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Ten of the best school-reform ideas from readers

From competency-based learning policies to more time for creativity, readers weigh in with their suggestions for improving public education

Many readers gave ideas on grading and testing reform.

It seems like everyone has an opinion these days on what it will take to “fix” American public education. But research suggests that many of the ideas being touted by some of the leading school-reform advocates—such as merit pay, charter schools, and value-added assessment of teachers—have seen mixed results at best.

Recently, we asked readers, via our newsletters: “If you could recommend only one idea for school reform, what would it be and why?” Here, we present—from No. 10 to No. 1—the best, most original, and most honest answers we received in response.

What do you think of these ideas? And, what ideas of your own would you like to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this story.

Go to page 2 to begin the list…

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Comments:

  1. gpflieger

    June 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    #5 is right on track! School librarians (teacher-librarians) are even more important in the 21st Century!

    Role of the School Librarian in Technology Integration:
    http://www.iste.org/connect/special-interest-groups/sig-directory/sigms.aspx

  2. gpflieger

    June 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    #5 is right on track! School librarians (teacher-librarians) are even more important in the 21st Century!

    Role of the School Librarian in Technology Integration:
    http://www.iste.org/connect/special-interest-groups/sig-directory/sigms.aspx

  3. mgozaydin

    June 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    2 proposals are relatged to ONLINE.
    My educational reform is
    Remove all teachers from education system,
    There is no teaching now, there is learning now .
    Develop a national curriculum same for 60,000,000 K12 students
    Develop online courses conforming this curriculum
    ONLINE courses should have lots of simulations, animations,interactivity, attractive presentation,
    Self learning.
    Assessment should be done by some centers like SAT centers .

    For social life there should be Youth Centers everywhere where children get together for social activities .

    Today most important issue is
    HOW TO MOTIVATE K12 STUDENTS TO LEARN.
    It is a pyschological matter. Let us make researches on that .

  4. mgozaydin

    June 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    2 proposals are relatged to ONLINE.
    My educational reform is
    Remove all teachers from education system,
    There is no teaching now, there is learning now .
    Develop a national curriculum same for 60,000,000 K12 students
    Develop online courses conforming this curriculum
    ONLINE courses should have lots of simulations, animations,interactivity, attractive presentation,
    Self learning.
    Assessment should be done by some centers like SAT centers .

    For social life there should be Youth Centers everywhere where children get together for social activities .

    Today most important issue is
    HOW TO MOTIVATE K12 STUDENTS TO LEARN.
    It is a pyschological matter. Let us make researches on that .

  5. wallace

    June 7, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Providing access to the internet to all schools and all homes is not the answer to solving the educational dilemma. Eliminating teachers is not the answer either. The one size fits all is such a blind approach to any of the issues being experienced in schools and as a result of how things are being run currently. Technology is a great tool. But that is all it is, a tool. How could anyone even believe that it is the answer when every day we have evidence that it is not. There are traffic issues because of technology. Politicians are proving themselves to be less than trustworthy by abusing it and our children are getting wind of this. When will people start to realize that school teachers are not the only teachers around? Knowledge and experience are being gathered every moment. When children are in school, teachers do their very best to provide learning opportunities that are effective in helping them grow and become good citizens.
    Having been employed in the educational system for almost 12 years, I witness the falling out of students due to so many other factors than the ones presented in this article.
    The last suggestion of this article has a lot of validity. However, if I were to make it law, I would mandate that every single policy maker spends one day teaching not just an elementary classroom, but a resource room with Special Education students. On top of that, have them spend a day shadowing administration in the last months of the school year to see how unruly the students act. This will give them a better, more realistic taste of how much housekeeping is done in addition to the teaching.
    Where are the parents? Why can’t they nurture their children to be upstanding citizens? Why do they automatically assume that teachers have magic wands?
    Over the last 25+ years, educators have recognized and responded to the various ways students learn. We adapt our lessons accordingly. When I see 175 students in a day, I must teach, discipline, follow all exceptions to the rule for individual students, deal with tardies, absences, and any other disruptions to the class hour(s) and still provide a thorough lesson that reaches all the students’ understanding and learning potential. Please correct me if I am wrong, but there seem to be a lot of variable factors here. How can anyone effectively evaluate that?

