Last month, students, parents and faculty gathered in Acton Boxborough Regional High School's auditorium in Acton, Massachusetts to see a screening of A Race to Nowhere, The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture. The film, centered on the daily stress of elementary, middle and high school students, highlighted major issues in our country’s high-achieving schools.
So what are American schools’ biggest problems? According to the film, too much is centered on tests, exams, and finals. Instead of learning information and applying it to real-world situations, students just memorize information for tests and quickly forget the it afterwards. Preparations for standardized tests take up valuable learning time, which means less time for students to do hands-on activities and group projects.
The film also focuses on how students have less time to interact with each other, making life more difficult for them when they make it into the real world. In addition to good grades, employers look for strong social skills and the ability to analyze, think and work quickly.
As for homework, studies prove that doing homework for more than two hours (for high schoolers, 90 minutes for middle schoolers) has no impact on student performance. Those tedious hours could be better spent sleeping and getting exercise.
Counselors at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, where I'm a freshman, have taken note. They advise students to pick the classes that they enjoy the most and will be most motivated in, and stress that no one should be pressured to take all honors level classes. Everybody needs the time to eat, sleep, exercise and have a fun social life like any teenager! When I asked about the pressures at our school, fellow student Rachel Liberty replied, “We are always preparing for something. Elementary school prepares us for junior high, junior high for high school, high school for college, college for a job, a job for retirement, and retirement for death. [At] a certain point you have to stop and wonder when you get to stop preparing and just live your life. I think that schools should focus on living now as well as preparing for the future.”
What Can You Do?
- Check out these tips for applying to college. Hopefully it'll help your stress level decrease.
- If you want to make your own documentary about education reform, follow filmmaker Andrew Jenks's tips on making a video that tells your story.
- Take action with these ideas to reform education.