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Improving Schools with NO New Tax Dollars

Jessica Farrington,

e not confused. This story is not about a school somewhere else... anywhere else. This story is about a school in your state and in your city. In fact this maybe the school your child attends.
Making the educational system better is not necessarily about money. It is more about the coalition among the parents, teacher and the student.

This school year is over. Some are thinking about Hillsborough County’s schools for the new year. Each high school has made some sort of name for itself based on graduation and drop out rates, on FCAT, on the ACT and SAT performance, and (of course) based on athletic competitiveness. Middle schools whose student abilities are usually apparent (barring any intervention) feed these high schools. The middle schools are filled with students from the elementary schools. Hillsborough County has 23 high schools, only 3 were rated schools. Yet, 18 out of the 44 middle schools were A rated.

People generally complain that our schools are failing our children. They say the answer to this quagmire is money. Parents and teachers want more money to be budgeted for education. But, I am not sure more money is the panacea. Yes, money can buy better books, increase salaries, and build new schools. However, increased expenditures per student hasn’t commensurately with increased student performance. Several credible studies posit there is little to no correlation

Many ‘dress up’ the money solution advocating “school vouchers”. Here, the state pays tuition for students in ‘failing schools’ to attend private, parochial or other non-failing school. Some voucher advocates tout studies that public schools facing the threat of vouchers did improve.

The argument seems unimpressive. The problem is the A+ program hinges on FCAT scores. What has essentially happened is the teacher focused on improving FCAT performance at the expense of child education. The “improvement” seems chimerical.

The truth is the schools are not failing our children. We are failing our children. Education hinges on the desire and motivation that the individual child brings into the school.

One of the tools to improve the education our children get is ourselves. We need to form a coalition to do together that which we could not do apart. Who is “we”? The collective we is… one essential partnership between the teacher and the parent. The parent should especially work to become involved with each child’s school, teachers, and advisors. Additionally, ask the child about not only “what happened at school today” but also “what did they learn at school today?”; and make sure the answer makes sense and is well stated. This dialogue will help improve the child’s communications skills. Third, the parent should conference with the teachers about the child is progress. Parent-teacher’s conference gives the parent and the teacher an opportunity to formulate a plan on how to better assist the student. Teachers need the support of parents to help inspire the child to want to learn inside and, more importantly, outside of the classroom.

However, the best partnership is the collaboration between

the parent and each child. The parents mustn’t only inquire about school but also actively engage the child. As the child grows the parents should still make queries about projects or papers. And even if you don’t fully understand the completed assignment you can ask the child to explain it. If the child cannot explain it, trust me, it ain’t because you are the problem. It means the child does not understand the paper.

I can not stress enough how critical the learning partnership between the parent and the child is. Parents can prenatally begin forming this cohesive relationship. Some researchers believe that unborn babies can hear and respond to music. Others further believe music heard by

the fetus can be recognized by the newborns. A mother singing to her baby exposes the baby, who is trying to acquire a vocabulary, to words. Granted, as the infant has no idea what the words mean, but the infant-becoming-a-child is moving along the learning curve. So, it’s never too early to begin reading to the child.

There are all sorts of suggestions on how to help this process along; ensure the baby is comfortable, make eye contact, and get a book the baby can play with and explore. As the child grows engage the child in the storytelling; ask for words to be repeated and cajole the child to ask questions. Also, reading aloud has several benefits. The two most important probably are the parent child bonding and instilling in the child that reading and therefore learning can be fun. In fact, we can provide our children with the benefits of a Montessori education ourselves.


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Roey, 2009-01-24 22:21:25
I Agree but you Missed Something-- I agree that lack of parental involvement is one of the biggest problems facing the public schools. Where I live, they have actually used public funds to hire someone specifically designated to help increase parental involvement. However, one of the issues you did not discuss in your article is why parents do not get involved. Many feel they are lacking in their own education, time or communication skills. For others, there is a language barrier. Some just have a completely different perspective on the purpose of public education and do not think test scores are as important as having a free place for their kids to go each day in order to allow them to make a living. We will not solve the dilemma of needing parents to get involved until we convince them why their involvement is needed in the first place.


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