What's wrong with America's schools?  iReport wants to hear from you!
June 11th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

What's wrong with America's schools? iReport wants to hear from you!

America’s higher education system is ranked as one of the world’s best, but there are great disparities in the country’s K-12 public school system. Performance rates at schools differ across the country and even in the same state. Two students in the same town may receive a totally different education based on the school they attend.

From a lack of funding and teacher shortages to alarmingly high drop-out rates, America is facing an unprecedented crisis in education. Based on your experiences, we’d like to hear what’s wrong with schools today. What could have been better about your own education? What areas could your school could improve? Or, if you had a great experience, tell us what your school system did right.

What should the next commander-in-chief do about the problems?

Turn on your video camera and let us know what’s wrong with schools today based on your own experiences. The most passionate and well-thought-out responses could be featured on CNN, and even in a one-on-one debate!

Send us your iReport!
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soundoff (217 Responses)
  1. Ms. thubeaught

    What is wrong with education? Middle school kids who are verbally abusive to 68 year old bus monitors (see CNN video) should be part of the list.

    June 21, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  2. Tabor

    I think all the comments listed above show the issue. I teach in a public high school and I think a great number of points are made above. I also see the disagreement above and the problem is, I don't know that there is ONE right answer. I think it's a situation where there are many answers and that is part of the problem. I wish I had an answer, the biggest idea I can come up with is many students don't have a support structure at home that encourages them to push themselves at school. If they are is not consequence at home for not performing, why should they worry about what their teachers say? It's a partnership between all groups. Great ideas listed above everyone!

    June 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  3. Sheila

    Several big problems with schools: 1) no standardized national curriculum 2) that national curriculum should stress math and science at all levels 3) children are allowed to progress through the grades without achieving a standardized level of learning – if you have completed 3rd grade, for instance, you should be able to pass a third grade achievement test that is the same for every state. If not, you have not passed third grade. 4) lack of emphasis on fundamentals, too much emphasis on "feeling good" about yourself. You go to school, you do well on the national curriculum, you will feel food about yourself. Simple. 5) not enough time spent in schools – we have fewer school hours per year than most western nations 6) the idea that throwing money at a problem is going to solve it – it does not take more funds to teach a child to do math now than it did 50 years ago. Math has not changed. Neither has physics or chemistry. Same formulas, same chemical reactions, same laws of physics. 7) too much emphasis on sports. If you want your child to participate in sports, enroll them in a private or community funded sports league. Money that is directed to football can be directed elsewhere. Get schools focused on solid, fundamental education. Let the other things take place outside the realm of the educational system

    June 15, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  4. Ricky L

    Schools are not run by local school boards. There are far too many state and federal restrictions placed on them.

    For good or bad local communities schould be able to run their own schools.

    June 15, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  5. ssmazz

    I am a public school teacher in a low income high school. I feel the biggest problem is funding and large class sizes. I also feel there is a ton of "mainstreaming" disruptive students with little to no support for other students and teachers....probably also due to lack of funding. I love my job and still feel like it is all worth it, but as class sizes increase, learning definitely decreases for the at risk students who need more support.

    June 15, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  6. Mr. S

    As a teacher who works in a district with a high population of hispanic students, many who are illegal or born to illegal parents, I can say with 100% certainty that illegals are NOT the problem. Most of the time those students are much better behaved than the legal students. Usually they are setting good examples that the other children should follow. Have a few illegal students added to my class will not change how I teach and uses far less money that so many people claimed.

    All fixes must be done at a government and societal level. Schools are being asked to fix a busted foundation with nails and duct tape. Until you have someone come in and redo the entire system, education will not be fixed. My personal recommendations however:
    1) No sports except gym and maybe intramural sports. The more our students worry about sports, the less they worry about learning. For people complaining about "what about the kids that need that athletic scholarship!!!!" you are perpetuating the problem. Schools should have learning as the number one 100% priority. How much practice time do sports teams use when those students could be taught to value education more and put part of that time toward studying?

    2) Pay younger teachers more and make yearly step increases smaller. We need to raise the incentive for young energetic people to get into the education field, while lessening the incentive for burned out teachers who don't care to stay in the profession. If the incentive to stay is small, then the teachers that will remain will be the ones that are truly there for the students. Right now there can be up to a 30k-40K difference between a 1st year teacher and a teacher with 25+ yrs who has a Masters or PhD. The incentive is to stay for as long as you can. This needs to change. What if 1st years started at 50k and maxed at 60k? What's the incentive to stay longer except for the students?

