Stage Two: Elementary School
What You Should Know
The first day of school is a joyous and exciting time for families. Teachers and principals are now your partners, helping your child learn and grow. But for children to be successful in school, parents must be actively involved in their education from day one.
Schools have many resources available to help your child learn. It is important to tell teachers and principals about your child's needs. It's equally important to listen to their expectations for your child's academic growth. Here are three things to look for as your child begins elementary school:
- Does your school understand your child's learning needs and abilities?
- Is he or she prepared to learn English at grade level?
- Will the academic curriculum put your child on the right track to succeed in middle school and high school?
A good start is critical. Young students who fall behind academically are sometimes placed on a different academic track with lowered expectations, affecting future learning opportunities. Research tells us that, if a child is not reading well early in elementary school, it will be much harder to catch up later. Do not accept excuses from your school if your child isn't learning to read.
What You Can Do
Before the school year begins, find out as much as you can about your child's school. Ask the principal for a copy of the most recent school "report card." It will tell you if students, including students of Hispanic origin, are making solid academic progress. Ask for any handbooks or guidebooks the school puts out. Talk to your child's teachers; they want to hear from you. Talk to other parents as well. Find out the date of the next parent-teacher conference and make plans to attend it. Spanish-speaking parents can ask schools to provide free translations of written material and interpretation for meetings.
Make sure homework is done on time by setting a regular time and place at home, free of distractions, for your child to get it done. Ask your child if he or she is having difficulty with assignments or tests. If so, make it a priority to meet with your child's teacher to discuss ways to help your child succeed.
How No Child Left Behind Can Help You
The No Child Left Behind Act is bringing high standards and accountability to our public schools. It's based on the belief that all children can achieve to high standards and that we should measure student progress each year to make sure they do.
No Child Left Behind is working. Studies show that students at risk of falling behind are now receiving more classroom attention to stay on track. In states across the country, test scores are rising and the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students is beginning to close. According to the latest results from the Nation's Report Card, reading and math scores for Hispanic nine-year-olds have reached an all-time high, and their math achievement gap with white students is at an all-time low. Math scores for Hispanic 13-year-olds are at record highs as well.
The law provides several key benefits to students and their families. Among them:
- A highly qualified teacher in every classroom;
- The opportunity for children to learn English and other subjects at the same academic level as other students; and
- The opportunity to be placed in English language acquisition classes, if needed.
Beginning in the 2005-06 school year, all students in grades 3-8 will be assessed each year in reading and math. Parents are given information about their child's progress, and their school's performance is tracked through easy-to-understand school report cards. School districts must make a reasonable effort to provide them in a family's native language.
The law also gives children in Title I schools marked "in need of improvement" two or more timesmeaning they missed their annual achievement goalsa second chance to succeed. For example,
- Children in Title I schools marked "in need of improvement" for two straight years have the chance to transfer to another public school in the district, including a public charter school.
- Children from low-income families may qualify for free after-school tutoring (known as "Supplemental Educational Services," or SES) if their school is marked "in need of improvement" for three straight years.
This provides a real incentive for all schools to reform. The results can be seen in places such as Gainesville Elementary in Georgia. Nearly 90 percent of its student body, which is majority Hispanic, passed the state's English-only exams in reading and math. "Because of No Child Left Behind, schools are having to respond to the unique needs of Hispanic families," said principal Shawn Arevalo McCollough.
Additional federal support is available to families, including the school-based English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program and the 21st Century Learning Communities after-school program.
Using the Tool Kit
For more ways to help your child in elementary school, read Questions Parents Ask About Schools and Helping Your Child Succeed in School, enclosed in this tool kit. For information about choosing another school, refer to Choosing a School for Your Child.
If your child qualifies for supplemental educational services, the brochure Extra Help for Student Success will tell you about the options available to you. Under No Child Left Behind, a wide array of providers, including school districts, non-profit and forprofit companies, and faith-based and community organizations, may offer these services. Speaking with them may prove helpful. You can learn more about supplemental educational services by talking to the teachers and principal at your child's school or to officials at your state education department.
For other questions, call the U.S. Department of Education's toll-free number at 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327).