WASHINGTON—Despite years of putting up with underperforming teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and a gradually deteriorating educational experience, American students reluctantly announced Tuesday that they would be giving the nation's public school system yet another chance this fall.
Saying they would "probably kick themselves later" for deciding to enroll once more in a system that has let them down time and time again, millions of American children agreed to put up with their schools' insufficient funding and lack of adequate arts and science programs in hopes that administrators might finally start providing a nurturing, or at least tolerable, environment in which to learn.
"I know I've been burned many times in the past by our nation's educational infrastructure, but if they promise to change, I'd be willing to give them another shot," said sixth-grader Gregory Jacobs, whose Norfolk, CT–area middle school recently cut more than 15 members of its teaching staff. "Yes, I realize they say every year that it's going to get better and it never does, but my future is at stake here, so I guess I'm just hoping our schools will finally live up to their promise."
"I don't know, maybe I'm being naïve by expecting things to change," Jacobs added. "But is hoping for improved overall scholastic quality really such an outrageous expectation?"
Admitting they were a little reluctant to put their faith in the same flawed bureaucracy that, for decades now, has failed to close the ever-widening achievement gap and cannot fix painfully apparent budget inadequacies, the nation's K through 12 pupils told reporters that what eventually sealed their decision to return to school was a deep, unshakable faith that the richest, most powerful country in the world would be able to meet the highest global standards for education.
While U.S. students have granted the public school system another in a long series of chances to prove itself, they were quick to issue a list of demands they hoped politicians, administrators, and educators would be able to meet in the coming year.
"Look, if we're going to come back, I would personally like to see some guarantees from these officials that indicate they really are committed to making these schools work," said Elizabeth Gray, a third-grader at the overcrowded Thaddeus T. Barker Elementary School in Brooklyn. "I'm talking new equipment and resources, better-trained teachers, smaller classrooms, more one-on-one interaction with students, and higher achievement standards, as well as improved models for accountability."
"Also, we're going to need to see the American student's international ranking in mathematics go up from 32th to at least 26th," continued Gray, adding that the implementation of a new strategy to get the number of high school dropouts down from 1.2 million annually to an even 1 million would be a "terrific start." "These are things my classmates and I have wanted from day one, and I would like the reassurance of administrators that they are achievable."
In a final plea to school boards across the country, the nation's students said that when they begin showing up to class in the coming month, they really hope they haven't once more placed their futures in the hands of inept administrators who are "just going to make [children] look like fools for trusting them again."
Grateful for another opportunity to amend its past administrative blunders, the Department of Education was quick to promise it wouldn't let students down this time and would do all it could not to mess everything up again.
"We want to thank all of our students for this vote of confidence," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a special televised press conference. "We are seriously going to work harder than ever before this year and make some real changes. I promise. Students will not regret giving us this chance."
"That being said, funding is a little tight right now, so try to keep your expectations within reason," Duncan added.