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.

Standardized Tests

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.

In Finland:
* 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?

Related Stories

Are Standardized Tests Valuable? 72% Of Teachers Say “No”

Using Standardised Tests To Evaluate Teachers Is Wrong

How Finland’s Education System Succeeds, And America’s Is At War

Photo Credit: thinkstock

94 comments

Misty Lemons
Past Member 3 years ago

I think a lot of parents don't care and don't speak up for the rights of their children. At my child's school they've just put a policy in place to double punish students. If a child goes to the time out room and other punishments 3 or more times in a semester they will be excluded from any social activities at the school. They were already punished, why punish them more and ostracize them? Parents were not even asked for their input on the policy. It was snuck under the radar and put on a recent newsletter more of as an afterthought rather than a proper announcement. I for one am not standing for this and have put together a petition that I plan on bringing to the school board at their next meeting. I need as many signatures I can get. Please, support the children. It is appreciated.


http://www.thepetitionsite.com/443/258/344/dont-be-a-grinch-give-kids-their-christmas-back/

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

parents share a lot of the blame. they instill the values and desire to learn.. teachers only work from that. there are amazing teachers out there that inspire and encourage, but there are also lazy teachers who just barely do their job. its a broken system really.

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W.4 years ago

I don't think the problem is education itself, be it in home or at school, homeschooled or not, but a cultural problem. In culture, sadly education is not highly valued, competition and patriotism are, going along with the norm is the accepted rather than questioning it, and a lack of tolerance and patience and compassion seems normal. And everyone seems to simply strive to be part of the "norm". Teachers, educators and parents are all products of this culture where greed and lack of foresight and insight are the norm, and are all imposing their values on children. Anyone can be a marginalized misfit, and once you have that label for any reason, be it opinion, personality, psychological/behavioural trait then bullying begins not just by peers, but by society and professionals keeping this norm alive and thriving.

Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon4 years ago

I wonder how many folks who describe parents (and children) in terms of florid negativity are themselves parents of children attending public schools?

Avis S.
Avis S.4 years ago

How many parents see to it their kids are learning. They have a responsibility to help with what they learn but so many dont have time for their kids or are too busy dragging them around to play sports. How many attend PTA meetings to see what their kids are doing in school. If kids have their own TV and Computer and Video games they dont have time to do homework. I know so many that dont do chores either. they run the streets instead because they have no parental guidance because the parent or parents are working or doing their own thing.

JT SMITH
JT Smith4 years ago

[...continued] Unfortunately, the US has been at the receiving end of some useless memes for so long that a seeming majority of the American public has bought into them. The worst of those memes is "America is the greatest nation on Earth." Not only is this a fallacy, it seems to have caused far too many people to decide to rest on their laurels (along with their brains) rather than striving to either make America the greatest and/or keep it there. Basically, the American education system needs an overhaul, the Church needs to frankly stay out of it entirely (if you want your children to learn about Creationism, take them to church, not school!), and yes the parents do need to be more involved than they are overall.

JT SMITH
JT Smith4 years ago

I agree that parents do need to be more involved in the raising of their children. I also completely understand that in many cases that's a scenario that's much easier stated than practiced. And, obviously, there are those parents who continually prove that the gene pool has a shallow end and is in dire need of chlorine and more lifeguards.

None of that excuses the idiocy of far too many American school administrators. I agree that teachers are often caught in a Catch-22 in terms of their jobs. Unfortunately, in the US at least, thanks to some of the unions it's also exceedingly difficult to remove the really bad teachers, the ones who should never be teaching in the first place. (I am not nor have I ever been a teacher, as that's one talent that I most certainly do not have.)

Unfortunately, the US has been at the receiving end of some useless memes for so long that a seeming majority of the American public has bought into them. The worst of those memes is "America is the greatest nation on Earth." Not only is this a fallacy, it seems to have caused far too many people to decide to rest on their laurels (along with their brains) rather than striving to either make America the greatest and/or keep it there. Basically, the American education system needs an overhaul, the Church needs to frankly stay out of it entirely (if you want your children to learn about Creationism, take them to church, not school!), and yes the parents do need to be more involved than they

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola4 years ago

Thanks for sharing this info.

Nimue Pendragon

Not being an american or in America I do not know if the schools stink, and even if they do, how is this the parents fault?

Marie W.
Marie W.4 years ago

Few parents left today- mostly sperm/egg donors who should have been spayed/neutered. Schools now exist to socialize little monkeys that bully, text and can't wash their hands.. Teachers are expected to do it all- not education alone- everything from teaching them basic manners to giving them pencils (out their own money). I am/was not a teacher, but worked in a public institution and watched this degradation over the last 10 years.