The week before Present Obama delivered his State of the Union address, Thomas Friedman suggested that Arne Duncan, secretary of Education had already given it. As Friedman Wrote in his column on January, 19th, “it was not a laundry list and it wasn’t a feel good speech.”
Secretary Duncan’s speech to the National Assessment Governing Board’s Education Summit for Parent Leaders asked one big question: “Are we falling behind as a country in education because we fail to recruit the smartest college students to become teachers or is it because too many parents and too many kids just don’t want to put the work?
Its time for parents to become more proactive when it comes to improving our schools. The National PTA recently helped organize the Take Your Family to School Week, designed to build partnerships between families and schools. They encouraged parents to organize events such as parent-teacher breakfasts, game nights and workshops on how to help your children learn at home. The PTA encouraged parents to stay in touch with teachers via email, check homework every night, and teach students the consequences for their choices such as: “I choose to do my homework and received an “A” on my quiz or I chose to get up late, and missed the school bus..” A report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) surveyed 25,000 students in 8 th grade, again in 10 th, and lastly in 12 th. The students’ responses – along with surveys of their parents and educators, and academic data – showed that parental involvement in school correlates with high grade point averages.
As we have seen, parents in South Korea, Singapore and Finland, have the muscle to challenge educational complacency. We must do the same and ask more of our leaders and ask more of our progeny. Amanda Ripley’s new book – “The Smartest Kids in the World and how they got that Way” Duncan says, “Amanda points a finger at you and me as parents – not because we aren’t involved in school, but because too often we are involved in the wrong way.”
Parents, she says, are happy to show up at sports events, video camera in hand, and they’ll come to school to protest a bad grade. But she writes, “Parents did not tend to show up at schools demanding that their kids be assigned more challenging reading or that their kindergartners learn math…’
To really help our kids we have to do so much more as parents. We have to change expectations about how hard kids should work. And we have to work with teachers and leaders to create schools that demand more from our kids.
By Deborah H. Friedman, Learning Specialist