Fixing Our Broken Education System: How About We Start with the Parents?

  • SumoMe

This past week in my education column for The Philadelphia Daily News, I wrote about a Philadelphia couple who were criminally charged by the Montgomery County District Attorney for claiming their elementary school daughter lived with her grandfather in Lower Moreland Township so she could get a better education

You heard right. Criminally charged.

I am not condoning the actions of the parents. They tried to get their child out of the Philadelphia School District by falsely claiming the girl lived at her grandfather’s house in Lower Moreland Township. Olesia Garcia, the little girl’s mother, claimed she and her daughter lived in Lower Moreland with the little girl’s grandfather.

The Lower Moreland School District discovered this, but charging the parents with a criminal offense is outrageous. Doesn’t District Attorney Rise Ferman have more important criminals (like murderers, burglars and drug dealers, for starters) to pursue and prosecute?

Apparently not.

The case of the Garcia family vividly speaks to the desperation parents feel when their child is trapped in a failing school system. There is a desperate need to fix our broken education system, but edu-crats and the leadership of many teachers unions resist any efforts to reform and improve schools. Instead of seeking to fix the flaws in our education system, there seems to be greater energy and passion into protecting the status quo.

I hope you will read my column by clicking here.

After my column was published, I received an interesting and insightful response from Charlotte Erace, an American History teacher at a charter school in Philadelphia. Here is an excerpt from her letter:

As a current Philadelphia charter school American History teacher and a graduate of one of Pennsylvania’s premier public school districts (Council Rock ’03), I feel all too familiar with the topic of public vs. charter vs. private, as well as the issues of vouchers and parents who forge addresses in an attempt to give their child a better education.

I’ve also taught in an alternative school in North Philly, a public school in Montgomery County and a Philadelphia charter high school. With all that being said, I often find myself wondering, “Is it the schools? The money or lack thereof? The teachers? The parents? Or maybe the students?”

Or is it just the environment?

Council Rock is an outstanding district. We know this; just look at its percentage of college-bound graduates and its standardized test scores. With stats like those of a school like Council Rock, it’s obvious why parents with limited choices in good schools would be tempted to lie to get their students into a neighboring suburban school district.

But it’s also a wealthy district with college educated parents who apply TONS of pressure to their kids because THEY know the value of education and its monetary payoffs.

Council Rock also has some incredible teachers, of course, but the teachers I had when I was a Council Rock student are no better than the teachers I work with now at an urban charter school. As a suburban student living in and teaching in an urban area, I can’t help but wonder if most of this boils down to a student’s environment.

Everyone is so hell-bent on blaming teachers and I get it. Look, not every teacher is effective and ineffective teachers don’t deserve to be taking up space at schools that claim they have their student’s best interests at heart. But how much really has to do with a student’s environment?

When I was a student at Council Rock, it wasn’t the teachers or the principals who made me the solid student I was; it was the pressure I felt from my parents who EXPECTED that I excel and get my butt into a good college.

It was also the pressure I felt from my peers who believed “C”s were the equivalent to “F”s. Not wanting to look like a failure amongst my Ivy League-bound peers, or disappoint my parents, I continually stepped up my game and graduated with honors.

But, now, having taught in a number of urban school environments, I rarely see that same pressure being placed upon the students from their own families or from their peers.

Instead of parents lying about their addresses to get their kids into better schools, maybe we can better our own Philadelphia schools if parents, instead, come together to put pressure on their kids in the RIGHT ways.

Clearly, this is only one suggestion in a city whose schools could use 1,000 solid suggestions. But before we start slashing budgets, firing teachers and pushing vouchers, maybe we need leaders who, instead, are going to look at the students and their families and first ask them what THEY’RE doing to turn their student’s education into a pressure-worthy pursuit.

President Kennedy told us not to ask what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. Maybe it’s time that we stop asking what our schools can do for us, but what we can do for our students and our schools.

Dom says: As I teacher, I saw the same things that Charlotte mentioned. It is disheartening to see disengaged parents because they were doing such a disservice to their children’s future. I could always tell by the first Parent-Teacher conferences which students were going to do well that year: the ones with the involved and motivated parents.

A student’s success is dependent on three legs of the stool: good teachers, an achievement-oriented school culture and engaged parents to guide and motivate them. The stool cannot stand if one of the legs is missing, weak or broken.

What do you think?