    3) Involve parents of underperforming students. If you child needs to attend summer school, then you need to attend summer classes. Parents have the biggest impact on a child's education, but we blame schools when the child can't learn? Not all blame should be on schools. Make parents accountable. Parents who don't care will start to care if they have to attend classes too. Too many students enter my district having never had a parent read to them. Do you really expect that student to make it when they have parents who care so little? Don't blame the school for this.

    4) There are more, but unless a couple of those changes happen, nothing else will matter. Most ideas from politicians are short term fixes. The more our government gets involved in education, the worse it's become.

    June 15, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  7. Mike

    Given what most of us remember from school, and how necessary most of what we had to spend hours, days, and years to learn is to our adult life, I have to think that school doesn't really perform the function of teaching us what we need to know, so much as it acts as daycare, teaches to do what we're told without questions, and gets us ready for the drudgery that is the backbone of most jobs. It fits us into the system designed to make the rich richer, much more than it prepares us to go out and do something worthwhile with our lives.

    June 15, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  8. Dott

    Does anyone think that anyone will read these comments and listen? NO One major problem in Florida is the illegal's children. They are allowed to go to our schools with no questions asked. They do not speak English and since many teachers only speak the language of America the USA's children get the short end of education. So much time is spent trying to deal with a non-English speaking student that little time is left for the others. Also class size is doubled. Children of people who are here legally is a different story. The language problem is still there but legal immigrants do NOT out number the illegal immigrants. Someone please do something for America.

    June 15, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  9. Ms. thubeaught

    Nothing is wrong with our schools. (Actually, the "schools" are outdated and falling apart, but I think you mean our educational system and so I will sound off on that!) The ranking of U.S. schools in comparison to the spending allocated for education by our country would indicate that our schools are doing quite well. Countries that outperform the U.S. outspend the U.S. My budget, when divided by my caseload, averages to 7 cents per kid per day. I'd say people are getting there money's worth. Currently in the news: Teacher of the year loses job. Really people?

    June 15, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  10. itsalldownhillfromhere

    1. Stick to teaching. Stop with the social experimentation, that is _not_ a schools charter.
    2. A right to education should not be interpreted as an enforceable compulsion to attend. Beyond the 8th grade, if a kid does not want to be in school, let them leave. All that's accomplished by forcing them to stay is lowering of the common denominator, they really won't learn a damn thing if they don't want to be there.
    3. The only kids that should be allowed to attend are the kids that are in this country legally

    June 15, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Schoolmom

      I couldn't have said this better myself! We need to get away from the self-esteem crap and teach kids about succeeding and failing. Parents and schools need to work together, not against each other. There comes a time that even the best parents and teachers have kids that simply do not care about school, the rules, or contibuting to their own education. Let the kids drop out and learn some life lessons. Also, it's not that I don't have compassion for illegal immigants, but school budgets cannot afford them!

      June 15, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  11. anita lathigee

    we are always asking what is wrong with schools....
    who has raised those children...not the schools..
    we may as well ask people to drop them off and we will raise them as parents
    /society blame teachers/schools for everything....

    June 15, 2012 at 6:50 am |
  12. KeAla WaiOla Brenneman

    Ok guys I am trying, please do not aske me what!! is going on with this confounded computer!!!

    June 15, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • chefdugan

      Allow me to answer for both of us. As a former college president I do not pretend to have all the answers but there are only two problems with our public schools; they hire teachers from colleges of "education" rather than hiring people with degrees in their subject matter, history for instance, math for instance. Second, the teachers unions. Once teachers unionized they ceased to be professionals and became union hacks. If you start with academic ingnorance and then follow it up with all of the ignorant belonging to the same organization, you certainly can expect the results we are getting.

      June 15, 2012 at 9:24 am |
      • barb

        maybe if they were treated like professionals they would'nt need the unions

        June 15, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  13. KeAla WaiOla Brenneman

    #1 Discipline, #2 Parents performing two jobs and sometimes more just to keep bread on the table. #3 Parents or others in the community, feeling shut out of the school system. For example, when my three sons were in public school, I do slide show presentations on life in Hawai'i, the Volcanoes of Hawai'i, Alaska, and a culture day presention in High school, concerning my culture..Pennsylvania German. #4 Yes! I am not PA Dutch, I am PA German, my first ancestor came from Switzerland. For more information visit the York Historical Building in the wonderful city of York PA.