  6. wallace

    June 7, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Providing access to the internet to all schools and all homes is not the answer to solving the educational dilemma. Eliminating teachers is not the answer either. The one size fits all is such a blind approach to any of the issues being experienced in schools and as a result of how things are being run currently. Technology is a great tool. But that is all it is, a tool. How could anyone even believe that it is the answer when every day we have evidence that it is not. There are traffic issues because of technology. Politicians are proving themselves to be less than trustworthy by abusing it and our children are getting wind of this. When will people start to realize that school teachers are not the only teachers around? Knowledge and experience are being gathered every moment. When children are in school, teachers do their very best to provide learning opportunities that are effective in helping them grow and become good citizens.
    Having been employed in the educational system for almost 12 years, I witness the falling out of students due to so many other factors than the ones presented in this article.
    The last suggestion of this article has a lot of validity. However, if I were to make it law, I would mandate that every single policy maker spends one day teaching not just an elementary classroom, but a resource room with Special Education students. On top of that, have them spend a day shadowing administration in the last months of the school year to see how unruly the students act. This will give them a better, more realistic taste of how much housekeeping is done in addition to the teaching.
    Where are the parents? Why can’t they nurture their children to be upstanding citizens? Why do they automatically assume that teachers have magic wands?
    Over the last 25+ years, educators have recognized and responded to the various ways students learn. We adapt our lessons accordingly. When I see 175 students in a day, I must teach, discipline, follow all exceptions to the rule for individual students, deal with tardies, absences, and any other disruptions to the class hour(s) and still provide a thorough lesson that reaches all the students’ understanding and learning potential. Please correct me if I am wrong, but there seem to be a lot of variable factors here. How can anyone effectively evaluate that?

  7. amschomm

    June 7, 2011 at 9:39 am

    To get children to WANT to learn is more fundamental and back to roots than just improving or changing something in the school systems. Parents need to take the first step. You are your child’s FIRST teacher. If a child doesn’t feel school is important it is because the parent has instilled that in the child.

    As parents we need to become an active part of our childrens’ education. Go through their backpacks. Help them with their homework. Make them write out their spelling words 10 times each. It is our jobs as parents to help, encourage, and push our children toward greatness.

  8. amschomm

    June 7, 2011 at 9:39 am

    To get children to WANT to learn is more fundamental and back to roots than just improving or changing something in the school systems. Parents need to take the first step. You are your child’s FIRST teacher. If a child doesn’t feel school is important it is because the parent has instilled that in the child.

    As parents we need to become an active part of our childrens’ education. Go through their backpacks. Help them with their homework. Make them write out their spelling words 10 times each. It is our jobs as parents to help, encourage, and push our children toward greatness.

  9. caribenow

    June 9, 2011 at 2:37 am

    I agree with mgozaydin totally. There is a vision there and one that could work if just the educators, administrators would take a more needed look, based on all the technology that is out there, and how it best can be used. This is a world of instant learners, and learn anywhere environment. Students are not reading less; they are reading more on their i-pods, cell phones, etc. Is anyone aware of that? Just needs to be focused. Students need to know that the tools can work and work for them as well to make learning interesting and relevant to today’s world. The School Systems need to wake up and see the world around them. They are still way behind in their perceptions and all the monies and funding are not the answer. It is thinking outside of the box that will get things moving.

  10. caribenow

    June 9, 2011 at 2:37 am

    I agree with mgozaydin totally. There is a vision there and one that could work if just the educators, administrators would take a more needed look, based on all the technology that is out there, and how it best can be used. This is a world of instant learners, and learn anywhere environment. Students are not reading less; they are reading more on their i-pods, cell phones, etc. Is anyone aware of that? Just needs to be focused. Students need to know that the tools can work and work for them as well to make learning interesting and relevant to today’s world. The School Systems need to wake up and see the world around them. They are still way behind in their perceptions and all the monies and funding are not the answer. It is thinking outside of the box that will get things moving.