13 Responses to Fixing Our Broken Education System: How About We Start with the Parents?

  1. Pat Achilles September 9, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    I have always said that my kids were very lucky to be ‘in with a good crowd.’- their friends in parochial school and public school were achievers, quite possibly because their parents expected it. I think the teacher who wrote you has a good point. I bet if the parents who are charged (that’s over-the-top by the way) were asked to explain why they wanted their daughter in the UM district, they would say they expected her to be safe and encouraged not only by the teachers but by the surrounding students as well. That is a GOOD motive the parents had, though their means broke the rules. It makes a strong case for the reasonableness of vouchers.

    On a side note, I wondered if you’d ever researched the Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia, Charter School? The dean or president of the school called in to one of your stations’ other shows once not long ago and he was articulate and likeable. I googled the school and it looks pretty remarkable – like a classical academy, and according to their stats the students really excel. I think the president said it is the only all-boys charter school in PA.

    • Bill September 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

      Education should be viewed as a 3 legged stool. The student. the school(teacher) and the parent.

      In many cases the stool is wobbling because the parent is non existent or indifferent to their childs success or failure.

      I come from the generation where parents demanded their children do well and when they did not there were consequences. Now in some cases even when the parent is involved their childs poor performance it is never of the childs doing. As with many things today the excuse machine starts. I am coming at this from the perspective of a former teacher of 39 years. all parents no. but as the years rolled by their numbers rose.

      Charlottes letter mentioned it was the pressure I felt from my parents who EXPECTED that I excel and get my butt into a good college.

      I remember some of my students complaining about how their parents put pressure on them to excel. I always said to them they were lucky because they cared.

    • Dom September 14, 2012 at 1:57 am #

      I was torn by this case. Obviously some type of penalty or punishment was necessary, but criminal charges? Come on!
      It is another reminder that parents should never accept sub-par education for their children.

  2. EGNJ September 11, 2012 at 2:45 am #

    Children from uneducated homes need highly qualified teachers. How else are you going to make up for what they are not getting at home? I work in a head start school in west Philadelphia some time ago. The problem is most of the teachers are from the same community and the children are not allow to experience different way of talking or pronunciation of words and different styles of communication and different ideas. But these programs want to give the jobs to the teachers in the community and this is why Head Start dose not work.

    • Dom September 14, 2012 at 1:59 am #

      That is why engaged parenting is so vital. It does not matter what the parent’s education level is; the most important thing is be continually involved with their children and setting high academic standards for them.

  3. Bill September 11, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    But these programs want to give the jobs to the teachers in the community and this is why Head Start dose not work.

    I guess that diversity thing does not apply?

  4. Larry cohen September 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    I was never a teacher but I do notice that now when we say the teacher
    is supposed to educate the students we really mean we want them to socialize
    the students and that used to be the job of the parents not the teacher.

  5. Don (in Bucks) September 13, 2012 at 3:47 am #

    Dom, you can only start with the parents if the kids know their parents. In the current era with the multiple baby-mama and baby-daddy syndrome so widely accepted (across all demographics), it’s increasingly more challenging.

  6. Don (in Bucks) September 13, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    There are two things that are certain: 1. Throwing more money at education will fix lnothing and merely perpetuate the insanity; 2. It takes a family… the “village thing” has failed dismally.

    • Dom September 14, 2012 at 2:01 am #

      The Village fallacy was simply an excuse for lazy parents trying to off-load their parenting responsibilities on others. It’s a 24/7 job. As Dr. Laura used to say, “don’t have them if you won’t raise them!”

  7. Don (in Bucks) September 13, 2012 at 3:53 am #

    People like water rise to their natural level. I noticed last Tuesday when Philly Schools went back that Dr Hite, the new Supe was on local 6ABC in the morning with a family getting their kids ready for their first day. Then I listed to Dr Hite… apparently no word ending in “ing” had a “g” in it. SHAMEFUL: this is the benchmark set a for the Kids? How can they be expected to excel when the capabilities of the leader(s) are so mediocre, at best?

  8. Bill September 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    Throwing more money at education will fix lnothing

    The whole philosophy of the present administration is to throw money. Liberals have no problem spending other peoples money. 800 billion spent on stimulus. I check the mail everyday waiting for my check.

