I would want to second what is mentioned in #8. There are serious discipline problems and unfortunately the majority of schools lack an adminsitration or leadership that is able to create an effective way of challenging those discipline problems in a way that helps and supports the teacher. You can only do so much by yourself, and if you are trying to discipline in a school where there is weak leadership or an approach that lacks coordination, this is a big challenge.
Failure to communicate. There have been many books and films about that one special teacher who can reach the students solely through communication, where all other methods have failed. Teachers need to be empathic towards students in a way which puts their problems first. Every student is different and they all learn in slightly different ways; if a teacher is too busy planning their vacation or working on papers in class, there is no sense of connection with the students, and they can sense it. To reach the students in a way that allows open and honest communication, teachers need to understand their problems and situations, take steps to help when they can, and be a place for reassurance and guidance when they can't take direct action.
There are lots of good answers in the above posts. Discipline problems would be my number one choice. Far too many students come to school for social reasons, and there are others who absolutely refuse to follow directions, rules, etc. The fact that in-school suspension classes are often packed with unruly students, and additional administrators and on-sight police are needed to tend to such matters makes school an unsafe place. Many classroom teachers spend a large portion of their time trying to control kids instead of concentrating on teaching the subject at hand.
It's hard to prioritize, but I guess I would have to say a lack of funding, especially since that is related to/is the source of so many other problems in high schools. If we had better facilities, more teachers, more support staff, access to enrichment/field trips, better security, you name it, then it would be easier to get more out of kids, as well as keep them out of trouble.
I cannot disagree with the posts above. All note serious problems in American high schools. In my own opinion, the most serious problem is failure to hold students accountable. Post #1 mentions students placed in AP classes for which they are woefully unprepared. This has been the case in far too many instances. Teachers often "socially promote" students who do not deserve to pass, not because they cannot do the work but because they REFUSE to do the work, and the teacher faces sanction if he/she has a high failure rate. Students soon realize this and are more than willing to play the odds, knowing that the teacher will be reluctant to deny them credit. Responsibility for this flaw does not lie so much with administration as it does with politicians who are responsible for educational funding and can only measure progress by standardized test results. No Child Left Behind has definitely contributed to this atmosphere that "everyone gets a free ticket." Students in other countries do not have this luxury. Until such time as we deny it to students in this nation, our schools will continue to suffer.
The biggest problem is the fact that families do not have the ability in many cases to help their students and to support them in getting an education. This is something that I see in my school where the majority of students are poor and have families in which no one has ever been to college. The families say that they value education, but they have no idea what that entails. They aren't able to help with homework and such and they don't really push their kids because they don't know how much work is needed to succeed.
Indifference. This is more of a societal problem. However, young people set trends. Young people make themselves. Sure, parents and teachers have great influence, but there comes a point in a teenager's life when they need to begin taking responsibility for themselves. If this point is never reached, we end up with the fifth grader cited above. Parents in homes certainly contribute to a student not finding any reason to study, but when schools further contribute to this by allowing circumstances like the one cited in post #2, something must be done. There should be standards and benchmarks of expected behaviors and abilities. And if students can make the mark, they should repeat the grade or exam until they do. Learning is not difficult in this world, there are many ways to learn. If students took the responsibility to do what they are asked, amazing things would happen in education.
Bullying. This seems to be a more studied issue in today's schools than it has been in the past. One cannot deny the fact that bullying is very different today that it has ever been. Technology allows students to be bullied on-line. This ever present threat poses too much for many and, sometimes, results in the deaths of students.
What is the solution? Hard one. I think that if there was one cure-all, it would have been found by now. Instead, districts are simply pouring through the ideas brought forth by the "experts."
As for myself, I would like to think that there was a "cure." Unfortunately, there is not. For every plan districts put into place, the previous one was deemed ineffective- bullying continues.
I think that the bullying issue needs to be addresses at a much younger age. Bullying should be addressed when children first enter into school. They need to be given a base prior to the arising of the problem.
No Child Left Behind. This blanket of proposed equality for all is a dismal failure. In fact, it represents realistically the humorous satire of Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" in which the culture values mediocrity to the point that people accept oppressive measures in the name of equality, except perhaps the incompetent. For instance, in Vonnegut's story, when the newscaster is so incoherent that he cannot communicate the news, Hazel, Harrison's mother, remarks in words that ring today,
"That's all right--....he tried. That's the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard." [this story was written in 1961]
One high school in this area now has students functioning on a 5th grade level in an AP [Advanced Placement] class because the parent-subservient principal will not deny them the "opportunity."
What is the solution? Perhaps, there is the need for a revolution in the thinking of those who try to strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.