A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
What Can Parents and Citizens Do To Help Meet the National Education Goals?
The National Goals process rightly calls us to "wake up" and embark on a renewed education agenda from the earliest childhood years through lifelong learning. Information gathered during the past few years should convince all of us that we need to get busy to rebuild our education system to make it world-class.
The quality of schooling affects every American, directly or indirectly. Parents, of course, have a clear stake in seeing that the National Goals are met. However, only about one-fourth of today's households include school-age children. Therefore, to depend largely upon parents to achieve the Goals is not enough. We all have jobs to do, and we must unite as a nation to carry them out--our future depends on it.
- In order to "welcome every child" and nurture high achievement in every young learner, all of us must pull together. Consider what you can do.
- As a Parent
- Have I sought out proper prenatal care and taken care of myself and my unborn child so that I will have a healthy baby?
- Have I taken my child for regular medical checkups and made sure that he or she has had all immunizations?
- Am I reading to my child every day and making sure that there are always books around the home?
- Do I use all opportunities to encourage my child's language development, like telling family stories, taking time to answer his/her questions fully, or asking my child to help me at the store by naming items we buy?
- Am I selecting day care facilities or pre-schools carefully, thoroughly checking out the programs to make sure that they are able to give my child the right start?
- Do I have a habit of frequent contact with those taking care of my child, such as volunteering for activities and attending parent-teacher conferences? Do I think of myself as a full partner in caring for my child? Do I express my concerns (as well as praise) with day care providers and other important adults who share in caring for my child?
- As a Concerned Citizen
- Do I help agencies, care givers, and groups work together to provide adequate health and other early childhood services for children in my community?
- Do I offer my spare time to help in well-baby clinics, children's library programs, or other places that server young children?
- Do I encourage my place of business to offer day care on-site or to support expanded day care services in the community?
- When children enter the formal education system, usually by kindergarten, an African adage becomes very real--"It takes a whole village to raise a child."
As a Parent
- Am I in frequent contact with the school, so that I know what is being asked of my child and me?
- Do I make home a place to learn by a variety of activities such as cooking with my child, making sure he or she understands homework assignments, involving my child in separating recyclable items, and creating art projects with home and outdoor supplies? Do I limit my child's television viewing?
- Do I look for and take advantage of opportunities in my community for my child to learn--museums, art galleries, concerts for children, special events (most often free) to explore science or other subjects--on a regular basis?
- Can I recognize challenging teaching methods--those that use lots of materials beyond textbooks, such as experiments and opportunities to work in groups--and do I encourage my child's school and teachers to use them?
- Have I checked to be sure that my school has the resources it needs for excellent instruction and expert training for teachers? Do I volunteer my time to give teachers time to learn new skills?
- Have I asked school board, parent-teacher, or administrative leaders about developing high standards for my schools? Are they keeping me informed about what world-class expectations would be, and how they apply to my community?
- As a Concerned Citizen
- Have I ever volunteered my time to help mentor or tutor a student?
- Do I support, through donations, time, or my vote, programs that serve children, from local library exhibits to before- and after-school day care?
- Do I offer help to students, such as career counseling or supplemental science instruction, through organizations with which I am affiliated?
- Do I view the quality and results of the schools as my concern and the whole community's, and not just that of parents of school children?
- Do I seek to be informed about how to improve the schools by attending public forums, volunteering to serve on advisory committees, or offering my knowledge to help educators understand and keep up with the fields that they are preparing students to enter?
- Do I ask principals, teachers, or other school administrators about what the barriers to better education are (e.g., inadequate classroom resources or unequal access to advanced classes), and do I participate in finding solutions?
- Moving from school to work and further education is a haphazard journey for many young people and adults. This was never a major policy issue--until we realized how important constant learning had become.
- As a Parent
- Have I checked with my principal to be sure that my child's high school offers college-preparatory classes, if that is what he or she wants? Advanced placement courses? Or specific vocational and other courses that will help ensure successful entry into the workforce?
- Do I insist on my child completing high school so that those options stay open?
- Do I talk to the principal or guidance counselors to be sure that the counseling services at my child's high school are encouraging us to consider all the options available and to prepare for them?
- If my child works while in high school, do I insist that he or she limit work time so that classroom learning and participating in extracurricular activities are the priority?
- If my child chooses to specialize in a vocational area while in high school, do I help plan his or her schedule to ensure that he or she also appreciates and takes important traditional academic courses as well?
- Do I know what my child is expected to learn in each class? Do I have assurances from teachers and administrators that what my child learns before graduation will prepare him or her for a very competitive workplace?
- Have I asked the admissions offices of the colleges that my child is interested in about graduation rates?
- As a Concerned Citizen
- Do I think of myself as a learner, too? Do I read a range of materials regularly, seek out ways to advance my skills for career/jobs, and take advantage of cultural resources?
- Do I urge my employer to offer (or support through community institutions) a variety of education/training resources, from improving basic literacy skills to advanced training?
- Do I demand high standards from the institutions offering education and training, such as using the most up-to-date technologies, keeping track of their results, and making sure that they are "in sync" with future skills demands within my community?
The Need for Nationwide Standards