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Blog Posts By Parents for Public Schools

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

This is the 46th year for the annual PDK/Gallup Poll, a survey that wants to know what the public thinks about their public schools. As usual, there is a lot to absorb from the responses to the questions, and the answers raise more questions that must be answered. Because the poll revisits questions asked in previous years, it is a window to changing opinions about public schools. This year’s poll suggests that Americans aren’t sure they like the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or even that the federal government should be involved in public schools. Everyone interested in improving public schools, and especially those who consider themselves “reformers”, should pay close attention to this poll – because public education is not something that is “done” to people. The people speaking are the people who own and pay for public schools and whose children are being educated in them. What they think and what they want matter.

Among the 33% of Americans who favor CCSS, they do so because these standards will help children learn what they need to know regardless of their zip code. Common Core was initiated as a way to bring consistently high standards to public schools across the country and to make sure that the quality of a student’s education does not depend on zip code or state ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

There is something almost magical about the beginning of a new school year. It is always full of hope and new possibilities. When my children were in elementary school, the school posted class lists a few days before school started. The lists were on the front window of the school. My husband and I would excitedly shepherd our two sons to see who their teacher and classmates would be that year. It was an anticipated and exciting moment for our family, because so many of our hopes for our children resided in their education. Our excitement transferred to them, and they couldn’t wait for that moment each year.

It’s time again for school bells to ring and backpacks to be stuffed. Schools across America are opening their doors again this month. Teachers are gearing up ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

The past few weeks have been graduation season at high schools across America. The Class of 2014 has been unleashed on the world!  

As a school board member in Texas for nine years, nothing compared to handing diplomas to our graduates. Their eyes were shining as they crossed that stage, and their bright eyes reflected the efforts of so many to get them to that point – schools, school boards, teachers, the community, parents, and the students themselves!

A few weeks ago, there was good news about graduation rates in America, using data from 2012. Graduation rates have reached 80%, representing a 10% increase from a decade ago. The new graduation rates are now at levels from 40 years ago. Graduation rates are difficult to track, because of things like transfer students, the number of years it takes to graduate, and the various ways data is collected.  In 2008, the federal government created a new calculation system which has helped schools report data the same way and gain more consistency.

 American public schools have seen progress, and there are good reasons for it. Schools have become more accountable for the numbers of students who graduate. They have worked one-on-one with students in danger of not graduating. Schools with the most challenges have been given additional support. And there has been more of an awareness of the need ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

Sometimes it seems like parents just can’t win. Now they’re being blamed for their children’s education failures because they help with homework! So suggests a new study by Keith Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Angel L. Harris, a sociology professor at Duke, as highlighted by The New York Times on April 12, 2014.

It is well-documented that research can be used to prove almost anything. That’s the feeling I had recently when the Robinson/Harris study on parent involvement was released. Research often exists at 30,000 feet and sometimes does not seem to connect with real people on the ground. While this study identifies ways that parent involvement possibly does and does not work, unfortunately the message and the headline are that parent involvement doesn’t count.

Having helped shepherd two children through the public school system, I can’t quite grasp the findings of this study that being involved in their schools, being involved in how they behaved, and making sure homework got done could all actually have hindered their education. And all that time, I thought I was being a good parent! ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

I hear a lot these days about how standardized, high-stakes testing has killed creativity and innovation in the classrooms of America. I can understand why so many people think this is true, because when tests are omnipresent, there is a huge amount of time spent in preparation, and this leaves less time for other ways of teaching. The right place for testing and the right amount of testing are relevant topics for parents today, and their voices should be heard in this debate.

But I continue to believe that there are wonderful teachers all over the country who still find ways to help their students learn in creative and innovative ways. I found one such teacher this week at Moss Haven Elementary School in Dallas, Texas, part of the Richardson Independent School District. Her name is Kim Aman, and she’s a special education teacher who created a farm and a chicken coop at the school. Moss Haven Elementary School promotes good nutrition and exercise and has partnered with the United Way and the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Their efforts are really ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

The story out of Uintah Elementary School in the Salt Lake City School District grabbed more than few hearts recently. Children going through the lunch line whose accounts were low had their lunches taken away.  Some thirty to forty students were impacted. They were given fruit and milk, and the confiscated lunches were thrown away. The district said it had started notifying parents about the accounts earlier in the week, but some parents said they had not been contacted.

It’s difficult and painful to see this happen in a public school in America. We believe, and most of the time we’re right, that public school teachers and officials who teach and care for our children every day are kind and that they use good judgment and common sense when they dispense that kindness. It’s hard to square that with what happened in Utah. The district has since apologized and corrected the problem. Surrounding districts were quick to point out how they deal with this issue – by working with parents individually and by giving parents the ability to pay on their mobile devices. Various stories and actions have followed this story. One was a heartwarming story of a man in Houston who ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)*

While it may not be evident from voting patterns, casting votes for local school board members may have greater impact on a community’s overall quality of life than any other vote cast. Quality public schools bring the things that ensure a high quality of life — strong economic climate, better jobs, civic engagement, more citizens voting and an emphasis on the arts. And quality public schools are tied directly to the performance and effectiveness of their school boards.

All of us should pay more attention to our school boards — to electing them, supporting them and monitoring them. While many people today believe that too much local control has been wrested from local school boards, their role remains critical to the success of the schools they govern.

Voters elect a school board to represent them in the oversight of their schools. That is our system of government, and it’s a good one. School boards then spend the public’s money on educating children, touching the future as no other entity does. School boards set the tone for school districts — for student achievement, continuous improvement and financial management.

Successful school boards are made up of individuals without personal agendas and with a desire that all children have the opportunities that come with great schools. They understand that they are a bridge between the community and its schools, with one foot in ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

In Texas, parents are talking about what many consider excessive, high-stakes testing. In California, parents are advocating for better funding for the state’s public schools.  And in Mississippi, they are taking part in debates about charter schools and letting their legislators know their opinions on charter schools. Parents who currently have children in public schools have the shortest window of time for schools to be successful. They only get one chance to educate their children, so time is of the essence to them.  With the right skills and knowledge, parents can be powerful and effective public education advocates and can work in a strong partnership with their children’s schools. ...

Editor's Note: Our guest blogger today is Anne Foster. Anne is Executive Director of Parents for Public Schools, a national organization of community-based chapters that promotes and strengthens public schools by engaging, educating and mobilizing parents.

For parents of public school children in America, the conversation around public schools is critical. They have the shortest window of time to make sure their kids’ schools are good and that schools have the resources needed for a quality education. But the conversation about public schools today is either non-existent or extremely polarized.  It’s time to change the conversation and come together across political lines to find solutions.

Things used to be simpler.  Our public schools were central to our way of life.  They became our foundation, and every community was built around one.  We came to understand that a strong America meant good public schools for all of our children. Public education meant claiming the American dream.  Teachers garnered honor and respect, and ...