K-12 Education In The USA: What Is It And What Changes Have Been Made?
K-12 education is the mixture of primary and secondary levels of education that students are given between kindergartens through 12th grade (Reference.com, 2017). The K-12 educational system has the mission of offering students essential information and knowledge free of charge. With this incredibly beneficial and necessary tool for lifetime success, one would think that the United States educational system would be booming and overflowing with encouraged, wise, and sage young men and women prepared for the next step in life, whether it is a future in college, military or trade; however, quite the opposite is true.
The United States education system has been drastically failing and has been on the decline over the past 70 years; several causes and changes are responsible for that drastic deterioration.
The family structure in the U.S. is the number one difference between this century and last one. The demographic changes alter how public schools across the nation address the number of challenges schools are faced with on an annual basis. Since the 1960-1970 model American family consisting of primarily 2 Caucasian parents and 2.3 children, the face of America in the year 2017 has transformed greatly into any number of variations. We are a nation made up of many races, many ethnicities, with almost no one race now existing as a majority. Our family sizes range across the board, and the population is increasing at a 20 -23 percent rate every twenty years (NSBA, 2012).
Before states can even begin to offer hope throughout its public-school system, educational leaders need to start with qualified data about their community. They need to have the answers to questions like these:
- What is the population demographic by ethnic group?
- What percentage of the populace speaks another primary language other than English in the home?
- What is the average size of the household?
- What is the income median of the family?
- What is the average level of education?
With these demographical changes, K12-education is constantly having to make transitions within the schools to meet the needs of many. School leaders must pay special attention to the following areas:
- Transitional Grades – Sixth grade and Ninth grade are especially challenging years. Even students who showed no signs of risk in earlier years, may struggle during these years and find themselves falling behind; thus, setting them up for failure and later dropping-out.
- Providing Personalized Counselors – Counselors who work more like individualized case managers and build relationships with their students, intervening when needed, helping the entire family, and teaching the student problem-solving techniques that will give students a better chance at success.
- Providing smaller schools and focused curriculums – smaller class sizes where interpersonal connections between students and adults are fostered, teachers are supportive, and curriculums are relevant, focused and rigorous. These environments have been shown to have lower dropout rates.
- The possibility of providing certain high school reform models – High schools with a Talent Development Program and a Success Academy in ninth-grade which provides concentrated social and academic support; and a high school that offers Career Academies, stimulating career and technical training that prepares students for a career post-graduation added to required state academics. These two models have been found to be secondary programs that reduce dropout rates.
- Offering Programs that address the disparities in relation to race and ethnic group challenges – High schools that have established tutoring, mentoring, dropout prevention programs for at-risk groups and having parent, community and adult activity groups have also seen a significant reduction in the dropout rate.
- Providing access to high-quality preschool education for all children, especially those from lower socio-economic families. Several states and school districts still do not offer free pre-K educational programs. Expanding educational access to include pre-kindergarten programs will give students an additional advantage and prepare them for the years ahead of them (NSBA, 2012).
With every passing year, the need for improvement in the United States’ K-12 educational system becomes more and more painfully acute. The system is a living, active, and vital component of this nation’s present and future. Like everything else, public education must constantly reinvent itself to serve the common good. In an ever-changing world, where the demographics change as quickly as they do, the K-12 educations system needs to be prepared to change with it, or inevitably, our students, generations of them, will get left behind.