What Students Are Saying about How to Improve Their Education! Are We Listening to What They Have to Say?

RE@L-logo_Corp_TM_New-Tag_8-15-17_CMYK-300x127In the hundred thousands of schools across our country no one knows better what works and what doesn’t work than……Yes! The student. That’s one reason RE@L listens to students, and their teachers, too.

merlin_139595823_4afa78bc-f67d-4e4f-88f5-d79da79b0d9f-superJumbo-1024x682Who knows better in the marketplace than the customer? There’s an old saying: “The customer is always right.” They vote “with their feet.”

If the product is poor and the service terrible, off we shoppers go to another shop, or onto the internet and its second day shipping.

If only K12 education were a purchased commodity, it might actually improve.

Charter schools have done a little to change it. From what we’ve learned, maybe it’s time for a K12 makeover.

Here are some student answers on how to improve learning, as reported in excerpts from a recent NY Times editorial below:

“What Students Are Saying About

How to Improve American Education”

An international exam shows that American 15-year-olds are stagnant in reading and math.

Teenagers told us what’s working and what’s not in the American education system.

We asked students to weigh in on these findings and to tell us their suggestions for how they would improve the American education system. Their ideas and responses are included below:

Put Less Pressure on students.

As a student of an American educational center let me tell you, it is horrible. The books are out dated, the bathrooms are hideous, stress is ever prevalent, homework seems never ending, and worst of all, the seemingly impossible feat of balancing school life, social life, and family life is abominable. The only way you could fix it would be to lessen the load dumped on students and give us a break. You wonder why school shootings are happening? It’s because the American student is more stressed out than a nuclear power plant worker.”

“People my age have smaller vocabularies, and if they don’t know a word, they just quickly look it up online instead of learning and internalizing it. The same goes for facts and figures in other subjects; don’t know who someone was in history class? Just look ‘em up and read their bio. Don’t know how to balance a chemical equation? The internet knows. Can’t solve a math problem by hand? Just sneak out the phone calculator. We’ve decreased ability to meaningfully communicate, and we want everything — things, experiences, gratification — delivered to us at Amazon Prime speed. Interactions and experiences have become cheap and 2D because we see life through a screen.”

“I am frustrated about what I’m supposed to learn in school. Most of the time, I feel like what I’m learning will not help me in life. I am also frustrated about how my teachers teach me and what they expect from me. Often, teachers will give me information and expect me to memorize it for a test without teaching me any real application.”

Teachers will revolve their whole days on teaching a student how to do well on a standardized test, one that could potentially impact the final score a student receives. That is not learning. That is learning how to memorize and become a robot that regurgitates answers instead of explaining “Why?” or “How?” that answer was found. If we spent more time in school learning the answers to those types of questions, we would become a nation where students are humans instead of a number.”

“We need to put education back in the hands of the teachers. The politicians and the government needs to step back and let the people who actually know what they are doing and have spent a lifetime doing it decide how to teach. We wouldn’t let a lawyer perform heart surgery or construction workers do our taxes, so why let the people who win popularity contests run our education systems?”

“When I’m challenged by something, I can always ask a good teacher and I can expect an answer that makes sense to me. But having a teacher that just brushes off questions doesn’t help me. I’ve heard of teachers where all they do is show the class movies. At first, that sounds amazing, but you don’t learn anything that can benefit you on a test.”

We dislike studying. One of the largest indicators of a child’s success academically is whether or not they meet a third grade reading level by the third grade, but children are never encouraged to want to learn. There are a lot of potential remedies for the education system. Paying teachers more, giving schools more funding, removing distractions from the classroom. All of those things are good, but, at the end of the day, the solution is to fundamentally change the way in which we operate.”

“I say one of the biggest problems is the support of families and teachers. I have heard many success stories, and a common element of this story is the unwavering support from their family, teachers, supervisors, etc. Many people need support to be pushed to their full potential, because some people do not have the will power to do it on their own. So, if students lived in an environment where education was supported and encouraged; than their children would be more interested in improving and gaining more success in school, than enacting in other time wasting hobbies that will not help their future education.”

 “I personally think that there are many things wrong with the American education system. Everyone is so worried about grades and test scores. People believe that those are the only thing that represents a student. If you get a bad grade on something you start believing that you’re a bad student. GPA doesn’t measure a students’ intelligence or ability to learn. At young ages students stop wanting to come to school and learn. Standardized testing starts and students start to lose their creativity.”

“Currently, I’m in a math class that changed my opinion of math. Math class just used to be a “meh” for me. But now, my teacher teachers in a way that is so educational and at the same time very amusing and phenomenal. I am proud to be in such a class and with such a teacher. She has changed the way I think about math it has definitely improve my math skills. Now, whenever I have math, I am so excited to learn new things!”

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Here’s some ideas from your RE@L Blogmeisters. Each of us has spent time in classrooms, so we mostly concur with these students. As a result, we have soon-to-come RE@L LearningProducts™ that focus on each student, as well as team involvement. 

Student ChangeHere’s our list of RE@L suggestions to improve American education:

• Put each learner in charge of their own learning plan: “What do I know and what do I yet need to know.”

• Make more learning accessible online. That’s where much learning has gone in higher-ed. Many believe online learning will work well in K12. Students now have smart-phones and iPads. If they don’t have these new high-tech tools, let’s provide one for them.

Water-Capture-2• When it comes to learning the basic 3R’s, let’s group students by needs, and not by age. Some need more help than others. There’s no sense in promoting a student to the next level if they don’t have the skills to be successful.

• Consider allowing the US Dept of Education to cover the costs of providing universal basic skills achievement online and more personal assistance. Without mastery of basic skills, students cannot succeed.

• When it comes to other, important content learning, let the local school districts take charge. Set guidelines to make certain the remaining curriculum includes the arts.

Lastly, talk with your students. Add their suggestions to lessons. Student involvement makes them partners and gives greater ownership of the learning. Ask students for their input and ideas.

Make your students part of your Learning Team! Listen to them! That alone will help improve American Education!

Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.