The Craig Fahle Show

Michigan PTA Back to School 2013 Editorial: The Most Important Issue

As students head back to school, WDET asked some of Michigan's most influential experts and policy makers to answer the question: What is the most critical issue facing education in Michigan and how can it be solved? Here is an editorial from Michigan PTA Executive Director, Sandra York.

Michigan is poised for changes that have the opportunity to positively increase the educational outcomes for our children; that, once implemented, will leave graduating students better prepared for career or entering college without need of remediation. Michigan is also confronted with great challenges in its education system – an inequitable and outdated funding system; expansion of schools that focus on profit over student success; how to protect our students from violence, perpetrated by outsiders, other students, or themselves; an understood need for development of a solid educator evaluation system that could provide an opportunity for constructive professional growth or be used as a means for continued devaluation (by some) of our most valuable education asset, our teachers. This is the short list.

All of these issues are relevant and important; however, what matters most to parents is how their child performs in school right now, today, this year, and moving forward through graduation. They want to know how they can be an active partner in their child’s educational success.

The research is clear. Parental involvement directly impacts student success.

We have school districts in Michigan that truly value and promote family engagement and promote the parent-as-partner relationship. Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson, Superintendent of Southfield Public Schools and 2013 State Superintendent of the Year, and Susan Zurvalek, Superintendent of Farmington Public Schools, are excellent examples. They are not the only ones.

Teachers want parents to be their partner. The National Education Association released poll results on September 12th that state 39% of educators listed parental involvement as necessary to ensure successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards. This survey further reinforces the importance and close tie of the parent-educator relationship.

Parents want to know how they can be the best partner in their child’s education. It is appropriate for them to have the expectation of receiving, from their child’s school, information on how to help their child succeed and resources to help them accomplish that.

Meaningful family engagement at the school level is a must. Parents and families need to feel welcome, feel valued, and have open lines of communication at their child’s school. They should feel empowered to speak up not only for their child, but for every child. Families and school staff should continuously collaborate to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school; they should be equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs.

Student achievement is the bottom line. If any person involved in education does not begin and end their conversation with what is best for children and for student success – not how much profit they can make, not what is easiest for them, not what promotes their career or personal agenda – they should step away from the education arena.

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