Education report: Success in school begins at home

Parents play vital role in children's success in school

We need more home schooling. Why? Because our public schools can’t do the job alone. Allow me to explain with a couple of examples.

A report in the Sumter County (Florida) Daily Commercial commented on the Program for International Student Assessment. It pointed up the fact that Finland schools are considered among the best in the world. The Finnish National Board of Education assesses learning on the basis of a sample representing about 10 percent of a stipulated age group. They’ll have none of the “naming and shaming that No Child Left Behind relies on,” the report claims.

End in itself

What makes the Finnish schools be so much better? For one thing, Finns look on their schools as an end in themselves rather than as a means to an end. They value education. They consider “literacy and numeracy” virtues, and teachers are revered. “Far more graduates of upper schools in Finland apply for admission to teacher-training institutes than are accepted” the report said.

Contrast that with a report compiling statistical data on schools for the Educational Testing Service titled “The Family: America’s Smallest School.” It shows that “the United States ranks highest in the world in the number of single-parent households; Japan is lowest.” And while we are the richest country in the world, the report shows that 11 percent of our children go to bed hungry every night.

In New York alone, 34 percent of schoolchildren live with one parent. Forty-eight percent are read to every day by a parent, but 25 percent watch five or more hours of TV on school days. Twenty-two percent miss three or more days of school every month! We then have the audacity to ask our teachers to take these kids and teach them.

Some of us even go so far as to ask, “Why can’t schools be run more like businesses?” Even as we ask, we know that no business would ever accept on the loading dock such a diverse, irregular assortment of materials from which it expected to turn out a uniform, quality product. But we expect schools to accept every resident student in the district.

Anne C. Lewis, in the February issue of Phi Delta Kappan, says some schools beat the odds and surely deserve credit. Meanwhile, however, “policy makers devise strategies to punish schools that fail to reach [prescribed performance levels] as if the odds against them did not exist.” Everyone — teachers, reformers, lawmakers and especially parents — needs to understand what the realities of children’s home life means to their learning. Schools, to be successful, need parents involved in their children’s education.

Continuation of home

School is not a place to dump your kids while you go off to pursue your career. School is a continuation of the education you start at home. Parents instill a love of learning; schools build on that. Parents value education; schools build on that. Parents expect their children to do well in school and vigorously support the schools in helping achieve the performance they want; schools build their education program on that support.

I know this must sound like “blame-the-parents week.” But before you denounce teachers for being a bunch of cry-babies, remember that they have little or no control over the quality (or sometimes, quantity) of students who enter their classroom. They are nevertheless expected, even judged, by how well they turn out students who have achieved an expected level of knowledge and performance. I sometimes marvel that teachers do as well as they do.

Good education begins with good parents. They provide the home atmosphere that allows learning at school. The teacher-pupil ratio at home is ideal. Further, you have the kids longer than the schools. Make learning as much a concern at home as providing the next meal or a vacation this summer. Your kids will do better; your schools will do better.

Charles Cummins, Ed.D., is a retired school administrator. Send questions to him at: [email protected]

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