Students across the country are graduating without ever learning how to read or write. They have never read To Kill a Mockingbird; they have never written an essay; they don’t know the correct usage of affect Vs. Effect; and they wouldn’t even know where to begin any of these tasks because they were never taught. This is particularly relevant to the Asian American community because the illiteracy rate for immigrants in America is much higher than native-born Americans.
What makes and breaks access to a quality education is teacher accountability. Teachers are the lifeblood of a school and the success of a student’s future performance. The problem is that there is very little accountability in America’s school system and no systems set in place that rewards good teachers and removed bad teachers. Oftentimes the only way to get rid of a poorly performing teacher is if they are involved in a school-wide scandal. That is not a very good policy to support students.
There are many ways to fix this problem, some of which have widespread public support.
In order to give students access to a quality education that they are entitled to, teachers need to be held accountable. One such way is to implement a merit-based pay system for teachers in American education. In the private sector, employees are rewarded by pay incentives for how good they do their job and whether or not they are effective in their work. Teachers, however, usually operate on a strict seniority based system. This fact is compounded by the fact that teachers can earn tenure and be guaranteed the security of their jobs. This does little to incentivize teachers to be more effective in their work for students. We like to think of teachers as caring about the children no matter what, but they are also still human and the institutional incentive structures set in place still affect teachers like the affect private sector workers.
Many elementary schools across the country have also stopped teaching formal grammar classes to students. This is especially significant to the Asian American community because a large indicator of success in America is your ability to communicate English well. If grammar is not taught in schools, students will continue making elementary mistakes on the meaning of apart vs. A Part which will affect their potential for employment and future success.
Another way to improve Asian American literacy rates is to adopt more vigorous reading curricula in schools. In many schools across America, student’s reading requirements never surpass fifth grade levels. How can we expect students to read at higher levels if we don’t have them reading at higher levels in schools?
The only way to make school systems serve the students better is to make them more accountable to the parents of those students because they are the ones who care about their child’s success. Parents need to remain vigilant about talking with school boards, teachers, and school administration.