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Opinion: Speak up for Students

With resources tight, how do schools do best by kids?

Eleanora Ferrante, South Huntington PTA Legislative Committee co-chair

Last Thursday, Dr. John King, state education commissioner, had the opportunity to hear the concerns of our district regarding the state of education.  A panel asked Dr. King pointed questions on the key issues affecting education today: given the tax cap, state and federally imposed mandates, and the numerous assessments imposed on our students, how are we to take our very limited resources and ensure that we continue to provide the best possible education for our children? 

Our children need to be prepared to enter the world after high school – no matter where their path may take them.  While our children certainly have an obligation to do the best they can, we all have a responsibility to ensure that they succeed. The Race to the Top’s educational reforms are supposed to ensure that all students are well educated, but are they?  Vocational training, music and art programs, kindergarten and Advanced Placement classes are not “extras."  They are integral to the education of many students.  Yet often, these are the very programs to be cut when money is tight.  Smaller class sizes are not a luxury; they help ensure that teachers have the time and resources to help their students succeed.  But class sizes have been increasing in many districts again due to financial constraints.

It is critical that our elected officials at all levels hear our concerns.  We cannot sit idly by while our children’s education is decimated.  Now is the time to contact your state and federal legislators.  Now is the time to attend your Board of Education meetings.  Now is the time to be the voice of our children.

In a world focused on fulfilling mandates, assessing our students at every turn, and keeping within a 2% tax levy cap, we need to stay focused on our future – our children.  We are testing many new ideas all at the same time.  We are potentially negatively impacting a legion of children who are caught in a storm of competing needs for very limited resources.  Let us hope that these children are able to weather the storm and come out well prepared to continue their journey.  Our future depends on it.

