We were invited to a college friend’s home for dinner last Saturday. After a wonderful home-cooked meal, the four children all settled into the kids’ room full of toys to play Wii. The six adults settled down in the living room with coffee and dessert anticipating an evening of poker.

Between two pairs of parents, a sixth grade teacher, and a junior high math teacher, the poker game was foiled when the conversation turned to education.

In California, right about now is the time for all the public school students to take the Star or the CST tests, which are the standardize tests. This is a particularly stressful time for the schools and teachers, as this test measures how well the schools have taught their students, and how well the teachers have taught their classes. So, the two teachers in our group had a great deal to talk about how important this is.

As a parent, Star testing week is not particular stressful time for me, or my children, as the Star test score has no bearing on the children’s grades. I am not a fan of these tests. I feel that the test is taking away precious classroom learning time. This standardized test is administered over 3 to 5 days. And it seems that all teachers worry over this test, and take additional classroom time to prepare the children to do well on these tests.

My children attend an excellent public elementary school, with API scores consistently in the 950’s. We have a great principal, excellent teachers, and a very strong PTA. There is never a shortage of parent volunteers for each classroom, and for every PTA hosted event. Our PTA has several fund raising events a year, from See’s candy and Christmas wrapping paper, to a Walk-A-Thon, to a live-auction dinner event that generates tens of thousands of dollars for the benefit of our school.

Anytime that you walk into our elementary school, you will not fail to see parent volunteers in there making copies for our teachers, correcting papers, reading to a small group of children outside of the classroom, or busy decorating the hallway wall with the children’s art projects. Our proud PTA is largely credited by our school principal for having helped our school earned the California Distinguished School honor.

Both of my teacher friends teach at public schools that required school uniforms. This is to avoid having the children wearing red and blue colors to school. They are gang colors.

Andy, the 6th grade teacher’s school had to adopt a new math book a few years ago. The new textbook aims to simplify the teaching of math, with less word problems. Because so many kids at his school are English as a second language learners. They had trouble teaching the kids their old math textbooks, because the children don’t have the language-arts skills to solve the math problems.

Claire, who teaches math at a Jr. High school, echoed similar frustrations that so many children enter her classroom who simply haven’t mastered the basic math skills necessary to comprehend her Geometry and Algebra lessons. She has kids that don’t know the multiplication tables, so they have to look up the multiplication table every time they have to multiply.

For Claire, as the kids are a just little older in Jr. High, there is the additional problem of dealing with belligerent students. From not caring about school, to being disrespectful, to kids not being afraid of having nasty attitudes, she sees all types. A few of her students were bad enough to be expelled, but these children simply got recycled into another school in the district. Claire dreads new kids entering her school in the middle of the year, because they could be expelled kids from other schools.

I cringe every time I see or hear in the news when people and politicians lay all the blame of poor performing schools on the teachers. That’s why so many government intervention programs have failed, because they all aim to rely solely on the teachers to make improvements to our schools.

I always thought the quality of the students makes a bigger difference, and that’s on the parents.

I tell my children often that it is their teacher’s job to teach, but it is my job as a parent to send them to schools everyday ready and interested to learn, and it is their job to sit in their classrooms and learn.

The parent, the teacher, and even the child all bare responsibility in producing a successful student. This is an ancient old Confucius’ teaching. It still works for me.

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Category: Kids, Parents
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