Parents Can Only Teach What They Know

The raging blame debate, when it comes to public-school students’ performance, made an appearance in RI Education Commissioner Deborah Gist’s online chat for the Providence Journal:

Parent: As a parent of 2 children, I know how crucial parent involvement is. Has anyone looked at educating the parents of the kids of these failing schools? You can replace the teachers….and you can give new teachers incentives to change things around. But this is a band aid. Teachers are blamed for too many problems. They can’t be expected to solve the problems of society. Teachers have many many challenges these days- more so than 25 years ago. Kids and parents need to take responsibility for on education. Just look at math grades around the state. Kids don’t know how to deal with fractions because they don’t know how to tell time on an analgoue clock. But the teachers are blamed. Let’s take a look at the real problems. Educate the kids – the parents- look around the country at other programs. Please don’t make this mistake.
Deborah Gist: Parent involvement is important, and supportive, engaged parents are important partners in a child’s education. Fortunately, we know that great teaching can overcome those instances when children have parents who are unable to provide that level of support. I don’t blame teachers, but I do hold them accountable for results. I also hold myself and everyone on my team accountable.

I wonder if this mightn’t be an area in which productive cooperation is actually possible. With math in particular, many students aren’t being taught in a manner with which their parents are familiar. Indeed, from time to time one reads or hears about parents’ being explicitly instructed not to teach their children the “old” (tried and true) methods of mathematics while helping them with their homework. In a society in which parents are already too disengaged, increasing the likelihood that they’ll appear ignorant in front of their children isn’t going to help.
Something similar surely comes into play with the fading of literary classics from the curriculum and the reworking of history books to reflect the radical tinge of the academy. A “back to basics” campaign in which the commissioner encourages a resurgence of more-traditional curricula would be an excellent complement to her reforms related to the structure of the public education system.

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14 years ago

Regarding math: I know that my kid’s school is talking about having a “math night” for families to help show parents how things are done and make math more fun for all. Of course, this will probably attract those parents who are already involved in their child’s education, but it’s one way to try to help. Perhaps schools could send information home (like a web site?) that would help explain math pedagogy, too.

14 years ago

As long as we let the parents skate on their responsiblities as a parent, education, and everything else will not change. We feed the children 2X a day, and nobody expects the parents to be responsible. We need all kinds of perks for kids because parents aren’t being responsible.
Education needs to be a partnership with the students, teachers, and parents. Having teachers stay later in the day, have lunch weekly with their students, and tutoring are only part of the solutions, but parent involvement is just as important.
I agree with what the Supt in CF did. Shame on the unions for getting so greedy, that they caused a whole schoolful of their members to lose their jobs. Teachers, stand up to your union bosses, they are not doing you any favors.

14 years ago

Rather than regionalize the school systems to save money as some have proposed, I’d like to see the system get even more local. Something like a school, grades 1-12 for every 500 school aged kids. If that means a schoolhouse on every corner, so be it. If it means only one schoolhouse for miles, that’s fine too. Elementary school kids mixed with middle and high school students? Why not.
People of all ages are inherently good and protective. A high school aged kid, when in a small environment with his neighbors kids, and not some anonymous face in a sea of thousands will protect, rather than bully, lead rather than follow and learn rather than waste time.

14 years ago

I also hold myself and everyone on my team accountable. Gist
This comment by the Commissioner should be remenbered. Self styled education experts like Gist have a way of making a lot of noise for a short time and then quietly leaving for another “oppotunity” somewhere else. Let’s see if the Providence Journal and other media admirers hold her accountable a year or two from now.

14 years ago

They should have field trip days where concerned taxpayers could visit the schools they profess to know how to run and let them see exactly what goes on in inner city public high schools.

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