Marie September 25, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Well put. We seemed to be quick at taking funding out of the equation. Now it is the State's turn to take out cost. How about removing a few unfunded mandates? How about allowing high performing schools, or high performing kids, to test very other year? I can't imagine us looking back 30 years from now and saying, you know, I think we needed MORE testing and MORE mandates. Unfortunately, I think we will be saying we shouldn't have cut programs vital to the future of a generation. That will show up in the most important test - our economy.
Bill L. September 25, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Here's a novel idea-allow the teachers to teach and educate instead of mandating they test? Who does testing benefit-the children or the NYSED and their cronies who make these tests? It seems like the more people outside the classroom get involved the less educating is accomplished.Keep the parents,principals,administrators,advisors and the NYSED out of the classrooms.Why not-since they have become involved schools have tanked. No wait....BLAME THE TEACHERS!!!
Jackie M September 25, 2012 at 09:28 PM
We need to look at the countries with the highest international test scores. The models are already in place. Routine assessments are necessary. We must support students and teachers. Students in the countries with the highest test scores don't have parents who call up the teacher with comments like: "Are you sure my son/daughter did that?" or "He says he handed in his homework." Also, there is a question that is often asked by administrators on teacher interviews. The question is,"Would you change a grade if we asked you to?" The answer should be a resounding NO. In fact, the question itself is morally reprehensible. If you want students to achieve the most that they can, offer support before and or after school, and stop micro-managing teacher decisions. The countries with the highest test scores don't coddle slacking students, and don't ask teachers to change grades, give less homework, and or have parents who do the homework for their kids. Our students need to compete in a global world. Their competition will be from students who have been in a rigorous learning environment. That said, we MUST support student's efforts with extra help when needed.
Laura September 26, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Use student grades If a child fails blame the teacher. He or she did not do her job. Keep the good teachers and say good bye to the bad teachers. As a parent I sent my kids to school to get a good education. It was not to create another teacher a job. It is not fair to the students. Maybe we should a union for the students. I wonder what they would say? Laura
Brian September 26, 2012 at 07:25 PM
So if a child has a dozen or more absences ,doesn't do his homework and parents do not come to conferences the teacher takes the blame. Yep....you're smart.
Laura September 26, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Brian most parents are do a great job. The case you stated is not a common. In that case the school has options. You only get one chance to get a good education. The problem is too many get a sub-standard education, then the kids go to college. They get remedial classes. A children deserve the best education. Laurs
Jackie M September 26, 2012 at 09:34 PM
People love to blame the teacher. If most of the class passes and a few don't, it is likely the student and the parent didn't do all that they could do. Sometimes too, students struggle with one particular subject because they do not have a natural aptitude in the area. Some parents then say,"He passed his other classes. Then it must be the teacher's fault. Please! I was there before and after school for my students, and over 95% of my students did well. The ones who didn't, either really had a difficulty with the subject matter and or did not come for the extra help. A very few had idiotic parents who said it was my fault. Most of my students were great and their parents very supportive. I LOVE AND MISS THEM ALL whether they passed or not!!! Teaching was one of the best experiences in my life!!! You have to LOVE the kids!
Ron September 26, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Ha! When was the last time you were in a school? That "case" is very common.So is the fact many more parents are not involved in their child's daily education-whether it is because they have two jobs or are too busy with their Facebook Fantasies or cellphone conversations.99% of teachers are caring and excellent educators yet they rarely get support from parents,BOE members or principals who are often to concerned with covering their own faults and quick to throw blame. Maybe if all the BS being forced on teachers would be eliminated and they can educate our youth the results would be better. Maybe start by allowing students more time on task instead of going off to band practice,ESL,assemblies,cultural events,anti-bully acceptance programs,yada yada yada. How many minutes is a child actually learning in a given day? A week? A month? Look at your school calendar and see how many actual schools days are in September? November? About a dozen. Children need structure and they are not getting it being off constantly. Parents need to accept responsibility and do their part instead of pointing fingers at teachers.
Laura September 26, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Ron, you are right. The sentence " may start by allowing " is true. Extend the day maybe ? The teachers need to speak up just like you did. It seems they spend more time at home. A lot of parents complain about that. It fall on deaf ears. We both can agree we have a problem with our childrens education. How can it be fixed. Money is not only the answer. I read they have extra help on the internet ? I like your passion. Again how can we fix it. Laura
Laura September 26, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Hey Jackie are you calling parents IDIOTIC. Your soooo smart. You need to say you are sorry. I am so happy you were not my kids teacher. Laura
Jackie M September 26, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Laura, I am happy that I wasn't your kid's teacher too! You are a blame the teacher person. Try to improve your reading skills my dear. Notice that I said MOST parents were great. The ones who blame the teacher when the students don't put in the work are idiots. No apologies. Perhaps this hits a bit too close to home.
Diane September 27, 2012 at 12:26 AM
I have been attending parent teacher night for my 3 children for the past 7 years.......So many absences on the part of the parents. Yet they blame the teacher.....Teacher gives homework on the weekends.....parents complain.......Student is in the play......parents think they should be excused from homework.......Kids have far too many after school activities, they are falling asleep in class.......blame the teacher....I am not a teacher but I know many who take their work home on a daily basis. But if the student does not pass we should get rid of the teacher. I could go on forever but what's the point.......Teachers are to blame for higher taxes and all else that's wrong with the world......Parents are perfect......UGH
Bill L. September 27, 2012 at 01:00 AM
How can "we" fix it? We can't. We need a Board of Education to develop a set of cojones to inform the State Ed dept that they are not going to follow their fatuous plan to improve teacher performance and their inane testing. We also need an administration (superintendent & principals) who will stand up for their staff instead of retreating in self-preservation mode.None of this will happen.
Marie September 27, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Well, moving past the comments above, thanks for reminding me to reach out once again to Cuomo, Flanagan and Marcellino. Our representatives need to hear our passion for education.
Laura September 27, 2012 at 02:30 AM
If enough people call their representives, we can make Difference. Try to let the teacher know you care. Go in unanounced. Introduce yourself to the teacher. Sometimes they will take an interest in your child. Help them a little more. I will make some phone calls. I hope others will also. Laura
Ron September 27, 2012 at 10:31 AM
Go in unannounced? Perfect idea....another learning day interruption.Also-your "sometimes they will take an interest in your child" is reprehensible. A teacher always has his/her students best interest in the forefront.
Jackie M September 27, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Ron, Thanks for your intelligent words. Laura does not seem to understand the basics. Going in without announcing oneself lends itself to unlimited classroom interruption and security issues. It is often the parents of the worst behaved students or the students that are slacking who have the biggest mouths. Again, look at the best performing countries with regard to education. The learning environment is rigorous and supported by the parents.
Laura September 28, 2012 at 04:56 AM
I go at the end of the day. The bell rings. School is over for the day. It is a quick and friendly conversation. The teachers never minded. They liked the idea, that I was interested in my kids education. My children were polite, respectful, quiet and not trouble makers. From the emails I am reading, I would request a transfer to a new teacher. You don't sound friendly.
Jackie M September 28, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Laura, I am quite friendly. You are backtracking on your own words. You said "go in unannounced." In the end Laura, I believe you want what is best for children otherwise you would not have taken the time out to write. We disagree on how to go about getting the best education. I don't believe we should coddle slackers or water down the curriculum or blame the teacher for every darn thing that goes wrong in the universe. Improvements can certainly be made in education. But they won't be made by making the standards less challenging.

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