Are Parents The Real Reason America’s Schools Stink?
“The real reason America’s schools stink” is parents, according to this article published on August 19 in Business Week.
I vehemently disagree. First, America’s schools do not “stink,” as Charles Kenny puts it and second, even if they did, the blame does not lie with parents.
Granted, the author goes on to qualify his initial damning statement like this:
The problem is that parents – and particularly poorer parents — aren’t empowered to make a difference.
All too many parents, all too often based on bitter experience, don’t believe they can make a difference to the quality of their local school or their kid’s education. For testing, accountability and pre-school access reforms to make a real difference, that belief has to change, which is no easy trick.
Let’s take the issue of testing. Plenty of us teachers and parents have been battling for a long time to change the current (and former) administration’s heavy reliance on standardized testing as a means of measuring student achievement.
That’s because we know that, for one thing, you don’t need standardized tests to measure children; just look up their zip codes. Many testing experts agree that standardized tests tend to favor children with a high socioeconomic status: the questions are directed more to them, and also many of the tests don’t just test what’s learned at school, but also what’s learned outside of school.
To be more specific, these items measure skills or knowledge flowing from the kinds of experiences that are more common to children from higher levels of socioeconomic status.
And yet the obsession with standardized tests continues.
Mr. Kenny goes on to state:
“Around the world, the catch-all measure used to proxy for parental commitment to education is the number of books in a child‘s household. This measure predicts student educational outcomes better than class sizes, or expenditures per student, the length of the school day or better class monitoring. In the U.S., kids from homes where there are more than two full bookcases score two and a half grade levels higher than kids from homes with very few books.”
So once again we have clear proof that the children of parents with a higher socio-economic status have a better chance of succeeding than their poorer peers.
All Parents Want The Best For Their Children
It’s true, as the article states, that “Education starts in the home.” It’s also true I have yet to meet a parent who does not want the best for her or his child. But for some parents, that’s easier than for others. Poverty, dealing with a new culture, language barriers, all of these can all get in the way.
Children succeed when their parents are involved in their education, but if you’re working two or three jobs, you don’t have so much time to be with your kids.
Instead of blaming parents, let’s look at the system itself, and see how that could be changed. The Finnish education system is one of the highest-performing school systems in the world, and it is almost the complete opposite of what we have in the U.S.
* Teacher education programs are highly competitive and only one in every ten applicants is accepted;
* Students take no standardized tests until the end of high school;
* Students have fifteen-minute recesses between classes;
* Compulsory education begins at age seven.
Parents, what do you think?
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