A poll conducted by the Associated Press has found that more than half of people polled claim that U.S. high schools are falling short when it comes to readying students for adulthood. In addition, the same number of American’s polled believe that schools are focusing too much on some subjects and neglecting others, leading to an unbalanced education and a lack of “survival skills” needed for life after high school.

“When you get out of high school, what are you educated to do?” Mused California firefighter Jamie Norton. “A lot of kids, when they get out of school, are kind of lost.”

The AP poll revealed that parents from a minority group tend to believe that their children are receiving an education than they actually are. Three-fourths of adults polled also claimed that their children’s schools were emphasizing the wrong subjects – music, art, English – and not spending enough time on “important” subjects, such as math or biology. Parents are also frustrated by the seeming lack of assistance available during school hours for children who may be struggling with math, and are often unwilling to dedicate time at home to work on their children’s math homework.

Most individuals polled claimed that the U.S. is far behind other world countries when it comes to education. In reality, U.S. students fall somewhere in the middle when compared to students from other countries.

When it comes to standardized testing, those polled have mixed feelings. Some thought that homework assignments and tests written and administered by teachers were a more accurate measure of individual progress. Standardized testing has been a topic of much debate since the installment of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, as many schools across the nation scored terribly and faced strict scrutiny as a result. Since NCLB was passed, schools have reworked their curriculum to focus on standardized testing, and the quality of the overall school experience has decreased, with the majority of time spent preparing for Federal testing.

“Children get taught to the test,” complained parent Larry Michalec. “They don’t get taught to learn.”

The AP poll also uncovered a new trend in teacher compensation. Over half of those polled believe that teachers should receive a salary based on the performance of their students, rather than years spent teaching. Half of individuals thought that teachers should have the option to strike, with the other half believing that teacher strikes should absolutely be illegal. Currently, the option to strike is decided by the state.

The beliefs of Americans related to education are heavily influenced by politics, as demonstrated by the overwhelming number of individuals that claimed that gas prices and the status of the economy were “bigger issues” than education.

According to a 1999 U.S. census, there were approximately 15.9 million high school students in the U.S. One-third of these students were enrolled one grade below their peers of the same age due to poor performance. 520,000 students had dropped out of high school. The number of students expected to enter college immediately after high school graduation was around 12 million, with that number forecasted to increase in each subsequent year.

Related article courtesy of MSNBC.com and The Associated Press.

Nicolette Kuff is a freelance writer from Upstate NY. She reflects on current news stories in her blog, The Daily Kuff.

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