Editorial: Our Children Come First

In the ongoing conversation about the state of education in our local public schools, we need to begin with these assumptions: parents love their children, they want what is best for their children, they are the best advocates for their children. We must also add another set of assumptions: most teachers care deeply for their students, want to see their students succeed, and work incredibly hard.

There certainly are exceptions, but this is the foundation on which we must begin. It is these assumptions which we must lead every conversation about education in our public school system. Parents must be encouraged to advocate for their children. When this foundation is dismissed for the idea that parents are intrusive combatants, communication breaks down. Concurrently, when parents begin to see teachers as a barrier to their children’s success, schools take up a defensive posture which makes transparency difficult.

Currently there are two camps in what is becoming an acrimonious fight. Getting lost in all of this is the children.

The raising and education of a child is a parent’s primary responsibility, one which cannot be usurped. Plato — a teacher himself — said, “no man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nurture and education.”

Parents should never have to fight for the right to be involved, to advocate, or to know. Parents and teachers and schools must work together, through open communication and transparency, to give every child their best opportunity at fulfilling their potential.

We feel there is a simple solution here – transparency and genuine open communication about the serious issues involved with educating the next generation. The bonus? Research has proven over and over that positive parental involvement in their education increases student achievement, reduces bad behavior, improves attendance, and increases student satisfaction at school.

We at the Greenwich Sentinel are concerned by the people trying to politicize what is happening in the public school system. These individuals are further disintegrating the relationship between schools and parents. The amazing good that can be accomplished by positive relationships between schools and parents is also being broken.

Let’s look at the testing results recently announced. We reported recently that 25 percent of all students in grades 3 through 8 in the public schools are not meeting expectations in English Language Arts and 32 percent are not meeting expectations in Math. These results are staggering although by many measures we are actually doing better than 91% of Connecticut schools and Connecticut is doing better than 95% of the rest of states. Does that make us good or only good by comparison? Children in advance placement programs in our schools are knocking it out of the park and that is great. But that leaves a lot of children who are not doing as well as they could be. There are particular houses at the high school that the kids identify as “smart kid houses” and “dumb kid houses” and that is just not okay. That lost potential should motivate us all.

The conversation needs to broaden significantly, engender more trust on all sides, and be goal and results oriented… not process oriented or politically motivated. When we asked a current tenth grader at GHS what she thought about reactions from political groups to school issues she said, “it’s about politics – they don’t really care about me and my friends.” This message is being demonstrated to them daily, that politics and the fight are more important than they are; more important than their education. We must change that mindset before we cause even more lasting damage.

We are all the adults in the room; it is time for us to start acting like it. How can we possibly engender kindness in our children and respect for themselves and each other when we cannot even begin to model that behavior?

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