To the editor:

Recently there has been a big push, from the federal to local level, to improve the education system. Unfortunately, most of the new ideas tend to be large, misguided, expensive, and ineffective.

Despite good intentions, the gigantic emphasis on new technology has done little to nothing to improve students' education. New policies on teacher evaluations, no matter their unknown results, due to the small sample size thus far, definitely add stress on local educators and administrators.

School vouchers undoubtedly improve some schools through competition, but hurt other schools that lose out on funding. Charter schools have promise, as demonstrated by the great success of British ones, but they have their own practical and political difficulties. More liberal alternatives - such as beefing up teacher unions and keeping all or almost all public funding in locally run public schools - would likely exacerbate problems that have afflicted public schools for decades, such as securing jobs for underperforming teachers.

Studies of successful foreign classrooms have found a number of differences between them and their American counterparts. Surprisingly, technology is utilized much less there than here. Many of the world's best primary and secondary school classrooms even lack calculators. That is because the point is to teach problem solving, not needlessly rely on expensive, confusing, technology that is prone to breaking down or providing students with excuses - i.e. iPads.

It is too bad that grants and funding continue to go toward ineffective "things" rather than improving curriculum, testing problem-solving skills over data retention, and improving the quality of teacher education. Technology can be utilized, but a grant for new computers in the English classrooms definitely weakened my high school experience at Shawe. We must look beyond our borders to effective classrooms and implement policies that truly put education above everything else - including athletics, facilities, nostalgia, and gadgets.

Doug Totten

Carleton College Class of 2016

Shawe Memorial Class of 2012