    June 15, 2012 at 4:39 am |
  14. pierce

    Teaching irrelevant things like trig/art/PE/biology/drama/Eng lit - students today need real skills.
    welding, auto mechanics, AC repair, computer science, home trades, chemical engineering is what students need. Everything thing else in a system of priorities, does not rate when schools are pinching pennies.

    June 15, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • Ralph

      I couldn't disagree more.. Those skillsets (other than computer science) left this country a long time ago.. They have moved to China. The only skillsets we have left to exploit are the white collar jobs.. Lets steer them more towards the science and math arena.. unless we want China to take over those, and we take back the low paying jobs from them.. that's the way we're heading.

      June 15, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  15. harry hobotaint

    I forgot one other thing. We need state governments to give back the money they took when the lotteries came around. I'm not exactly sure how they did it. Where the hell is all the money? What the heck is going on around here. Give the money back, seal the borders, no more making a kid a citizen just because his mom snuck over here to give birth, start deporting these folks with severe penalties if they return and for god's sake NO MORE AMNESTIES!! Please enough is enough

    June 15, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  16. harry hobotaint

    Nobody has the guts to say it and certainly no politician will mention it let alone do anything about, so here it is. There are way too many people from south of our border in our schools. Far too many of these kids come from households that have parents who broke our laws and came here illegally and won't or can't speak english at home. 40 yrs ago in the Los Angeles Unified School District 75-80% of the students were white, now 75-80% of the students are hispanic. Everybody needs to get there head out of the sand and pressure our politicians to do something. It's not just our schools that are effected. Every aspect of life is affected in a negative way. Now before people start screaming about what a jerk I am you should know that I know people come here for a better life and you know what, god bless them. But do it the right way, the legal way and actually be a productive member of society. Go into any emergency room, social service office (welfare) and social security office(dont know how they get away with this one) and tell me what you see! A whole bunch of spanish speaking folks. I could go on and on.... But people need to wake up and notice what the hell is going on here. Enough is enough. It's time we start taking care of our own for a while, then when things get better we can start taking care of the rest of the world again, but let's be a little smarter and a whole lot wiser about it. God bless America, please we need the help,

    June 15, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • pierce

      That is what the Spanish/Mexicans said when the lower caste of U.S. immigrants were streaming westward for FREE land and then took it.

      Look, you were saying that (you ilk) when the Italians came over, when the Irish came over, when the Russians came over, when the Poles came over, now you complain ABOUT THE NATIVE PEOPLES OF THIS CONTIENT YOU RUBE.
      Ask any geneticist, any geographer, any socialogist, any archaeologist, any political scientist or demographer and he or she will tell you that the Europeans are the true illegal immigrants.
      Mexicans and the rest of the central and south americans and the northenr plains Indians are the orgininal inhabitants of the Americas.
      Not you, the johnnys come lately.

      REad your history and get to know it for a change, xenophobists!

      June 15, 2012 at 1:24 am |
    • pierce

      Nice to know you can target one group of people. The US needs no help stressing education when Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, Missouri, Ariz., S.C., Ga., Louisiana and Ohio and Kentucky can pull down education by themselves.
      Racists always have a scapegoat. and harry hobotaint has found his. My question is, when you are in a nursing home and need to be rolled over and possibly wiped, I hope the people you target are not the ones who will have to care for you in your last months.

      June 15, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  17. wesleyj

    the problem with our school system is very simple, but nobody will allow this to be posted and nobody is willing to take the steps to fix it.

    INTEGRATION, pure and simple is the problem, now before you run for the rope let me explain, The blacks in this country for decades received the absolute worse in education, they were chattel, why bother to educate, they couldn't be taught. When we finally came to recognize the problem we allowed black leaders Like MLK, a great man who with his well intended efforts destroyed generations of american children of all colors, to push through mandates that resulted in integrated schools, WRONG MOVE. we should have gone in, cleaned up the black schools, retrained the teachers and corrected the mistakes of the past, but no that wasn't good enough, they had to get what was coming to them immediately, Result, we dumbed down the entire school system to fit the new student cross section, Now we have a hopelessly broken system, with no hope of ever getting fixed, we cant unring the bell now, we can only melt down and remold it, but unfortunately the steps necessary to make this happen are not going to fly with certain influence groups, so regardless of who is in power, our schools and generations of children are doomed, our only hope remains with private schools and home schooling, that is what happens when certain groups demand their rights and demand them now, regardless of the overall consequences,

    June 14, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  18. Amy

    As a board member in a small California district, with two young children in school, I'd say that parents are a large part of the problem with schools today. They don't teach their children how to respect others, nor do they instill a good work ethic. Many kids have potty mouths, minimal clothing, and a tendency to beat up on those who don't bow to their demands. Then, when the kids get suspended, parents come whining to the school, even though THEY signed the handbook that clearly states all of the school guidelines involving behavior and dress codes. It's not a good environment for anyone, including teachers and administrators, nor is it fair to other students.

