To fix the schools, we need better teachers. We need a better curriculum. But there is one more thing we need, and it is also easy to get, if we have the will. We need better classrooms.
The schools we have now are basically modeled on factories. This is supposedly for efficiency. It does not work. Children are not identical, like car parts, and cannot be treated as such. Worse, treating them as though they are identical objects is an awful lesson in civics in a free democracy.
It is not possible to pitch a lesson properly to all the students in a large class. The dumbest will not get it, and will be left behind. The smartest will be bored out of their minds, and tune out. Most teachers worry only, if at all, about the dumb kids, and tend to slow it all down. Making it worse for the smartest ones.
There is no way around this, in a large class.
Ironically, it was probably better in the old one-room schoolhouse. With a mix of students at different levels, there could be no attempt to have them learn in lock-step.
We used to stream students, to reduce this problem: there were dumb classes and smart classes. This has become politically incorrect. By this system, kids were consigned when young to permanent failure. So we threw them all together into one class, making the problem worse.
The current “efficient” system is insanely wasteful. Properly, no student need fail. Everyone can learn anything; it is just a question of how long it will take them. We end up putting kids through twelve years of schooling, and they come out the other side, and perhaps have learned little or nothing. We have wasted their childhoods.
Fortunately, we now have a simple solution: we teach with computers. With computers, each lesson can be automatically paced to suit each student. If a student does not get the point of a lecture or explanation, he or she can watch the video again, or watch another video on the same topic.