Our education system is broken. We have students that are struggling and we are locked into a system that rewards teachers for hanging in there the longest, not ones that effectively teach and inspire their students.
Teaching is and will remain some of the most important jobs in America. Teachers instruct and enlighten new generations, driving them towards success. We need to ensure that those who fill these jobs are both well qualified and well prepared to do this. Merit based teacher hiring, promotion, and retention will encourage teachers to be the best they can possibly be.
This is not all on the teachers though. Instructors who teach teachers need to be the best they can be also. Teachers need to be well prepared so that they can succeed. Ensuring that we have extensive teacher training is essential. Teachers should be informed on strategies that help motivate students. They can share their ideas so they all can succeed. Such collaboration must be encouraged in the education system.
In order to push students to learn more, we must challenge them, but not beyond their limits so that they are overwhelmed. In our educational system, there are often only two streams: Grade Level and Honors/Advanced Placement. There is no middle ground. Often students feel they are unready or unprepared for the most challenging class, but then, devoid of options, are frustrated with the simplicity of the Grade Level Class.
This needs to change. Teachers in all classes need to asses student skill and willpower to offer or assign tiered assignments varying the challenge that students have. Some students may not be able to go beyond what Grade Level requires. Very well. Others can have a challenge, so that they may still challenge themselves and expand their knowledge without overwhelming themselves. This would not require any additional "Accelerated" classes from being added to the school course offerings, thus eliminating any additional class/teacher cost. Though all assignments may not be tiered, as to ensure grade fairness, a significant amount of increased challenged could be added to the courses with this system. Teachers can assign some tired assignments, and present a choice to the student on others, encouraging students to challenge themselves, but within their limits. This provides a way for all students, not matter their skill level, to push themselves without increasing their stress level.
W.B. Yeats once said, "Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire." By challenging our students, we can light student's intellectual fires so they burn bright and powerful into adulthood, catalyzing and illuminating their futures.