    Now ... if the state of California would give us cash to pay our teachers instead of deferrals, maybe we wouldn't be in such a mess. There wouldn't be any need to borrow and pay interest, or lay off and rehire the same people every year.

    June 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  19. cindyschi

    As a public school teacher for more than 25 years, it has been my experience that randomly throwing money at schools is not the answer. In an ideal world, this is what I would love to see.
    1) Class sizes in K-12 of no more than 20 students with 2 teachers team teaching. One or both teachers must have special education and/or ESL certification. When the 21st student enrolls, a new class is formed.
    2) Greatly reduced administration positions. The principal's main duties are observing in the classroom and meeting with parents to find every way to serve the needs of the students.
    3) Greatly reduced custodial positions. The students take care of the school by picking up/cleaning the cafeteria and their own classroom.
    4) Greatly reduced out- of- class special education and ESL instruction. The teachers, because of the low class size and their team teaching, have time to individualize every student's learning.
    4) Greatly reduced reliance on technology. Each class has a few computers but most work is done hands on with the teachers. The instructors understand every student's learning styles, special needs, strengths and areas to improve.
    5) Much less reliance on state wide standardized testing. The teachers are constantly evaluating student progress during their instruction. Agreed upon learning objectives for every subject are consistently adhered to across each school district. (This is one of the principal's main duties.)
    Hiring enough qualified instructors who are willing to team teach is the key to impementing this plan. If the US is truly serious about lifting our educational process so it is again on par with the rest of the world, if we are serious about successfully educating each and every young person, if we are serious about working together to implement this plan in every state and every district, we will once again set the standards for a quality education for every person.

    June 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  20. Guitar

    The problem is that they are still teaching in the same archaic mode that they have for the past century. Pushing students to learn things that they will never again encounter or use in their lifetimes. It's all about test scores instead of building a better student. When was the last time you had to write out a geometric theorem? When will you ever again write out a Trig function? When was the last time you used the term: conjugated verb? Useless! Yes, there is that one person out of a million who will utilize those subjects in their chosen field, but why subject the other 999,999 who will never do so? Students are failing and dropping out in record numbers. We need to start concentrating more on 'building the person' than worrying about what the grade point average is. BTW, I was an honor student in HS, but I had great support, too many of today's kids don't have anyone behind them and lose hope. Focus more on 'life skills', communication, inter-relationship skills, (which are practically non-existent today), respect, confidence, the list goes on with subjects that would better serve the student, and society as a whole. Give the kid confidence and they can achieve anything!

    June 14, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • maryla

      Well said !!! Agree

      June 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • maryla

      Well said !!!

      June 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  21. Kevin

    We have gotten away from focusing on the basic subjects that children should be taught. There are too many distractions from the core courses – the sciences, math, history/social studies and English grammer and liturature. From the clear decline of US students' abilities in the sciences and math in comparison to other developed nations, it should be clear to us that more science, math, engineering and technology education at the elementary and high school levels is needed. Our children must be ready for college and professional level education in the fields that will keep the US in position to compete for 21st century industries and technologies.

    June 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • maryla

      True!!! That's what President keep saying EDUCATION is the future, of America

      June 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • KZ

      Absolutely correct! We have so many side subjects that the core has become secondary. I am amazed at the number of young adults new to the work place that have such limited core skills.

      June 15, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  22. c s

    Congress has placed huge financial burden on the schools with unfunded mandates. Congress has dictated that all children must be educated and then skips giving enough money to do it. The state governments do the same thing. I realize that every child deserves an education but some children require much greater resources (money) than others. A special needs child might cost $20,000 to $30,000 per year for education. So where does public schools find the money? A child with special needs is allocated the same amount of money as all other children. So the schools essentially take money from all of the other students to make up for it. This causes many school classes to have 35 to 40 children. Then the Republicans complain about how public schools are so lousy and that more money should be given to private schools because they are so much "better". What is ignored is that many private schools will not accept a child with special needs while public schools must by LAW accept any student.

    So the Republicans will gladly spend more money on prisons but constantly complain about spending money on public schools. I guess if you are like Romney and went to a privileged private school, you can ignore the public schools and want to start another war with Iran. After all Romney's kids do not have to suffer from a poor education.

    June 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
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