To the editor:
In last weeks edition of the Times, Laura Dove and Dan Solomon said the new city manager and city government need to become better stewards of tax money by focusing on student achievement in our public schools (New city manager must make academic performance a priority, August 25).
I dont disagree that it is embarrassing (my word would have been disappointing) to see test scores more often at the bottom of the metropolitan areas numbers, there is much more to the story.
Successful students come from homes with involved parents. Having the city council micromanage the school budget is neither productive nor necessary. What is needed is more guidance to parents so that they understand the importance of assuring their child is learning at home as well as at school.
Adding another layer with the city manager who, as the authors said, should have significant experience with school operations, is a great sound bite, but not helpful. Every city resident wants Alexandrias success rates to trump Fairfax and Montgomery counties, and we can do this with our current superintendent.
For those city residents who do not understand why some of our students struggle to do well on standardized tests, I would suggest contacting a social worker and requesting a home visit. Realizing that privacy issues are at stake and tours of homes would not happen, perhaps just a dialogue with the social workers would enlighten many concerned residents.
Some children are fed only while at school and make their way to fast food chains on their own for other meals. As a school nurse at T.C. Williams High School, when I want to know why a student is sleepy in the morning, I begin with the basics. I ask whether they have a bed to sleep in, and with how many they need to share the bed.
But if fatigue is not the reason for low test scores, there are numerous others to look into that begin in the home. Ask any teacher on back to school nights about the parents that show up. For years, I have heard that the parents who go to the conferences are not necessarily the ones who need to. The school system has assessed, implemented, and continuously evaluated the curriculum for its rigorous instructional methods, as well as for how it can do its job better. At issue is the parental oversight (or lack thereof) and inability to teach their children not only how to learn, but also why it is so important to learn. There are many parents who need this basic instruction themselves.
Instead of more council oversight, interference, and micromanagement from other city offices, programs should be set up to teach parents why their childrens education is so important. If parents are unable to teach, show, guide, and nurture their childrens yearning for education, then we need to teach the parents. Education of the young begins with the parents, and that is how we could be better stewards of our tax dollars. As far as I know, everyone who knows, has, or teaches children in the city schools is working toward the common goal of student achievement.