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An Open Letter to CCSD, the Government, and Schools Across the Nation

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An Open Letter to CCSD, the Government, and Schools Across the Nation

by Eli Duncan, Editor-in-Chief

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It is no secret that the public school system in the United States is terrible. It is especially terrible in Nevada, with the state consistently ranking one of the worst states in the nation. 2018 was a new animal all together. We ranked 51 out of 51 states and Washington, D.C. The United States ranks 26th. Just 30 years ago, the country as a whole ranked 6th.

Of 37 countries that were a part of a study done by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Developments, only 7 countries ranked lower than the United States. Our schools are full of elective classes and core classes that students simply are not interested in.

At the end of the day, it is not the students job to remained interested in an English class if they are going to work at their family farm. Or a physics class if they are going to major in travel and world cultures. On the whole, 55% of high school seniors feel unprepared for college, despite an overwhelming 87% of students aiming to go to college and receive a degree.

If high schools took a college approach, students would be far more engaged. In community colleges alone, an astounding 71% of community college students are engaged in their curriculum.

By a “college approach”, I mean that students should take the “core” classes but also take classes that they are interested in. I’m not alone when I say that I filled my schedule with classes I didn’t want to take because I had to fill my schedule. I am finishing high school with more elective credits than I know what to do with because I filled my schedule with classes I didn’t want to take.

The core classes should be taught not based on curriculum and to a test, but actually to teach students something. We are being trained with the same knowledge and to think the same. Without accusing a teacher, any differing opinion than their own is met with disdain and a simple “good but not really” response.

On top of core classes that only teach to a test, which I will address later, we are forced to take classes to graduate that mean absolutely nothing. Freshman studies means nothing when it takes the place of a class that could be personal finance.

A personal finance class can teach everything from budgeting to filing taxes. Filing taxes is something that I had no idea how to do until only this year. Students should enter their junior year (when most students are old enough to get a job) knowing how to file their taxes.

Or take physical education. Boys P.E. is the most pointless class I have ever had to take. It is a year long course that is an hour and a half of sitting on your phone or playing basketball. The grade comes from wearing the uniform and even then, people get away with not doing that. I was lucky that I only had to take a semester of that.

That could easily be filled with a useful class. Something dealing with general life education (registering to vote, making doctor appointments, getting insurance, etc.) My time in P.E. for the 18 weeks I was dressing in the uniform to get the easy grade, I spent doing pointless busy work for other classes that I had to do so I could pass. Which brings me to my next point.

The classes that are considered important (math, English, science, social studies, and foreign language) are full of pointless assignments only to fill the grade book. Countless nights I came home to look at homework from the lesson only to cheat because it was easier than actually working on the problems or assignments that were only there to fill the gradebook.

There is an easy way to stop cheating and make apps like PhotoMath go away: Encourage the students.

Encouragement, especially in this generation goes a long way. Encourage the students to do the work for their own benefit (not just to get a letter on a report card that can and will define their future) and amazing things will happen. Sure, there will be the students who think being smart is lame, but the majority of students in high school value education.

But the government does not care. They only look at money, and for some reason, our tax dollars are spent more on the country’s worst than the country’s future.

Nevada alone spends roughly 136% more on prisoners than they do on students. Sure, prisoners require housing and 3 meals a day, but why spend that on murderers and rapists and kidnappers who have failed society and knocked it down when students are the ones who will build it back up.

The amount of prisons in the united states that are built is not based on crimes committed in the state or the region, it is based on third grade reading levels. Spend more on schools, and actually invest in students and there would be less prisons.

But we can’t spend money because we don’t have money.

CCSD has a $68 million budget deficit, which is common among school districts in the United States. Also common, is the schools inside the school district getting grants to spend money on ridiculously pointless additions to the schools like a set of TVs in the front office or thousands of dollars worth of signs that are purely used to make the school look prettier.

I understand that the grants have to be used for specific things, but when classes (like the journalism class this was written from) needs funding, a TV that only displays the website is not necessary. The average flat screen TV costs $761. This means that in the front office, there is around $3,000 (if the average is multiplied) worth of tech that is doing absolutely nothing. I have had to sit in on a meeting about my grades, and the idea of the TV is to use it as a tool in the meeting. Despite that, the TV was not used and paper was opted for by my teachers. Multiple students have also had that similar experience.

