Archive for Thursday, November 12, 2009

Improving education

November 12, 2009

If ever there was a time when public education was under siege it is now. Educators face unrealistic goals set by those who aren’t in the classroom, and the problem of shrinking financing. It is a time of challenge for everyone involved in shaping future generations.

This is National Education Week — Nov. 15-21 — and a good time to look at some of the causes for the crisis faced by school districts.

Make no mistake, education is a big public business in the United States. There are 3.1 million teachers in the United States with 2.6 million working in a public school setting. Education is a big part of all budgets, too. Even with major funding by the state, about 50 percent of all local property taxes go to school districts.

I believe that school districts face daunting challenges. First they, like all other local government units, face unfunded mandates. This means the feds adopt a policy and mandate the state to carry it out. The policy goes down the food chain to local units of government with no funding provided.

School districts have to wrestle with the challenge of No Child Left Behind. The philosophy of this plan is that every child will progress and achieve at the same pace. While well intentioned, it is impractical. There are some young people who simply want to be left behind. For whatever reason they don’t think education is important.

Sadly, a decade down the road some of these young people will find out they made a big mistake in not achieving an education. They are sentencing themselves to a difficult life unless they backtrack and get a GED and learn a skill.

How do you motivate these students? If I had my way, you would have to have a high school diploma or a GED to get a driver’s license. A student who fails to graduate with his or her class, drops out or is kicked out of school would be not be able to obtain a driver’s license. Returning to school or getting a GED would reopen that option.

It seems to me that if we are to improve educational levels, parents have to buy in and become involved. By being involved, I don’t mean running to school to complain to teachers or coaches about perceived problems, such as too much homework or the lack of playing time. What I mean is that parents need to create an atmosphere conducive to learning. This means that parents make sure students turn off the TV, cell phone and music and complete their homework. Parents need an attitude of expecting academic success and making sure they provide the proper environment for learning. This includes making sure children read and learn the basics of education. Parents should expect students to be respectful of teachers and not waste class time by talking or engaging in disruptive behavior.

Yes, I know, this means parents have to sacrifice their time. Raising a child is the hardest work you’ll ever do, but it is the most rewarding. Sacrifices for education now will reap tremendous benefits for young people in the future. Our job as parents and grandparents is to do all we can to prepare the next generation to live successfully and to make the world an even better place to live.

Education needs team work. There are many groups that promote involvement of people including the PTA, PTO, Youth Friends and others. A new group is being formed in area schools, D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), which emphasizes the importance of fathers in the educational process.

We all need to be involved in education but in the right manner. We need to support schools and make a personal commitment to do all that we can to prepare the next generation. Congratulations to the teachers and administrators of all the local districts, and best wishes as you face the challenges of the changing world of academics.


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