Does the Educational Success of Americans Rely on Where Someone Receives Their Education?

Demographics and Education

I have spent all of my years as a student in catholic education in Louisiana. For the most part my education was excellent. My teachers were very knowledgeable, and prepared me for me the next steps in my education. Although my education was exceptionable, there were some teachers that were not up to par. For example, my Spanish teacher in middle school had a Spanish for Dummies book on her desk. Also my freshman English teacher decided to talk to us about her dating life rather than teaching us literature. Even though there were the less than adequate teachers, I had many more excellent teachers that heavily outweigh the poor ones. Many of my other teachers throughout middle school and high school were excited about teaching. They would go out of their way to help me if I had a problem with something academically or socially. My teachers over prepared me for what lied ahead. They encompassed numerous teaching techniques into their lessons so that everyone would get a full grasp of the concept at hand. We did countless hands-on-activities to get us enthusiastic about learning. Some activities that excited me were creating an invention in science class, and participation in ancient Roman Olympics in history class. My catholic school education was excellent, but not everyone is fortunate to receive the same caliber of education as I have.

Does the American educational system prepare you for the future? This is an extremely difficult question because there are numerous different educational systems in America, such as public, parochial, and private. The systems also vary from state to state. A public education in one state may be amazingly advanced compared to that of another state. A parochial or private education may be comparable to that of a public education elsewhere. The answer to this question may simply depend on where one receives their education.

In Louisiana the public school system is extremely poor in preparing its students for their future. This is clear in the situation involving Bridget Green, a student from Alcee Fortier High School. At Alcee Fortier High School, Green had a 3.75 GPA on a 4.0 scale (Slawsky paragraph 9). Green was named the valedictorian of her 2003 graduating class. When it came time to take the Graduate Exit Exam (GEE), Green did not pass. In fact, it took Green seven times until she passed the test (Slawsky paragraph 1). Also Green received an 11 on the American College Test (ACT), which is in the lowest percentile of high school students taking the test (Slawsky paragraph 11). Green was not the only one in her graduating class to fail the GEE. A little less than half of the students failed the test, and were unable to graduate. C.C. Campbell-Rock, co-founder of Parents for Educational Justice, a community group that has fought against the implementation of high-stakes testing, states that the problem with high-stakes testing is that the state implemented it before working to provide the students with the foundation to pass the test (Slawsky paragraph 14). The test is not aligned with what is being taught in the classroom, and the state textbooks are not aligned with the material found in the GEE (Slawsky paragraph 12). When students take the test, they find numerous topics that they have never seen before (Slawsky paragraph 12). This example shows the quality of different educational systems found in Louisiana. Whereas my education in the catholic schools system was exceptional, the public school system in Louisiana is failing. In Louisiana, it seems one must pay for an excellent education, but in other states someone can receive a great education for free. The quality of education received in any of the three systems depends on where one obtains their education.

To understand the reasons behind the different degrees of effectiveness of America’s public school system it is necessary to look at the statistics of the top and bottom states in public education. The top three states for public education in 2005-2006 were Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts (“2005-2006 Smartest State Award”). The bottom three states were New Mexico, Mississippi, and Arizona (“2005-2006…”). Statistical evidence supports that the reasons for the effectiveness of public schools are the economic status of a state, the literacy of the population, and the ratio of students to teachers in the school systems.

The economic status of a state plays a role in the success of its educational system. The states at the top of public education have a lower percentage of families below the poverty level than the states in the bottom (“Fact Sheet”). An average of 7.17 percent of families is below the poverty level in Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts; as opposed to in New Mexico, Mississippi, and Arizona where 14 percent of families are below the poverty line (“Fact Sheet”). Poverty can inhibit learning because it poses an unnecessary stress on a family (Rank). This stress can be carried with children to school. Children are concerned and affected just as much as adults when it comes to financial problems in the family. Parents may be unable to help their children with schoolwork because they are too busy trying to make ends meet. Being more affluent can help students because they do not have to carry extra burdens around, and they have more accessibility to tools that can help their learning. Poverty can hinder the student’s ability to learn, and their scholastic achievements.

Another factor that can restrain the learning of a child is a language barrier. If they do not speak English, it can inhibit their understanding of the lessons in the classroom. Also when taking a test, they may have a difficulty understanding the directions and completing the test. Language barriers also carry into the home. If a parent does not understand English, they will be unable to help their children with schoolwork. Children will then not receive the assistance they need from the parents at home. In the bottom three states for public education an average of 22.2 percent of families speak another language at home other than English (“Fact Sheet”). In the top three states for public education only an average of 14.8 percent of the families speak another language at home (“Fact Sheet”). An average of 12.8 percent of students in New Mexico, Mississippi, and Arizona are in limited English proficiency programs (“State Profile”). This is a huge difference from the average of 3.97 percent of students in these programs in Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts (“State Profiles”). These statistics show that a limited use and understanding of English can be a huge factor in educational success.

Receiving personal attention from a teacher is very instrumental in successful learning. This is the most important factor determining educational success. Having a lower student/teacher ratio allows the teacher to get to know his/her students on a personal level. The teacher can learn the student’s strengths and weaknesses, so that he/she can better adapt their lessons to the class. This results in lessons that would be better comprehended. The average student/teacher ratio in the top states is 13.17, and the average student/teacher ratio in the bottom states is 17.37 (“State Profiles”). From personal experience, I can say that personal attention from a teacher definitely enhances the learning of a student. The high school I attended was extremely small. My graduating class consisted of only 100 girls. This allowed for smaller class sizes. For this reason our teachers were very attentive to us, and made sure that we understood everything that they taught. I believe that the small classes attributed to my excellent education. Educational success in a given school system is significantly dependent on the student/teacher ratio.

The American educational system can prepare you for the future, but it depends on where you receive your education. There are many factors that contribute to the success of a state’s school system. The economic status of a state shows that the less affluent states provide a failing education because they have fewer resources for their students. Another factor is the percentage of non-English speaking members of a state’s population. The more non-English speaking a population is, the less efficient the school system is because of the language barrier experienced by the students and/or parents. The most important factor for educational success is the class size. A smaller class size results in a better education. This is due to the one-on-one attention from the teacher to his/her students. The evidence that was collected suggests heavily that educational success of Americans relies on where one receives their education.

Works Cited

“2005-2006 Smartest State Award.” Morgan Quitno Press. 6 October 2006.

“Fact Sheet” American Fact Finder: United States Census Bureau. 6 October 2006.

Rank, Hugh. “What’s Wrong with Advertising.” Persuasion Analysis. 11 September 2006.

Slawsky, Richard. “ Ex-Fortier Valedictorian puts Graduate Test Battle Behind Her.” Louisiana Weekly. 15 October 2006.

“State Profiles.” National Center for Educational Statistics. 6 October 2006.