Actionable Means to Improve American Schools

Candice eetimesEight Evidence Based Reforms To Fix Our Schools

In recent decades we have seen many suggestions for school reform that have failed to deliver their promised results.  This ranged from “No Child Left Behind” which punished schools for having higher concentrations of struggling students to creating charter schools and vouchers for private schools which punish the less fortunate in other ways.  We have seen the poor results of “teaching to the test” and paradoxically lowering the standards of teachers when we increase the certification requirements.  There are things we can do to improve our schools based on real evidence.  However, most of them go against the grain of conventional wisdom and American culture and traditions.  Here’s the list and then the evidence:

School Hours

Increase the time at school for pre-adolescents.  Elementary school hours make no sense for most families.  School end earlier than most parents get off work.  It puts strains on working parents.  It also falsely encourages teachers to increase homework assignments with the rationalization that that time is available for parent supervised study.  Retaining young students at school until later also allows longer and more frequent recess and free time which has been shown to improve learning.

More Recess, a lot more.  Kids need breaks from instruction.  They need to move and relax.  They also need more time to socialize and learn social skills without adult supervision.

More play and less sitting in one place working as though they were college students, especially for kindergardners.

Shift school start times later for adolescents.  Teenagers have a time shifted natural sleep cycle compared to children and adults.  They need just as much sleep but fall asleep and arise later.  But our middle and high schools expect them to get up early, in many school districts, even earlier than elementary schools to allow them to be bussed first and then participate in after school sports.  This requirement causes sleep deprivation that impairs learning, increases risky behavior, causes more traffic accidents, and causes health problems.

Year Round Schooling.  Summer vacations rob students of study time, cause summer backsliding, etc.

Athletics and Physical Education

Eliminate After School Sports.  Schools should focus on academics instead of being sports clubs that pretend to be schools.  Sports are expensive.  Supporting sports reduces resources that could be applied to academic and creative subjects.  Eliminating after school sports will free up resources while at the same time changing the school culture to value academic over athletic achievement.

Eliminate investments in physical education.  High schools and middle school do not need to provide expensive gymnasiums, showers, or swimming pools.  With no after school sports, expensive bleachers, tracks, sports-fields, etc. are not needed.  Running and jumping jacks do not require special equipment.  Our emphasis on P.E. is from our military who wanted to transfer the cost and time to get infantry ready for war to our schools.

How to Save American Schools

Teaching Credentials

Eliminate educational credentialing for high school teachers.  When schools are free to hire teachers based on their knowledge and teaching skill rather than being limited to the pool of people who took specialized “education” degrees and credentialling programs, the quality and quantity of available teachers will increase by many fold.  If one is looking for someone to teach autoshop, who would be a better candidate, a retired auto mechanic or someone with a liberal arts undergraduate degree and a masters in “education”?  Who would be a better Electronics teacher, a middle-aged electronics engineer or an English major with the required credential in “education”?  A physics teacher?  A biology instructor?  A math teacher?  Who would be a better culinary arts teacher?  Even looking at more conventional academic classes… which would be better, a professional writer, journalist, editor, or a recent English major with an “education” credential?


Ban Homework.  Except for reading textbooks and novels, homework does NOT improve learning.  This is especially true for elementary school age students.  Homework actually hurts learning.  It turns something from a joy into a chore.  It is frustrating for slow learners and is boring for fast learners.  It actively hinders gifted students by robbing them of time that they could be spending learning things they are interested in at their faster pace.  It robs families of family time and pits students against parents.

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