How to Improve High School Education
Jason Yang, Division 2, 11th grade #ws18e-s3d2

Education is held in America as the gateway to achieving goals and dreams. Specifically, high school education is critical to building a strong work ethic and exposing teenagers to works of the real world. However, flaws in the schooling system fundamentally affect the quality of education that students receive. In order to improve education, teachers should teach for comprehension, should more closely monitor group projects, and schools should create quality after-school tutoring programs.

Firstly, teachers should teach kids to learn the material instead of teaching for just a grade. A problem that is especially apparent in the upperclassmen-years of high school is that students try to fit as many accelerated/AP classes into their schedule as possible, whether or not the class is interesting to them. These classes are tailored to go as fast as possible, without much explanation of context. This has a number of effects. Students lose all social aspects of life because every second of time is spent on school work. Secondly, vigorous classes are detrimental to their health; it isn’t normal to take four or five accelerated classes in one semester on top of other activities. However, not everyone is made to deal with the demanding nature of these classes. As a result, students are more likely to develop an “alarmist” attitude and believe that school is their only goal in life, which increases the chance that students will take up cheating or dishonest practices in order to keep up with the demands of school. A way to solve these problems is to decelerate the classes and mandate teachers to actually teach the content. This means explaining why a certain formula works, such as math formulas, and considering the practical applications of a concept. A grade is important, but the only lasting effect of a class is what is learned; the grade won’t matter in 10 years, but the skills and understanding acquired in a class last a lifetime. Teaching for deeper comprehension adds value to classes, allowing students to take directly apply the skills to their careers.

Next, teachers and class aides should monitor group projects more closely. Group projects work well in theory but the execution is often awkward and oftentimes inefficient. Every student has felt the passive-aggressiveness when one person contributes absolutely nothing but receives a good grade because the other members did all the work. However, even though everyone is aware of the shortcomings of group projects, including teachers, status quo mechanisms are not sufficient to check the progress or contribution of each group member. This is because teachers haven’t developed a way for students to communicate privately and effectively with them, and students will oftentimes feel obliged to not expose the lazy group member because they are either too scared or have personal connections with that member. In order to solve this problem, teachers should employ anonymous tip boxes in the classroom and hold random “work checks” established across the schedule. The free-rider would be subtly exposed during the teacher’s discretionary observation. Additionally, random work checks would directly allow teachers to know the amount of effort each member has contributed. With these two new ways of managing group projects, free-riders would feel unsafe and would be incentivized to contribute to their group.

Lastly, schools should implement qualified after-school tutoring/clarification programs to help consolidate student understanding of subjects. Given the accelerated nature of advanced classes, it is inevitable that students will feel confused at some point. Currently, tutoring programs exist but are inefficient and oftentimes counterproductive. This is because schools allow just about anyone to be a tutor. As a result, bored seniors or people with a class slot to expend become “peer tutors” in order to receive credits. However, there are no checks on tutor quality or any schedule for tutors to follow. Because of this, students often complain that tutors are using their cell phone the entire time because they lack the motivation to actually teach anything. Even worse, students sometimes claim that they end up tutoring the tutor because the tutor either hasn’t actually taken a certain class before, or has finished the class in the past and isn’t familiar with it anymore. Either way, these obstructions create awkwardness and waste precious time that students need. As a result, students do not enjoy tutoring periods and will ask their teachers for help, but teachers are extremely busy and often can’t spend extra time with individual students. In order to solve for these issues, the school should implement a qualified after-school tutoring program. There are many ways to go about this, but one way is to simply have all tutor applicants pass an exam that shows content mastery. Another way is to bring in local graduate students who are majoring in the subjects or certified people to help students out with classes. Since the graduate students are already dedicated to spending their career teaching the subject, they can help the students out in preparation for their own teaching careers. This allows the graduate students to not only benefit the students, but may also inspire college thesis ideas. Additionally, since these graduate students don’t have to worry about teaching an actual class or grading homework, they can focus on subjects with students and offer extremely personalized help. This would be net beneficial to students, teachers, and the school; students are now receiving personalized help, teachers can focus more of their time on grades and other projects, and schools will receive higher average scores on standardized tests because students possess a higher mastery of content.

In conclusion, education can be improved by mandating teachers to teach for comprehension, monitoring group projects more closely, and implementing a qualified after-school tutoring program, overcoming current problems in the system, as well as providing external benefits to teachers and people involved in the education community. These solutions are also not hard to implement -- they are within the school’s ability to execute. By utilizing these, education quality will improve, opening up more career possibilities for the future.
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