A School Wish-List From a Public School Parent

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My lovely daughter in 3rd grade in 2011

As a social entrepreneur working many roles—from college instructor to arts administrator, I have a lot going on during the day to keep me busy. When my third-grader used to come home after school, the last thing I needed to worry about was how effective a job her school was doing in teaching her in a safe and educational environment. It should be a given. But, sometimes, it’s not.
While I actively engage my daughter at home with learning resources—we frequent the library often, I teach her social media platforms and with her dad, a fellow technophile, we give her access to new technology—I didn’t always feel confident that she was getting all that she should be getting from her neighborhood school. Eventually, we took her out of school and home-schooled her for her 5th and 6th grade years.

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My 11 year-old ready for 7th grade at a new school in the Fall after two years of being home-schooled

Well, she auditioned for a performing arts school in May and got it (yay!) and will be going back to public school in the Fall. I began writing a list of some of the things I wished could be a guarantee for my daughter’s school and took to Facebook and Twitter to ask other parents to weigh in. I wanted to see if other parents had some of the same woes that I had before and am a bit worried about with school and I also wanted to hear about some things that I may not be privy to. All in all, there over a dozen things that came up, but here are the top 3 that made my list.
1. Smaller Student/Counselor Ratio
We know that class sizes in public schools are expanding with some classroom almost bursting at the seams. This surge in students doesn’t only impact burdened teachers who now have to manage large classrooms of students who extend outside the numbers of best practices. But other school personnel are impacted as well, in particular, guidance counselors.
Single mother Rayona Y. who has children who attend Baltimore County schools wrote,
“My son is only a sophomore, but I see the senior counselor struggling so much, trying to handle all of her graduates– their transcripts, colleges, etc. Having more than one counselor would relieve that pressure, and stop the underclassmen counselors from neglecting their students to help the senior counselor out.”
2. Better Communication With Parents
Prince George’s County, Maryland mom Keba S. answered my Facebook question of “What Would Go On Your Wish List for Your Child’s School” short and succinctly when she wrote, “Consistency, Better Communication and Better Structure.”
As a fellow PG County parent, I co-sign this request. My daughter started public school in PG County in 2010 for 2nd grade after being schooled in private school in her early years. The immediate shock was realizing how hard it was to communicate with the teachers. They aren’t allowed to talk to you during the school day during their planning period, they can’t talk to you before school and unless an appointment is made you probably won’t hear from them apart from that one scheduled Back-to-School Night that is scheduled early in the year.
This lack of communication makes it challenging for parents to find out information about their children to be pro-active regarding any potential issues that may crop up. It also restricts parents access to the school community , blocking efforts to build necessary rapport with those who interact with their children.
3. Stop Teaching to Test
And, while we all see the necessity of measuring performance outcomes, one parent echoed my sentiment that the teaching to test mentality has got to go.

Anne Arundel County, Maryland mom Quineice C. wrote, “Smaller classes, fewer standardized tests and better Arts programs. My son is intelligent, but he really struggles with the standardized tests (e.g. MSA’s).”
What would go on your wish list? Add it in the comment section.

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Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a writer, educator and performance artist, founder of Liberated Muse Arts Group. Learn more at KhadijahOnline.com

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