I consider myself a regular parent with a regular job, but I try to volunteer in school as much as possible. Full disclosure though, I am not a super parent who coordinates every PTSA event or room parents every year or anything like that. Major props to those who can and are able to do that.
One volunteer duty that I've done numerous times is homework folder stuffing. You know those folders that come home on Mondays with all the homework for the week and are turned in on Fridays? Usually it is parents who collate the completed homework and stuff the new homework. It is this activity that really opened my eyes on the importance of parental involvement in education.
It is very clear which kids have parents at home who are able to understand what and how homework needs to be completed and turned in. It's also understandable that many parents may be working multiple jobs or may work a swing or graveyard shift and don't have the chance to help with any homework at all. But already at this young age, you can start to see the impact of this divergence and who is successfully learning and advancing their knowledge and who is starting to be left behind.
And unfortunately, the test scores bear this out.
Data is collected from the 2017-2018 Accountability Reports with all elementary school scores consolidated together.
As you can see, an education gap has already formed in these early years. Those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and English learners consistently score lower than the student body as a whole. The gap is actually wider than these charts show because we are comparing to the average instead of their non-socioeconomically disadvantaged and non-English learner peers separately.
Another part of being equitable is ensuring that children with disabilities, access, or functional needs are appropriately and adequately supported. In addition, as much as possible, all attempts should be made to mainstream children with additional needs into regular classrooms. Even if not, we should make every effort to include all children in as many activities as possible, including assemblies, parties, or the occasional daily activity. There are many benefits to this, but I believe the most important of is upholding and demonstrating the concept of being an inclusive community. Not only does the child benefit from learning important educational and social skills, the entire class gains a greater understanding and empathy for those who are differently abled.
Institute a parent/caregiver mentorship program
It is well known that family involvement is the best indicator for student success. But not all parents or caregivers understand how to accomplish this. They may not be educated themselves or speak English well enough. Back to school nights are great, but they go quick and not all parents may understand everything that is covered (or even be able to attend). An intervention program for parents of students who are identified as struggling with schoolwork should be investigated. District personnel or parent volunteers who speak the language can talk to these parents or even make home visits to ensure they understand good study and homework practices. Even just the basic mechanics of how homework works and the weekly expectations could go a long way towards better outcomes.
Create a tutoring program for lower grade levels
Peer tutoring programs exist for the middle school and high school levels, but not for elementary school. It is important to establish good homework habits early so this age is a good opportunity to set them on the right path. After school recreation programs already exist for kids so perhaps we can expand on it to allow high school students to be volunteer tutors. Many high school students are always looking for volunteer opportunities, so it would be wonderful to have them serve in such a constructive way. Even just half an hour a day would go such a long way to ensuring that homework and reading are done properly.
Ensure all children receive an equitable education
It should not matter if a child comes from a low income household, has special needs, or anything else that might hinder their educational journey. It is said that "to whom much is given, much is required" which means that we must do all we can to help those who need a helping hand. Now, I don't have all the answers, but there are ways we can work to get there. One good rule to follow is if you want to plan solutions about a group, you need to plan with the the group. So, perhaps a SWAG (Small Working Arcadia Group) should be formed with representatives from these typically overlooked and/or under-resourced groups so they can give input about a way forward.
As parents, we all chose to live in Arcadia because we know the schools are great. However, it is more than what happens on school grounds that ensure a good education. Not all busy working parents are financially able to send their kids to after-school academies or have the knowledge or time to help with homework in the evening. Inequity may be one of the most pressing crises of our time and we as a community have a responsibility to assist those who need it. It's not just a good thing to do, but the right thing to do.
What else can we do to help our children fulfill their potential? Let me know in the comments below.
As mentioned, parental involvement is critical and cannot be overstated. But to be involved in the right way requires the right knowledge. And only when armed with the right information can we make the right decisions. But unfortunately, that information is not always forthcoming.