I have been teaching at the college level for over 8 years. I just started teaching high school this year. A month into my job as a high school science teacher, and I have a few observations:
This job requires far more hours of my time than I am paid for. I work at home for about 3 hours per night, planning lessons, designing lab activities, and grading papers. I'm hoping that next year it will be easier, because the lessons will all be planned out.
The kids, for the most part do good work. Very few of them do great work. Currently, only 3% of my students have an A. The majority of the class are average students, with about 30% of them earning a B, and about 35% of them have a C. There are about 20% that have earned a D, and if it were up to me, a D would not be a passing grade. Finally, 12% or so are failing my class.
The students that are failing my class are also failing others. I have one student that is failing my class along with 3 others. He is failing Geometry, Biology, English, and History. He has a D in an elective, and an A in art. I would not take bets on his ever making it through high school.
The number one reason why kids are failing? They don't turn in any assignments.
Number two? Cheating.
I caught three kids so far cheating by cutting and pasting WikiPedia pages into their report. One of them actually turned in a wiki page that I had written. Plagiarism is cheating, and anyone caught cheating in my class gets a discipline referral and an automatic zero for the assignment.
Number three? Just not studying. I can see who logs into the class website to retrieve class notes and power points. There are quite a few that never log in, have never checked out a textbook, and cannot understand why they get a 40% on the test.
I email weekly progress notes that include a copy of their grade book marks to every parent. If your child has a D or an F, I email you personally and notify you that your child is doing poorly. In many cases, it helps. In some, it does not. On average, I schedule 3-4 face to face parent/teacher conferences a week.
Still, there are students who have a 45% average in my class.
That is American Education. Don't blame the teachers. There are teachers that phone it in, but there are many parents that just don't care how their kids do.