2.21.2011

Finally, it's closing time | Philadelphia Public School Notebook

In case you haven't been following along, the SDP is considering closing a number of schools. Here's one article about the closings, Finally, it's closing time | Philadelphia Public School Notebook and another, this one looking at the scale of empty schools.

Report Cards and Effort

Report cards were handed out last week. I am fortunate in that my kids are good students so they received excellent marks. Barring the occasional off day, they're well-mannered and polite, so there were no big concerns there. I left the conferences pretty satisfied. My kids are learning and they're happy. What more could you ask for?

It is, however, always interesting to hear the perspective from other parents about report cards. I have friends with children on both ends of the achievement spectrum: those whose children struggle and those whose children excel. Both present interesting challenges in a public school setting.

Predictably, parents at either end tend to believe that the grass is greener on the other side. A friend whose child is struggling with an IEP wants more attention, firmly convinced that only the "smart kids" are rewarded in class. Of course, a friend whose child is seeking entry into the gifted program is fuming that her child's special needs aren't taken as seriously as those who are struggling.

I can't say that I've had either experience. I have no complaints, at least not about the level of services my kids receive. One of my children is in the gifted program and we've been thrilled with how creative and proactive the curriculum has been. My other child is a step or two behind where we'd like to be for math but the teacher is very aware of the situation and is monitoring it along with us.

I do think that your individual experience has a lot to do with your child's teacher and the support service team at the school. But I also think it has a lot to do with the parents. I was surprised to hear, after a friend complained incessantly about the lack of attention to her advanced child in the classroom, that the parent has not voiced her concerns to the teacher or to the principal. She believes it won't change anything and she further believes that it's not her job to tell the teacher what she feels the teacher should already know... I see her point, kind of. But I still don't get it.

So much of our children's experiences in school is dependent upon how we parent. And although I suspect many parents will argue vehemently with me, I believe that many of our "failing schools" have a correlation to parental involvement.

No, I'm not saying that an involved parent will necessarily have it easy. And I'm not saying the converse either. I realize that you can't connect the dots to say that involved parents always equal successful schools and students (yes, there are good parents at failing schools). But I do firmly believe that involved parents make a difference.

I think back to my friend whose child has a form of autism. When it was clear that the services being offered to his child were not sufficient, he went to the teacher. When that didn't work, he went to the principal. And when that didn't work, he went to the administration. And eventually, his child received the services that he needed.

Sometimes, it really is all about perseverance. That makes me wonder if the key to bettering our schools isn't being more forceful about what we want as parents. It's a theme I've been focusing on a lot as I think about the direction of our own school and the closing and consolidation of schools in the district... I'll have more on this tomorrow.