How are schools paralyzed by low student achievement?

Posted by Ronald | January 31, 2014  |  No Comment

On January 28, the Atlanta Metropolitan area was paralyzed by snow and ice. Critics say this was due to inadequate planning by city and state officials and lack of sufficient snow equipment. In a rush to escape the treacherous weather, citizens clogged the expressways before the storm reached its peak. Many people were trapped and stranded on the highway, schools and buildings. Many occupied shelters overnight, as well as in Good Samaritan’s homes, churches, grocery stores and even Home Depots.

The frustration of people and the devastation of this winter storm led to the blame game. Fingers were pointed towards the governor, mayor, superintendents and meteorologists.  Finally, two days after the storm, the governor apologized for the debacle and took full responsibility for the mishap. Considering what a storm can do to cripple a city, the critical questions to be asked are: How are schools paralyzed by low student achievement? How does President Barrack Obama plan to prepare students for a 21st century workforce?

In America’s educational settings, there are many factors that cause schools to have low student achievement. Some of the challenges include the lack of family stability and involvement, the offering of a well-balanced curriculum for all students, the selection of effective school leaders and teachers and the budgetary shortfalls. These challenges are leading to a significant number of students not graduating from school and, subsequently, being prepared for a 21st century workforce.

In the 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted the importance of the Democratic and Republican parties working together. Obama said, “When our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, then we are not doing right by the American people.” In contrast to last year, Obama recognized the work of both parties and Congress for finally producing a budget that retracted some of the severe cuts to priorities such as education, allowing the government to concentrate on creating new jobs rather than creating new crises.

To prepare students for a 21st century workforce, Obama highlighted the following initiative of his administration: (1) lead a reform effort to enhance existing training programs in the U.S. in order to “train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.” For effectiveness, Obama encouraged “Congress to concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs; (2) redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career; (3) connect 99 percent of students over the next four years to high-speed broadband” through the support of companies such as Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon; (4) “help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential” through America’s leading corporations and foundations; (5) establish a coalition of politicians, philanthropists and business leaders to enable every four-year old child to have access to a high-quality pre-K education and (6)  execute a College Opportunity Summit where 150 businesses, universities and nonprofits make specific commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education and to enable every hardworking kid to pursue college and be successful on those campuses.

In a complex and global economy, these are some of the ideas Obama highlighted to promote professional development and growth for our students and create relevant jobs for a 21st century workforce. Just as the Atlanta Metropolitan area was paralyzed by a winter storm due to numerous factors such as inadequate planning and lack of human and physical resources, our schools are paralyzed by low student achievement due to similar factors. Rather than consistently pointing fingers, we all have to learn in education, government and business from our successes and failures. We also have to admit to our mistakes and benchmark best practices so we don’t repeat mediocrity.

 Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of four books, “Education Questions to be Answered,”  “Current Issues and Answers in Education,”  “How to Eradicate Hazing and “Professional Career Paths.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper.  Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected].

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