Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who is responsible for children's success at school?

I just read that a quarter of schools in our area failed to meet federal standards. In my city, Norfolk, the amount of schools failing to meet the standards increased by 80% over last year. (Both the middle and high schools we're zoned for failed to meet the standards.)

I can't help wondering if the schools or the parents are to blame. I've recently spent a fair bit of time talking to some public school teachers in the Norfolk school system. One thing that has struck me is that the failing schools have one thing in common, a high preponderance of parents who are uninvolved with their children's education. In each case, where the teachers have told me that their parents are involved with the children, those schools did well and vice versa.

It sucks to be a teacher right now. Teachers aren't left to educate, they teach to tests. I don't see how they can make up for all the learning that should be happening in the home.

One kindergarten teacher was telling me how difficult it was for her because she had kids who came from homes where the parents were very involved in the children's lives and these children were generally fairly numerate and were beginning to read when they entered kindergarten. Then she had kids whose parents put them in front of the TV all day, these kids often didn't know their colors and couldn't count to ten. How on earth is a teacher supposed to deal with disparities like this in their classrooms. She told me that by 3rd grade the differences were often even more pronounced because the involved parents did homework with the children and gave them enrichment opportunities, while the children of uninvolved parents had to reply on the school for all their educational input.

It looks like I am not alone in thinking that educational failure starts in the home. A local Baptist Church has kicked off an initiative where they will reward children for increased grades this year.
onight, a dozen or more youths at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Norfolk are expected to sign a contract in front of their parents and congregants, pledging video abstinence.

That means no television. No Internet video. No DVDs.

The Rev. James Webb said the church expects that children unplugged from video will spend more time doing homework and will perform better at school.

The pledge also obliges parents to spend more time with their children after school, he said.

"If the parents will spend one hour a day with their kids, checking homework, looking at school work, it'll be an absolutely phenomenal outcome," he said.

We need more such initiatives. Being the non-judgemental person I am, I think it is unconscionable that people have children and then do not live up to their responsibilities. We as adults decide to have children, therefore it is our responsibility to ensure that those children get the best possible start in life.


Henry Cate said...

A friend once said that most things in life have more than one cause.

The responsibility of education in America is ultimately that of parents; however, over the last hundred years as government schools have grown, legal parents have lost some of their authority. Maybe even more important is parents have been told time and again that it is notw a partnership or that the government is responsible.

I don't think there is a simple answer. That is one of the reasons why I'm so glad we can homeschool.

Alasandra said...

I agree with you 100%

But Henry makes a good point. Many schools discourage parental involvement, balk at anything they consider parental interference and tell the parents time and time again that only certified teachers can teach.

Then they wonder why the parents don't help the students with homework. Often the parents feel incapable.

Lelani said...

They also continually change how simple things like math problems are done (claiming the methods are ever better) and so it is almost impossible to help a youngster with what they are doing in the class. I still remember trying to help my niece with problems in Every Day Math. They had the most ridiculous system for long division...drawing lattices and so many steps to get the answer..
All the "new" math serves two purposes: it keeps the parents out of the classroom and gives textbook companies reasons to create a neverending supply of new books. God forbid a school system use the same texts for more than a couple of years!

Jennifer said...

Exactly Lelani, I was setting down with my 15 year old son a couple of weeks ago and he didn't know how to do 3 digit multiplication tables the old way, the way we learned in school. The public school system has intergrated this crazy way to do math... why? I don't think its any easier, if anything it was more drawn out and lenghty. I could never get the teacher's to cooperate with me either as far as seeing that signed planners get signed etc.. when my son was having trouble in 8th grade.

Lostcheerio said...

It's those damn democrats.