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It’s time to grow up: Our eduction system

Casey Thomas | 3/31/2014, 12:13 p.m.
Casey Thomas

The Dallas Examiner

– Part II –

I have spent the majority of my career in education, either as a classroom teacher or as an educational consultant. Over the past 15 years, I have seen many changes take place. One of the largest changes that I have seen has been in the emphasis on standardized testing. This focus on testing has caused a focus in how instruction takes place. Many teachers and administrators know that if students do not score a passing rate on these tests, they could lose their jobs.

In the past, teachers were taught the skills necessary to prepare their students to be successful in college or in their career of choice. Now, many teachers find themselves teaching test-taking strategies so they will be successful on the STAAR test. While doing well on the STAAR will save teachers’ and principals’ jobs, it will not get our students ready for college or the workforce. There is not a direct correlation between STAAR scores and college preparation. However, there is a better correlation between ACT and SAT scores and how well students perform in college.

It’s time for us as a community to grow up and take responsibility for our children’s education. Too often we have turned over our children’s education to the school system. The truth is that parents are their children’s first teacher and the school is responsible for reinforcing what is taught at home. We can no longer blame the school or the teacher when our child is not performing at an acceptable level. We have to be in regular communication with our child’s teacher(s) so that we are aware of how they are performing on a weekly basis. Dallas ISD has an online communication method called Parent Portal. Parent Portal allows parents to see on a daily basis how well their child is doing in class, if they are missing any assignments, and what projects they need to complete.

We have to make sure that our children are in a learning center such as Head Start, for those who financially qualify, where they can be taught basic skills instead of at a child care center where babysitting is taking place. There is a big push here in Texas as well as across the country for universal pre-kindergarten for all children. This will tremendously close the achievement gap that we see between Black children and children of other races.

We have to show up at “Meet the Teacher” Night and parent conference meetings. We have to know that every three weeks a progress report is sent home to let the parents know either how their child is doing in class the first three weeks of the six-week period, or what their report card grades are at the end of the six-week period. We have to come up to the school when the teacher calls and tells us that they are having problems with our child. We have to stop taking the child’s side over the teacher without knowing all the facts of what has taken place.

Most importantly, we need to make sure that our children are being challenged at the level that is going to prepare them to do well on the SAT or ACT tests, or get them ready for the career of their choice. As a result of recent changes to the SAT exam, the essay is now optional, and Khan Academy, a website that explains instruction in all content areas, is providing SAT prep courses free on its page.

All the tools that our children need to be successful in school are available. There are resources that we have today that we couldn’t have imagined when I was growing up. The question for us to answer is are we willing to do our part as parents to make sure that our children are ready when they graduate from high school for their future. Only we can do that.