This begs the question, who are the TV’s supposed to help if it isn’t the students? Which leads to the next question, if it isn’t for the students, why have them at all?

Things like that are purely aesthetic and do not provide an increase in student engagement nor does it actually help the students learn anything.

Focusing on the aesthetic appeal of a school is only surface level improvements. My journalism class, in order to even exist, has to pray we get enough advertisers and days to sell something during lunch to even stay afloat. But a school will get grants to buy signs or a new statue?

How do you expect the students to care when it seems that the district does not even care? Student engagement by senior year is, on average, at 34%. This can be attributed, in part, to students just becoming more and more disenfranchised because it seems more and more that the government and school districts simply do not care about actual education.

This is not to say that Nevada schools and schools across the country do not spend money on education, because they do. Parts of this letter were typed on one of the Chromebooks provided by the school.

Nevada’s Department of Education secured a grant of $20 million to get Google Chromebooks in schools across the state. Palo Verde was part one of the schools that received these Chromebooks and made classes like Journalism, which require a computer, exist. Chicago spent $33.5 million on a similar project.

Despite that, there is still a gap between spending money because they have to and spending money on the students. And I do not blame administrators. They are spending money the only way they can. I am however, blaming the ones who give the grants to buy things that seemingly do not give anything to advance student education.

I think Palo Verde does the best job of getting things for students’ education than any other school I have been to. Despite that, walking into our office feels like a punch in the gut.

We can spend the money elsewhere and make a larger impact, and I know that officials know that, but their higher ups do not care.

School districts across the nation, including CCSD, are run by people who haven’t been a student in a school for at least a decade. Education itself has changed on the federal level twice since that time, both initiatives failed.

The No Child Left Behind Act was an attempt by the federal government to stick their nose where it did not belong. Forcing standardized tests that meant nothing and only was a test of memory, not of actual knowledge. Teachers eventually just taught to the exam and not to actually benefit the classes.

Then came Common Core, which is almost universally hated by students as it all but forces one way of learning, which does not help students in the slightest.

This initiative took the “teach to the test” idea and multiplied it by a hundred. Even when my parents were in high school, they were encouraged to actually learn the material, not learn what the test will look like and how to pass so the school looks better. Modern day schools are now just test factories producing nothing more than disinterested students and a false sense achievement. In everyday politics, we call that crony capitalism. The simple fact of the matter is that teaching to the test does not work, a one size fits all approach does not work.

The standards made students follow the teachers thinking or the students are wrong. It came to the point that I had to take to YouTube tutorials on how to do things over asking my parents for help. This is not because I never actively looked for it, but because my parents either did not remember the math (because anything past sixth grade math does not mean anything to the majority of people) or they did not know how to do the new form of math that I was required to do or else I got the question wrong.

Oddly enough, my decline in interest in school came in 2009-2011, the beginning years of the Common Core standards. I started to do the bare minimum to pass. I stopped reading for fun. I stopped actively seeking out knowledge. I stopped learning.

The issue with the modern school system is that our politicians who make laws regarding schooling have not been in school in decades. They think they know what is best for students. But what they are really doing is making a bunch of mindless hive minded kids who will simply be obedient because any sense of individuality in the school system is frowned upon. That may have worked before, but not today.

I get that I’m just some kid in your eyes and that I don’t have enough life experience to make an informed opinion on anything. But I have gone through two failed economic policies and was put through a school system that didn’t prepare me for college. A system that rewards the bare minimum over actual achievement. My education was plagued by teachers only teaching to a test, where only a few genuinely cared about my education. I, like many other students in my class, decided that disconnecting myself from school was the best way to go because all I needed to do was pay attention and remember everything that my teacher said so that I could pass whatever test the district wanted me to pass.

I’m calling on everyone – the school board members, the CCSD officials, and those that we elected to the state and federal level of governments – to actually care about the students. We are the future, not you. We have to grow up in a world plagued by two economic recessions within two decades of each other, which we are just now starting to finally recover from. We aren’t even getting the education to save money for ourselves.

I’m about to go into college not knowing a whole lot of useful information. Middle and high school students today are already dead in the water. The changes will not affect us, we have to deal with that. But the younger kids, the ones who are still coloring for a grade, still have a chance. It is not too late. If not for the kids in schools today, do it for the kids in school tomorrow.

 

Signed,

Eli Duncan

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