This past week I was able to listen to Dr. Diane Ravitch being interviewed by Michael Krasney. There was nothing startlingly different in this interview and yet it was bereft of the mention the role parents play in education. It may well be that parents and inadequate parenting are results related to the effects of poverty, which was clearly covered in this discussion. Engaged parents, one of the cornerstones of child success – around the world, where there is much more poverty than in America needs to be addressed with the same level of anger the public puts upon teachers for educational results.
Dr. Ravitch was clear in the fact of teachers no longer accepting of the assignation they are what is wrong with American Education and no amount of constant testing will prove otherwise. Her clarity on this point was so sharp it was able to poke the flimsy balloon of NCLB testing and yet it was not strong enough to raise the ire of the very group who need to be involved. Parents seem to be given a constant free pass to not be part of solution.
William Bennett, who is the other side of the spectrum of education (test students until you get numbers you like) went on to write about the necessity to have great teachers and backed his writing up with a plethora of statistics. Unfortunately for Mr. Bennett, he managed to include the below paragraph but not bother to follow-up on the very real fact that teachers are only SECOND to parents in educational outcomes and success of children. Mr. Bennett wrote it in such a way as to make the comment not real and/or not noticeable or of any poignancy.
This study shows that, second only to parents, teachers are the most important part of a child’s education. Great teachers make a great difference; poor teachers hurt a child’s life chances. Isn’t that all we need to know to embark upon a serious effort to reward good teachers and encourage poor teachers out of the profession.
There is a world of difference from my own reading, listening and interpreting of professional educator ‘speak’ to the interpretations made by the general public who listen to what is, in effect, marketed at them. The issue at hand is not what testing does or does not prove, rather the issue is the interpretation. We as the population of the U.S. can spend our time debating test scores (multiple choice, blue book, anecdotal records, NAEP, state testing and so forth) for ever or we can choose to effect change by placing the same level of expectation upon parents that we place upon teachers. We get to choose where we place our focus.
As long as we are focused on test numbers, we neglect the more important VALUE ADDED issues affecting children – appropriate food, sleep, healthy environment (where they physically live and their community safety), literacy in the home (do the parents even attempt to learn the lingua franca of the country they live in) including adequate reading material, parenting behaviors conducive to student success (schedules, quiet time for homework, consistency, etc.) and the list goes on and on. By focusing on test scores, which seem to have changed little over 20 years no matter how much money we put into the machine called education, we miss the really HUGE variable – parents.
The public has done everything it can to demonstrate disdain for teachers and the results are not attractive. It is time for the public to get past the whipping boy/girl and actual take on the problem with education. When parents are on board, teachers can effect change in the classroom.
Teacher quality is nothing without parental quality.