Adult Education

at 11:35 PM

Observe the parent/teacher conferences that I and thousands of other educators host in our classrooms, and you'll understand that students' academic success or failure depends on whether parents feel accountable for their children's educational progress. Here's a sampling.

Parent/teacher conference scenario one: A bright, capable child is failing because he does little work in class and no homework. The teacher waits at the agreed-to conference time. And waits. And waits. The teacher calls home to reschedule. A new conference time is established. The teacher waits at the appointed hour. And waits. And waits. Repeat throughout school year.

Scenario two: The stay-at-home parent of an inconsistent student points an accusing finger at the teacher. Loud and indignant, the parent proclaims that her older child has activity X until 5:00, then this child has activity Y until 7:00. By the time they eat and watch a little TV, they are too exhausted to do homework. The teacher suggests the family carves out some time to get homework done before the activities start. The mother glares at her sixth grader. "Yeah! Why aren't you doing that?"

Scenario three: For the first time, the child of a migrant family is performing at grade level in all subjects. She has the potential and desire to excel. Her father is so proud his eyes tear up. "What do you do at home to support her?" the teacher asks via translator. "We just love her, and tell her she can do it -- that she can do anything," he responds. He looks at his daughter with pride and hugs her tight. She acts embarrassed, but her face glows.

Invariably, the most academically successful children have parents who feel accountable for their kids' education. My students have 1/33rd of me for seven hours a day, five days a week. They have their families the rest of the time. The math alone informs us where the majority of educational influence and accountability lie. How accountable are you?

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With a Perspective, I'm Kate Westrich.

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