Education reform is on everyone’s mind these days as schools are faced with budget cuts, labor disputes and political fights on a variety of governmental levels. Does money lead to better education? It certainly helps. Would some schools do better if certain comfortable teachers were shaken out of their union-created comfort zones? Probably. However, school reform is not going to happen unless families are willing to emphasize at home what is being taught in the classroom. For education reform to succeed in America, parents need to be involved in a profound way.
Setting the boundaries
Why are parents so important? They are the ones that can ultimately set the boundaries for students, encourage educational development, and make sure that the little things get done. This includes homework, projects and long-term goals. Granted, this is a problem that goes beyond an obvious proclamation about societal breakdown. America is a country filled with selfish adults, who are often more concerned with their careers and their personal entertainment than their children. Funding, teacher accountability and labor reform will not have maximum impact unless millions of adults are willing to accept that they have a profound responsibility to play a role in educating their children. Education is not about handing the kids off the school and letting teachers do all the work.
One national study showed that parent involvement had a profound impact on educational performance. This should not necessarily be a new concept, but for all the talk of state funding and teacher accountability, there is often little talk about the role played by parents. Involved parents not only have awareness about homework, but according to the study, they attend school events, PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences. In other words, they keep tabs on the workings of education, and students are often aware of this. Kids don’t always want their parents to check up on them, but it certainly sends a message about the importance of education at home.
The dreaded word “accountability”
A recent commentary in the Huffington Post suggested that education as a field needs to work on a system of “real” accountability. This is all well and good, but the word accountability is often thrown out when people have run out of tangible ideas. When it comes to vocational incentive, the only really accountability is whether someone is going to get fired for lack of performance. Given the labor system of many schools, this just isn’t a reality. In addition, there are side effects to “accountability.” You can hold schools accountable for something like test scores, but then critics complain that educators are teaching to the test. In order to put in a system of real accountability, there needs to be an honest assessment of whether it is workable, rather than simply desirable. A poor system that represents the best anyone can come up with does not change the fact that it will still fail.
Politicians and school boards cannot fix education. Only parents can.
The author teaches at the college level and prior to entering the classroom he spent many years in higher education administration. On occasion he also enjoys the pure entertainment of substitute teaching at the high school and middle school levels.
More from this contributor:
Labor Issues, Accountability at Root of Education Reform
Is Public Higher Education Doomed?
How Will Obama’s $8 Billion Be Spent on Education for Job Training?