Education Today: Schools Confront Problems

By Judy Molland

As kids stock up on notebooks, pencils and calculators for the new school year, teachers and administrators are beginning their fifth year under the country's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education reform law. While the law's goal is to raise the excellence levels of kids, teachers and schools across the board, signs of a struggling education system are abundant:

  • American kids continue to score poorly in math and science, compared to the rest of the developed world.
  • News reports assert that boys have fallen dangerously behind girls academically, with their problems worsening as they move into the higher grades.
  • School districts grapple with how to fix crumbling school buildings while still paying for the teachers, courses and special-education services needed to boost student test scores.
  • And the achievement gap between kids from families who "have" and those who "have not" continues to widen.

This past April, two media giants took the issue of America's public education directly to the public. The Oprah Winfrey Show broadcast a special report, titled "American Schools in Crisis," and partnered with Time magazine to poll 1,000 Americans, of all ages, classes and races, about their views on education in this country:

In spite of growing concerns that American public schools and the children who attend them continue to struggle, there are some wonderful success stories out there. Here are three worth noting, primarily because they demonstrate how schools can boost the academic achievement of kids who’ve historically had the most difficulties, those from low-income, minority families.

  • 61 percent think that our public school system is in a crisis, and
  • 52 percent believe that public schools have gotten worse in the last 20 years.

In its accompanying article, Time reported that one-third of today's U.S. high school students won't graduate - they'll drop out. The dropout rate is most acute among kids from low-income minority families; but educators and observers note that students drop out when they feel pressure to achieve without the support to do it.

What's happening here? With such a concerted push in recent years to overhaul education and help our kids reach new academic heights, why aren't things getting better? Are U.S. schools still failing our kids?

The following articles look at the core concerns in today's classrooms, and what's being done to address them.

Articles in this series:

  • How Schools Are Confronting Their Own Problems: As kids stock up on notebooks, pencils and calculators for the new school year, teachers and administrators are beginning their fifth year under the country's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education reform law. Click to learn more

  • The Lag in Math & Science: We may be a country with vastly more resources than other nations, but when it comes to math and science know-how, our kids don't seem to count. Click to learn more

  • Boys' Academic Failure: The worry that boys are falling behind girls academically has repeatedly made headlines this year. But debate continues over whether this is actually true. Click to learn more

  • The Race & Class Gap: While the gender gap is debatable, almost everyone agrees that when it comes to academic achievement, race and class count far more. Click to learn more

  • Decaying School Buildings: With all the emphasis on boosting students' academic skills, it's not surprising that efforts and resources to maintain older school buildings have fallen by the wayside. Click to learn more



On the Web

  • Healthy Schools Network: This non-profit research and advocacy organization is dedicated to environmentally healthy schools. 
  • MathMovesU:  This initiative of Raytheon Company aims to improve the way U.S. middle school students view math.  
  • The Michael Gurian Educational Institute:  Provides parents and teachers with information about how boys and girls learn differently.
  • Moms for Math:  Helps parents understand the importance of math, and offers them tips to help children with math.
  • Parents for Public Schools:  Works to ensure that all public schools effectively serve all children. They offer a multitude of parent resources.