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One way to reform public schools would be to forma common curriculum. This means that a government committee comprised of educators, teachers, corporate representatives, book publishers, parents, etc. would decide what classes must be taken by every student to graduate from high school. The courses selected by the committee would cover the basic subjects such as mathematics, science, the English language and composition, government, history, etc. and the level of these required classes would be at a level that graduating students should be able to master. There would be more than enough room to take electives and other classes of interest, but the core classes would be the focus. This gives students enough knowledge to go onto college and obtain jobs in the American knowledge based economy. This would also eliminate the problem of colleges not being able to decipher the multitudes of high school classes and the grade level the classes are at. Opponents to this plan say that this would eliminate any teacher creativity and would drive many educators from the field. This is not entirely true because teachers are already required to teach certain things in their classes and the standards would not be telling them how they have to teach it.
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In order for a common curriculum to be effective, you would have to measure the students' progress. This means their needs to be a national test to asses the students' knowledge on a certain subject. National tests along with grades received in a centralized curriculum would give a very clear picture of how much the student actually did learn in school. Colleges can then easily admit the best students by looking at grades and easily comparing the grades to others. These national tests also serve as a measuring stick for schools themselves. Comparing composite scores from school to school would be a very good way to determine which schools need the most help and funding.
There are other things that must be done throughout a students school career and even before he or she goes to school. The Head Start program, which is a preschool program provided by the government, needs to be offered to preschool children that can't afford it. Studies have shown that children who go to preschool or Head Start score better on the SAT and ACT then students who do not. Studies have also shown that students cannot learn if they are hungry, which is why schools should offer free lunch and breakfast programs. Some students have trouble learning some material as quickly as other students and more effective tutoring programs need to be offered so that students can get the extra help at they may need. Many students have two parents who work full time and go home to an empty house and many studies have shown that this leads to eventually lower grades in school and some not so rare cases, dropping out of school all together. Giving them a latchkey program where they can go do homework and play with other kids under adult supervision is much better than having them go home by themselves where they can get into trouble.
A common curriculum, national standardized testing, and other programs to help increase students' general welfare and get them the extra help they need to get through school will make American public schools a competitor in the global market once again. More students will graduate with more of an understanding of the courses that they have taken than ever before. More students will go onto better colleges and get better jobs than are currently. Many major corporations are going overseas to fill well paying technical jobs here in America that Americans should be filling. Reform in American Public schools is needed and getting students to know what they should know is what should be done.