American public high schools have undergone a number of changes over the past fifty years, due to changes in society's attitudes about different issues, including the rights of minorities, gays, and women. These have contributed to the challenges faced by both faculty and students in today's public schools, along with the impact of our nation's current economic problems.
First of all, faculty have to deal with increasingly larger classes and more limited financial resources. Such resources are even more scarce in inner city schools and those in lower income neighborhoods. It has often been reported that teachers are often forced to purchase school supplies and education materials out of their own pockets. This is incredulous when considering the low pay teachers receive in comparison with many other professions.
Secondly, many teachers have to work a second job in order to support their families. The shortage of qualified math and science teachers, in particular, is largely due to the more lucrative career opportunities these individuals have to choose from. As a result. many teachers have had to teach subjects that don't match their academic backgrounds. All of these factors have led to the high frequency of teacher burnout and faculty turnover.
Third, students have their own challenges. They are placed in crowded classes. Resources are limited for students who require extra help, and are even more limited for gifted students who need special attention, as well. The number of students for whom English is a second language has risen steadily over the past thirty years. Many live in homes in which neither parent speaks English. As a result, these students are at an even greater learning disadvantage than others. These students have also had more difficulty assimilating into many public schools. Cultural, ethnic, and sexual diversity among students has to be addressed by providing educational programs that embrace these differences, and encourage greater understanding of diversity among students, as well as faculty members.
These issues at our nation's public high schools have resulted in a rising number of high school graduates who lack basic math and writing skills. Studies have shown that the United States is falling behind other industrialized nations in the quality of public education offered. We are producing fewer scientists and mathematicians that are needed to compete in research and technology. Public education needs to be given a greater priority at both the federal and state levels of government.