and change their testing systems.
Summer Vacation: A Movement to Better Education in America
The young boy stared blankly at the piece of paper on his desk in front of him, all of the answers to his test had left him stranded and alone. He glanced up at the clock above the chalkboard on the wall, the hands jerking around their usual circles faster and faster. Time was running out. When his teacher asked for the reviews back, the boy and his classmates handed in their sheets of paper covered in questions and very few answers. Why do so many students who try their hardest seem to fall short in the world of academics? Why is the U.S., a world superpower, only ranked seventeenth for the best education? The United States of America's education system has been shifted and shaped to give the American student what's "best", but is obviously flawed. The U.S. Government needs to amend the No Child Left Behind Act to have a higher level of teacher and parent accountability. This means changing the difficulty and content of standardized tests as well as well as the schedule the education systems runs by to give students a better chance at success in the world that they are supposed to be prepared for.
Many students love to run about in the sun and socialize with their friends during the summer. Others like to stay inside and play online video games. Older students often use the summer to make a little money with a their first job. What these students don't realize is that over the summer they lose some of what they learned during the school year over the summer. One Professor from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Harris Cooper, confirmed this with his research. He said: "We found that kids do forget over the summer. Across the board, all kids lose some math skills. In reading, the middle class holds its own, but the poor lose reading and spelling skills". With the National Poverty Center reporting over sixteen thousand children under the age of 18 living in poverty, that is a lot of students who are losing precious knowledge over their summer vacation. This means that the next school year teachers must fit a large amount of review into their curriculum.
With review becoming a large section of the school year, there is little time for actual instruction as the teachers also have to prepare students for mandatory standardized tests. "Instruction time is being consumed by monotonous test preparation. Some schools allocate more than a quarter of the year's instruction to test prep"("Standardized Tests"). The lack of time to actually teach students about new topics and the world around them shows that the typical school schedule needs to be fixed, so the students can learn everything they need to for the test they are preparing for. Without this knowledge, and too much review and test prep, there will be no possibility for these students to pass standardized tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act and graduate on time.
The No Child Left Behind Act, "An act to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind", is all the country has had, in recent years, to truly help guide how the education system should work, using standardized testing to calculate changes in the system. The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in 2001 by President George W. Bush. This bill fulfilled the population's desire to have an education system that held teachers and parents more accountable for students' educations. The standardized tests used to check this accountability, though, destroyed any hope for a creative and colorful education in the United States. "A five-year University of Maryland study completed in 2007 found 'the pressure teachers were feeling to 'teach to the test'' since NCLB was leading to 'declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum.'"("Standardized Tests"). These tests squander any and all chances to explore where education could truly take the students. When these teachers "teach to the test" they are setting strict guidelines and rules that not only caused "declines in teaching higher-order thinking" but crush curiosity as well with a "drill" like pattern of assignments. This will lead, slowly but surely, to an America with little to no revolutionary thinkers and could lead to a nation's downfall.
Along with a rushed and inadequate curriculum, these tests can cause a lot of stress. "Standardized testing causes severe stress in younger students. According to education researcher Gregory J. Cizek, anecdotes abound 'illustrating how testing... produces gripping anxiety in even the brightest students, and makes young children vomit or cry, or both'"("Standardized Tests"). No student wants to feel so stressed out that they feel the need to vomit, or have a mental break down, and neither do their parents. Students of all ages, not just the young ones, can experience many different kinds of physical and mental consequences of this stress. "Stress can sometimes lead to hair loss. The human body has ways of alerting us of problems such as stress. If handled properly, stress can be managed and not lead to hair loss or other appearance related problems."("Medical News Today"), but as students, many of those under this stress do not know how to handle or ease the amount of stress they are under. "[We] have yet to find a single reputable scholar in the field of early-childhood education who endorses such testing for young children"(Kohn). These tests, which have begun causing more and more stress, have even been "dumbed down" recently.
In California, one group, The Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools(BOARS), has recently made movements to eliminate some standardized tests entirely and make others easier. "Eliminating standardized tests or dumbing down their contents doesn't help anyone. It simply sweeps evidence of academic disparities under the rug, where they can't be dealt with"(Chavez). This "dumbing down" of these standardized tests not only hides the issues that need to be dealt with, but destroy all hopes of school accountability. According to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 all schools must make "Adequate Yearly Progress"(AYP), which is tested by the standardized tests that organizations like California's BOARS would like to make easier. How are schools supposed to be held accountable with their AYP if the tests are continuously being "dumbed down"? They can't.
With students forgetting a small percentage of what they learned over the summer and stressing to the point of nausea, teachers "teaching to the test", and school boards "dumbing down" tests, is there really any hope for the education system in the United States of America? With some government reform, there may be.
The United States Government needs to make some big changes, and shift the way their education system is run. With students forgetting what they learned over the school year during the summer months, the yearly schedule obviously needs to be fixed. Many schools around the United States have already adapted to this and have spread the mandatory 180 days of school over the year with a lot of short week and/or two week long breaks, the largest break being thirty days long. One professor from Ohio State University's School of Public Affairs, Paul T. Von Hipple said: "Year-round calendars do not fix the problem of summer learning. Instead, they simply hide the problem by sweeping it under the rug of fall, winter, and spring". If Von Hipple is right and the year round schedule does not fix the problem, then cutting the number of breaks and their length would.
This large amount of time in school would be highly beneficial, but that does not take the unfair standardized tests out of the equation. These tests are built to test at a very specific level, but it is very well understood that not all students learn at the same rate, and that these tests do not accurately show how teachers and parents are doing on teaching students their curriculum and getting them to school on time respectively. Not dumbing down these tests, would cause a lot of issues, but by combining a slow gradual incline in difficulty and the new schedule, students would be better prepared with all the additional time they would have, and would be able to pass these tests with ease.
A longer school year and higher standards for testing in the long run would lead to a better, smarter, more successful country. If the young boy, along with the rest of his class, had more time for learning, he would have been able to answer more questions on his test. Since he wasn't able to answer more questions he wasn't able pass his standardized test and his school was closed down due to not meeting it's Adequate Yearly Progress for six years in a row, and the government brought in a totally new and unfamiliar staff. The current system is not working and the Government should be changing it to better students lives in the long run and help this country become more successful.