I am encouraged that the graduation rate has increased nationally to 80%. However, at least 1.2 million students still fail to earn diplomas per year, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). “In 2009, President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for 90 percent of U.S. students to graduate from high school and complete at least one year of post-secondary education or training by 2020,” states America’s Promise. We’re progressing too slowly. For the next decade, our national graduation rate must increase about 1.5 percentage points yearly. Therefore, substantive change is mandatory. But we as parents must look at how we can impact this change as we move forward.
For two decades, I have encouraged my children in school while emphasizing reading, Math, Science and writing. As an advocate for education, I echo the growing sentiment to increase the quality of education along with the number of high school graduates receiving it who are prepared for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) college curriculum and other viable career options. I am encouraged by many of Secretary Arne Duncan’s goals to increase the number of college entrants. United fronts must be forged and our families are obliged to be a part of that unity.
With so much on our plates as citizens in a blessed country infused with a myriad of challenges, we might not always know where to start in trying to become more involved. We might go so far as to project far off into the future, as to when time will befriend us and we will have more access to “Big Ben” itself, to dedicate to our children’s education. Long term planning is good, but we must be mindful of what we can do now! We as parents, families and communities must be engaged with our children’s education and the schools now!
1. We can support the educational process right at home. Teaching children reading before starting school goes far. Helping our students with homework goes a great distance. This helps parents to be aware of the problems their children are having before the test and gives and the student a chance to improve early on. The students esteem can blossom and their confidence can increase as they progress.
2. We can help to create after-school programming to help further information sharing in STEM and the Arts. Some services could include helping other students with homework. This helps students whose parents simply can’t be home during this shift to help. Perhaps these busier parents can help in other ways, ie. during a break, call legislators leaving messages regarding needed legislation.
3. We can form partnerships – a powerful tool providing help in our schools, churches and communities. This allows us to use other outlets that might already have resources in place. Partnerships can be formed with other groups or with other parents. Consult with your parent organizations such as Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
With only a few states not adopting the Common Core Standards, we must work even smarter to assure that our students are learning quality material that is deemed necessary for competence and to be competitive in the 21st century! We must also make certain that a myriad of learning styles are met with diverse and effective teaching styles.
4. Advise your teacher on some of the learning styles that have seemed to work best with your child. There are three basic learning styles. Does your child learn best by hearing – “auditory“; by seeing – “visual”; or from experience – “kinesthetic”?
5. Ask your teacher how their teaching style can be adapted to your child’s best or alternating learning style.
6. Ensure that your student is receiving challenging work that engages them at appropriate levels. Getting all A’s, doesn’t mean everything is alright! It’s possible the student should be taking a higher level class or receiving more acceleration. This doesn’t necessarily mean “more busy work”, but “more thinking work”.
7. We must also make character building a part of the learning equation. We can model good character at home and elsewhere as we honor policies and rules. We can be good teachers as parents. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically – Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
I am grateful for great staffs, volunteers, students and communities who see themselves as part of the solution to our educational challenges! As families become more “involved”, we can learn more of what we need to become more “engaged” in the decision making and problem solving at our schools or with our students. I appreciate entities like PTA, Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress, of which I’m a 2011 delegate, Education Nation, parent groups and others who help to share the good word and the wonderful work that is afoot to “upgrade” our educational systems beyond just getting passing or failing grades. I envision us all working together to achieve this greatness and increasing our graduating classes! This is our civil right, students’ human right and God’s birth right – since we are created in His image. With this, we must move forward.