Schools Parents not being held accountable

Published 1:00 am Sunday, March 18, 2012

In the era of No Child Left Behind, the buzzword is accountability — in Webster’s, responsibility, liability, answerability.

Teachers are held responsible for how their students perform on standardized tests, principals for where their schools stand on the list of seven accountability ratings issued by the Mississippi Department of Education, Star to Failing.

The superintendent is liable for the combined performance of all the public schools in the district.

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The Board of Trustees answers to voters.

To whom do parents answer?

Agree with the methods or not, side with the teachers or the superintendent, it’s indisputable that in the Vicksburg Warren School District, teachers, administrators and trustees are working feverishly to measure up to the demands of No Child Left Behind and, soon, the even tougher Common Core Standards.

As reported last week on the news pages of this newspaper, difficult and challenging changes have been put into place in the VWSD with just one goal: getting your kids to learn.

Even our business community has stepped up, raising and donating money for the fall launch of The Leader in Me in two VWSD schools. Based on the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” developed by Franklin Covey, the program aims to develop in students the traits of self-discipline, commitment to studies, planning and goal-setting.

Years ago, weren’t those traits taught in the home?

One former teacher said today’s students come to school ill-equipped and nonchalant about learning.

“I don’t think the administration realizes there is only so much a teacher can do until a child decides to learn,” said Cheryl Israel, who in 40 years in the classroom saw educational philosophies come and go while student attitudes and parent support disintegrated.

“Many times children are sent to us who are not prepared to learn, not physically, not mentally, not emotionally,” Israel said. “Children as young as third-graders come to us with no skills to pay attention or even remain in their seats. I don’t think we (as a society) are developing in our students the ability to set aside what they want and do what they need to do.”

The value of parental involvement in schools is undisputed. Studies, essays and surveys affirm that parental involvement equals student success. It might look different to different people — volunteering in a child’s classroom, helping with homework, joining the PTO, attending a school board meeting and even planning far enough ahead to get on the agenda and speak out.

But it has to include training a child to respect his teacher, pay attention, value learning and have a sense of pride in himself and the work on which he writes his name.

Accountability — responsibility, liability, answerability — means nothing and will amount to nothing if it doesn’t include the parents.