"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Parents and Teachers and Basic Education

November is almost here. Once again, in Virginia, nature provides our eyes with an awe-inspiring scenery of autumn leaves. The green pigment chlorophyll has dominated all throughout summer but when the days get shorter, carotenoids, mostly orange or yellow, and anthocyanins, mostly red, begin to emerge. Schools have nearly finished through one quarter. Carving pumpkins coincide then with parent-teacher conferences being held inside classrooms. This is also a time for parents to sit down with their child's teacher. It is an opportunity for parents and teachers to join their heads together and examine how a particular child, their child, is doing in school.

Every child is unique so it is no surprise that each child deserves a moment of reflection. Unlike examining results of standardized exams that provide for instance a nation's report card, these conversations are as individualized as possible. There are ways by which one can view basic education, through an overall lens or through an individual student's perspective.

The most recent United States' report card, the results of the NAEP assessments 2015, is now available. The results for 4th Grade Reading and Math are as follows (compared to previous years):



There is a drop in math scores, but this year's performance is still remarkably better than those of fifteen years ago. It is true that math scores seem to have become stagnant for the past ten years, illustrating the great difficulty in increasing the number of students reaching a proficiency level. The absence of a significant improvement at the proficient and advanced levels perhaps is saying that recent changes in how mathematics is taught in the early elementary years are not really fruitful.

Parents and teachers are probably not going to talk about these NAEP scores during their conference. Instead, the focus is on an individual child, and yet, with all of these conversations combined, one may still discover and learn something. After all, those who actually see the children are their parents and teachers.

At Mason Crest Elementary School, it is stunning to see how much effort and attention teachers could give to an individual student. Recently, the school's principal posted the following on Facebook:

Collective Responsibility at its Best! 
We have a new student who needs support in a number of areas and we were having a challenging time figuring out this support schedule so a meeting was called by one of our teachers. This morning 24 staff members volunteered to come before school started to lend their voice and offer support for finding a solution. Every one from classroom teachers, counselors, math specialist, reading specialist, English Language teaches, art, music, librarian, physical education, special education and administrators were there to embrace our "The Answer Is In The Room" mindset. This just blew me away as it reminded me that "All does mean All" at our school! We left with a plan with multiple Professionals supporting this student throughout the day. I am one fortunate administrator!
-Brian Butler
Principal
Mason Crest Elementary School

At the beginning of this school year, parents were called to share their thoughts on homework.


It is important to note that the discussions shown above on homework are informed by evidence-based research on top of soliciting views from parents and teachers. Of course, the need for "play" is also obvious by simply spending time with any child.

Parents and their children in the community also get together on their own as in last week's pumpkin carving party.



And as we drew and carved faces on those pumpkins, we did talk about our children's basic education. We talked about the homework policy and everyone was happy with children having more time to play and to spend with friends and family. We talked about policies on English Language learners and advanced programs. We might not be influencing education policies and reforms at the national level but we were keeping ourselves engaged in our own children's education.

In the Philippines, such engagement was unfortunately lacking. A gigantic reform, DepEd's K to 12, was about to take place, and yet, a majority of parents and teachers were completely unaware and uninformed of the coming changes. Hopefully, that has changed. Tomorrow, a meeting would be held by those who have petitioned the Supreme Court to stop DepEd's K to 12.


Parents and teachers are those who really see the children. They are partners in basic education, their participation and engagement are crucial. And they need to be heard.



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