Finished Product Post: America’s Perception of the US’s K-12 Public Education System

Greetings all,

Just wanted to give y’all a recapitulation on how my project turned out and the overall process.

As I said before, I spent the first half or so of my summer doing more general research and getting a good feel for what exactly I was dealing with. Starting from day 1, I stockpiled information and links to various websites with pertinent information. After I had a good background on the subject and felt comfortable with what I was working with, I began to narrow down possible reasons for why the American public has the pessimistic view on our country’s K-12 public education system. I slowly gathered sources related to more specific topics, looking at polls that asked people how they felt about the United States’ public education system and why they felt that way.

During the second half of the summer I began to write up bits and pieces of what would become my final product. In hindsight, I probably should have started this sooner because it would have helped me get my thoughts in order and see how different topics linked up with each other. Anyways, I continued to actually write the final report of all my research and let me tell you, it was a bear. I had intended on spending 7 full time weeks and 2 part time weeks working on the project. Instead, I ended up taking an extra couple part time weeks to finish everything up. I came into some good fortune towards the end of my project when I found a couple surveys that contained specific questions whose answers I had been looking for for weeks. Up to that point, I was relying a lot on conjecture and sources that were only partially related to my belief that a lot of the public’s opinion on the education system is shaped by the media. Luckily, I found a few polls that connected how often Americans see media stories about the education system in our country. I also found a few journal articles that went into detail about the content of media stories that dealt with education. I had thought that I might have to devise a strategy to comb through news articles dealing with America’s public education system and figure out what portion of them painted the school system in a negative light. I was saved from doing a lot of extra, unforeseen work thanks to these studies which looked at hundreds of randomly selected media stories and assessed their main themes. As I had suspected, there was an overwhelming emphasis on the belief that the country’s education system was in a state of crisis. Furthermore, fewer than 20% of these media reports proposed any sort of solution. Rather, they compared America’s students to students of other countries and basically said the country was doomed to failure.

This discovery helped me tie together the content of the media stories and whether or not they were “fair” to the education system.

Ultimately, I found that there’s a high chance that country’s public K-12 education system isn’t doing as poorly as most Americans believe. Due to a lack of knowledge and influence from the media, the public believes the United States’ education system to be mediocre at best. However, this stems from ignorance as well as media articles that come to conclusions based off of one or two standardized tests that often misrepresent countries’ adolescents’ performances.

I had originally intended to incorporate a lot of work with statistics software because I wanted more concrete support for my beliefs. However, during the course of my project I found that SPSS wasn’t going to be as helpful as I had intended because there weren’t many clear trends as to why the public believed the way it did.

Overall, I had a great time doing this project. It was eye-opening and I learned a ton about peoples’ perceptions, the media, and the education systems of not just the United States, but other countries as well. I’m definitely going to recommend that all my friends who are Monroe scholars take the program up on its offer and conduct summer research!