School districts can’t raise test scores by themselves
I have indicated on a number of occasions that there is no one more important to children’s education than their parents. I still believe that.
As we look at the number of students failing the high school proficiency exam in mathematics, I am very aware of the efforts the Nevada Legislature made in providing additional funds for remediation. I am aware the local school districts set up remedial programs. I know that classroom teachers are providing opportunities in their classes to review major topics with their students that might be found on the high-stakes tests. What I’m not sure about is what parents are doing to help their kids succeed.
Last summer, the state put aside a few hundred thousand dollars to tutor students so they could pass the proficiency exam in math. The Clark County district sent out letters to the parents of these kids to let them know that this would be available.
If I recall, more than 3,000 students were eligible for this free remediation program. About 700 parents responded by indicating their kids will take advantage of the free tutoring. Unfortunately, only a couple of hundred kids actually showed up.
And those who did attend did not necessarily attend regularly. Classes were offered four days per week, in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. District officials offered variable starting times so scheduling conflicts would not be a problem.
The state made a sizable funding effort. The districts made the same commitment by setting up the programs. What happened to the effort of the parents to ensure their kids get there and the students themselves?
While many want to justifiably hold schools accountable, students and their parents must also be held accountable for their education.
If parents don’t sent their kids to school every day, if parents don’t guide their children into taking appropriate course work, if parents don’t set aside quiet time to do homework, if they don’t regularly check the progress of their kids with their teachers, if they don’t ask to see tests and quiz grades, if they let their kids to out on school nights, why would anyone be surprised if those students don’t do well in school?
The business community that touts their support of education, are they scheduling students to work more than 20 hours per week? Are they working students past 10 p.m. on school nights? Do they encourage the school-age employees to take advantage of their education? Would they think to check student grades to see if their employment is having a negative impact on their educational success?
Nevada is already facing a teacher shortage. The governor and Legislature will have to come up with additional tax dollars so local school districts can offer competitive salaries.
Across the nation, teacher salaries are higher than Nevada’s teachers and states are offering attractive incentives to recruit and retain teachers. Those incentives range from signing bonuses, paying off college loans, placing down payments on housing, low interest mortgage rates, paying moving costs and paying for continued education. What is Nevada doing? Nothing!
The shortage of math and science teachers across the country is growing. While Clark County was short 16 high school math teachers this year, next year the problem is sure to get worse with no relief in sight.
The point I want to make is while many want to hold public schools accountable for a child’s education, there are others in the community including parents, business people, the governor and the Legislature who are also accountable and have to take their fair share of the responsibility of educating our youth. Teachers cannot do it alone.
Bill Hanlon, a Las Vegas educator, is a member of the Nevada Board of Education. His views do not necessarily reflect those of other members. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.