  9. Chris From Pine Hill, NJ February 18, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    Imbeciles, cretins, morons, idiots, dummies, and ninnies. That’s what we have. Society is infested with them, thanks to the fact that families, churches, and the State have dropped the ball. “Tough love” minded parents (fathers in particular), brutally honest ministers (whether their messages are popular and politically correct or not), and conservative, mighty, fearsome judges along with other such public officials are what we have been so sorely lacking and therefore they are what we so desperately need today.
    Unfortunately, people love to copulate, but then when a child is produced, too often the “parents” (I use the term rather loosely) lack the commitment to raise their offspring properly. Kids are work. A lot of work. As soon as I was aware of the fact that my wife became pregnant, I began reading to the children while they were in their mother’s belly. Didn’t matter if the child was in my wife’s belly for only one day. The reading began then and it continued throughout the pregnancy, and it still continues until the child is old enough to read on his & her own (I have two kids – one a teenage boy, & one a precocious 3 year old girl – Lord have mercy!!!). Besides the reading thingy, I pray to God for the welfare of my children regularly. To top it all off, I also have rested my guitar onto my wife’s pregnant belly, playing some music and singing to my beloved child, unable to wait until the precious little one will finally be born. Once born, the precious child frequently gets showered with kisses. We just love our kids so much that we can’t help ourselves. We use every opportunity that we can seize to teach the children SOMETHING, ANYTHING that we can. Any missed opportunity to do such is a failure that makes us.
    So anyway, commitment from loving parents to a child, which is a HUMAN BEING, and this HUMAN will someday become a member of society (productive, hopefully) is not a good place to start. Instead, IT IS THE ONLY PLACE TO START! Without such a commitment from loving parents dedicated to the edification of their children, these kids will become dunces, losers, malefactors, and thus, a drag and a scourge on society. Parenting is a BIG responsibility. What a pity that we do not have more responsible, loving, dedicated parents.
    What is a saying that is in vogue now? People as I have described in the first sentence of this essay will refer to their offspring……uh…..children, I mean, as “my baby daddy” or else “my baby momma”.
    What the HELL is this supposed to mean? How can they even say such a thing with a straight face??? Whenever I hear such stupidity, the urge is to get a slingshot and hit them right between the eyes with a purple grape. But, I will tell you what the stupid expression means. it means several things:
    1. They are so lazy and so ignorant that they are incapable of learning proper English. It will never happen. EVER!
    2. The father and the mother are estranged and they are therefore not in a loving relationship, so that their child does not belong to an intact, loving, nuclear, good old fashioned traditional family. It probably never will.
    3. While a person born of such excellent stock (a little sarcasm here) can somehow succeed in life, the odds against this happening are very grim, because the child has already been set up for failure by its parents. Such dereliction of duty is inexcusable.
    4. Ignorant low life losers who possess such a mentality and then produce offspring JUST LIKE THEM, who are also a burden and a scourge on our society, they are an embarrassment to the human race, the wrath of God abides upon them HERE, NOW, in THIS LIFE, and in the world to come (unless they repent).
    5. Society, via the government (police, courts, politicians, bureaucrats, etc.), the media, and the public in general, ought to sanction them with things like vehement public condemnation, and multiple other punishments (I would like for us to bring back the stocks and public corporal punishment – Michael Fahey in Singapore, his grafitti, and the blessed rattan cane applied to his hynee comes to mind). The above mentioned public wrath is altogether fitting for these bastards, instead of government subsidies (section 8 housing, TANF, food stamps, Obama cell phones, etc.). Instead of mollycoddling this class of people, they should be stigmatized and otherwise punished, in my view. I wish that the government would also heavily tax these kind of people, instead of subsidizing them. How to do it? Find a way. Snatch that sandwich from their teeth. Confiscate their beer, liquor, cigarettes, drugs, lottery tickets, cell phones and other electronics, if necessary. Then sell such assets online. Send them the message that losers who are losers by choice are no longer welcome here. Instead, they are frowned upon.
    Having written all of the above, I am sick and tired of the bullplucky that I continually hear from the teachers’ union, when they whine and lament the lack of parental involvement. Surely lack of parental involvement is a problem, as I have also lamented and whined about. However, whenever I hear complaints from the teachers’ unions about it, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. If an individual teacher presents such a complaint, personally, then I agree with the teacher completely. However, when I hear such a complaint from the teachers’ union, somehow the gatekeeper to my brain hops up and down and hollers, and then blows a police whistle.

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