Parents -- Your Time Is Now

I've been closely following all the media attention over the past week regarding education.  Finally, our national attention has turned in this direction and policy makers, business leaders, and educators have had their "smack on the side of the head" moment recognizing the direct correlation between the education of our children and our future in virtually every area of life. On a recent Philadelphia newscast following the opening night of "Waiting for Superman," a board member from a fairly large school district in the Philadelphia suburbs spoke the words that I've been speaking for years...parents need to learn to navigate the system.  Finally...someone on the "other side" of the table has said it.  Parents are an integral part of this process and have been excluded from the discussion for too long in part because they lack the knowledge of the system on a micro level -- their school district, their school, their child's class, and their child.

Are there pockets of parents -- and individual parents -- who have been and continue to be outspoken advocates for education?  You bet.  Yet the reality is that there are millions of children struggling in school and while the statistics paint a picture that no adult should want to see, the problem remains the disconnect between the national stats and the individual child.  Making the messages resonate so that parents finally understand that the issues are really talking about one child -- theirs -- and that their role in partnering with their child along the education journey  is the only way to change the status quo.

Whether your child is in 4th Grade, 10th Grade, or college ... whether your child is reading below grade level or has been diagnosed with a learning difference ... whether your child is attending a charter school or a private school ...  your involvement is a critical part of ensuring that your child is making measurable progress toward clearly established goals.   We can speak about policy change, reform, teacher accountability, math and reading levels, competitive nations, and a host of other key issues, each of which are part of the mosaic of education.  Yet without the active involvement of parents at every level of the discussion from the kitchen table overseeing math homework to active participation on school boards, real change will be a "stop and start" proposition.

It's October...early in the school year.  Commit to getting off the sidelines and into the game.  Volunteer one hour per week at school.  Attend school board meetings.  Start truly measuring your child's progress on a weekly basis.  Use data to track where you child is today and where he/she may be in two weeks.  Stop sitting on the sofa watching the media messages and stand up and do something.

Your child's future is depending upon your involvement.  The time is now.

Thoughts About "Education Nation"...

The groundswell is happening although I'm not surprised.   Issues surrounding the state of education have plagued us for years although not until recently -- with issues of achievement, teacher accountability, and bullying coming to the fore -- have people started to really take notice.  And it's about time. During this evening's NBC Nightly News (and after this afternoon's MSNBC "Education Nation" programming), a statistic totally stopped me in my tracks -- 68% of 8th Grade students cannot read at grade level.  That's 68%.  But wait.  I wondered just how many of these students are classified as special education.  And if few are, there is a much larger issue at hand.

Given that special education equates to the delivery of services and supports that address areas of deficit, wouldn't it seem as though *all* of these students would qualify?  Regardless of the reason behind the fact that they are lagging behind, would it not be safe to state that an 8th Grader -- any 8th Grader -- who is reading at a 5th Grade level would have deficits?  Would require remediation?  May need a tutor or alternate teaching methods?

Seems to me that special education needs a clean slate in terms of determining what qualifies a child for these additional services.  If 68% of our 8th Grade students cannot read at grade level and if they need tutors, differentiated instruction, or any of the other ideas being discussed, they should most certainly qualify as "special education".  Perhaps we need to change the phrase "special education" and recognize that many children require *more than* the median in order to read, write, do math, and behave according to determined grade-level standards.

It's time for us to evaluate far more foundational issues regarding the state of public education.  Let's lose the labels and categories and begin addressing the education of our students as they are -- as unique individuals who each possess strengths and needs, the latter of which affects far more students than currently *fit* within the special education confines.

Would love to hear what you think...