The U.S. Education System

Riddled with Inconsistencies

Inequality in our Education System

Students in the United States constantly hear about how our education system has fallen behind other countries. Our nation has tried to develop our best and brightest students to meet global standards, but the average student has been left behind. Students are constantly bombarded with standards they must meet, but the path to the standard could vary greatly from school to school. The U.S. education system is not consistent enough to compete on a global scale due to the unequal distribution of qualified teachers and inequalities across states and between social classes.

The Teacher Issue

The lack of focus on the quality of teachers in the American education system has resulted in unimpressive or lacking student achievement across the country. Quality teachers and the incentives to become a teacher are not valued as highly as they should be to allow our education system to prosper. According to a study done by Stanford, teacher qualifications are directly related to student success, and teachers should have a college major and at least three years of teaching experience. Even further, some believe teacher training programs should be held as high as the tracks to medicine and law. In addition to qualifications, irregularities in teacher salaries across the nation also contribute to the lack of student achievement. It is a well known fact that all teachers are underpaid for the amount of work they are required to do, but there is a large gap in high and low salaries within states and even districts. All teachers should be paid a consistently higher salary for their work. Also, a higher salary would attract more well-qualified individuals to teach the young minds of the United States.

The Class Issue

In addition to unequal distribution of qualified teachers, inequalities in socioeconomics and poverty in certain areas have a direct correlation to low academic achievement in the United States. Those in lower class urban schools seem to have less academic success. This is due to the lack of distribution of well-prepared educators and funding. According to Stanford analysis on education, achievement is lacking with poor and minority students in low-income schools because teachers are more likely to have less experience, fewer qualifications, and worse teaching conditions. Furthermore, the lack of funding in certain schools cannot even be explained by the amount of high-need students. Almost all say urban schools need help to be brought up to the same standards of other well-performing schools, but the lack of funding and well-prepared educators prohibits this.

The Unity Problem

Disparities between states and even districts play a role in the lack of progress for the United States education system. One of the most shocking facts about the differences in education from one state to the next is the amount of money each state spends on their students. According to a Stanford university analysis, the highest spending districts spend up to 10 times more on each student than the lowest spending districts. This huge gap between states proves that the education opportunities provided to each student are not even close to equal, which could account for lower achievement compared to other countries. Furthermore, many people believe that the unequal achievement across the nation comes from a lack of individual talent, effort, or motivation, but in reality it comes from unequal opportunities, as stated in “The Myth of Equal Content” by Schmidt and Cogan. When every state has a different system and its own standards, national unity is very difficult, so although some states may succeed individually, academic success as a whole country is nearly impossible. In order to resolve this problem, we need to make sure every student has access to a challenging, high-quality education in every city in every state.

America's Opinion on the Education System

Click here to view America's public opinion on the state of our education system, ranging from teacher preparation to bullying.

Improvements and a Look Towards the Future

Although many inequalities exist in today’s education system in the United States, some improvements have been made in order to increase academic progress.

  • Michael Ramos-Lynch explains under the No Child Left Behind Act, all students take tests, even those with learning disabilities, and schools that do not achieve yearly improvements must make changes to their system.
  • In the same article, Ramos-Lynch elaborates on Teach for America, which is a program that puts recent, well-qualified college graduates with degrees in education in low-income classrooms.
  • In an article by Laura Barrett, she states many schools have tried converting to “Innovation Schools”, where teachers have more funding and flexibility in curriculum. However, these have proven ineffective as there is just not enough funding.
Nevertheless, despite these efforts at improvement, many problems still exist in our education system, and they will not be resolved until further action is taken. Ultimately, unequal access to qualified teachers and the inequalities between social classes and states in the American education system have caused us to fall behind other countries in academic achievement.

Works Consulted

  • Adamson, Frank, and Linda Darling-Hammond. "Funding Disparities and Inequitable Distribution of Teachers: Evaluating Sources and Solutions."
  • Bair, Mary Antony, and David Bair. "Scheduling Inequality In Math And Science: How Trimesters Hurt Students At Risk Of Academic Failure."
  • Barrett, Laura. "More Districts Try INNOVATION SCHOOLS."
  • Bushaw, William J.1, and Shane J.2 Lopez. "Public Education In The United States: A Nation Divided."
  • Ramos-Lynch, Michael.. "COLUMN: Teachers: The answer to a failing public education system."
  • Randolph, Kelli, and Dylinda Wilson-Younger. "Is No Child Left Behind Effective For AllStudents?" Parents Don't Think So."
  • Schmidt, William H., and Leland S. Cogan. "The Myth of Equal Content."
  • Weckstein, Paul., Wermiel, Stephen J.. "The Need for Equal Opportunity and a Right to Quality