It's that time of year again when busy parents are sending their kids out the door to meet the school bus or dropping them off at school. Expectations are high that students will be paired with great teachers who spend the necessary time helping them learn, supervising their safety and keeping parents abreast of their children's progress.
I recently formed an Education Kitchen Cabinet, made up of local educators, because I want to know how we can ensure kids have the best education. I've learned we have very dedicated teachers who care about kids and their education. But they tell me they can only do so much. The other component in the success of a child's education is parental involvement.
Research has shown that when parents are involved, their kids have better school attendance, increased motivation, improved self-esteem, and higher grades, test scores and graduation rates.
A recent e-mail I received from a local teacher was eye-opening. He noted that from 84 tests he gave on math, reading and writing, 23 did not meet standard. Of those who had low scores, 21 belong to students who are from "disorganized households" — homes where little or no support is received by parents. In his words, "Bedtime and meal time is random. Homework is not checked or even acknowledged. School attendance is not a high priority. Reading doesn't happen and families don't regularly attend evening school activities."
He added, "Children who grow up in these homes tend to enter kindergarten behind their peers, and it only gets worse. By the time they get to high school, many are so far behind and so disillusioned by school that they simply drop out."
Parents face challenges
We recognize challenges parents face in holding down a job, managing a household and raising a family. It seems there are not enough hours in the day to meet all obligations. Many children also live with single parents, or are being raised by relatives or foster parents. Still, carving out some time, even if it is brief, to invest yourself in your child's education can make a difference.
• Reading to your child.
• Discussing books and stories you read together.
• Helping your child organize his or her time.
• Limiting television viewing on school nights.
• Talking with your child regularly about what's going on in school.
• And checking homework at night.
You don't have to be a math or English scholar to help your child with homework, but there is great value in having that time together. A parent's most important role is providing support and motivation. When parents demonstrate the high value they place on education, children begin viewing it as a priority.
The Legislature can seek laws to improve education standards and hold schools and teachers accountable. We can debate whether more good teachers, smaller class sizes and more money for schools would make a difference. And I am open to all suggestions to improve our education system.
However, if we really want to make sure every child is well educated, it must begin at home. What happens before and after class is as important as school itself. The best investment we can make in our children's education is our attention, our time, our encouragement, and our involvement.
As my Education Kitchen Cabinet reminded me, highly-trained teachers are great, but we must also help parents understand that their children's education is too important to be left solely to our schools.
Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, represents the 18th Legislative District. She can be reached at: www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/Pike or through her district office in Camas at 360-210-4117.