Holding Schools Accountable

Every parent wants to ensure that our children receive the best possible education, regardless of locations, financial means, etc. We do everything we can to make sure that our kids reach their potentials and receive every opportunity possible. We always hope that the schools are doing the same. A great educational program can be a life changing gift that enables our children to reach new levels of excellence. As parents, we place a lot of blind faith into the schools to provide the best programs possible. While we hope that the schools come through, sadly, this is not always the case. There is nothing more frustrating than finding out that our child’s educational needs are not being met. While not all parents have the educational expertise required to truly judge an overall educational program, there are certain criteria that parents can and should be keeping a close watch on…

Positive Energy – When our kids come home from school, we want to see smiles. My 7th grade son often comes homes and tells me how boring school was on that day. While I know that everything from a 14 year old must be taken with a “grain of salt” I am also distressed by this all too common feedback. Yes, every teacher has his/her strengths and weaknesses, but my son’s complaints are not about one specific class. His feedback is based on his overall day. This should not be the case for our children. While school can at times be frustrating, difficult, and even occasionally unpleasant, we need to make sure that our children are having a positive experience both in and out of the formal classroom setting. At first I thought that maybe my son was in the minority. Unfortunately, after speaking to some of his classmates, this outlook seems to be widespread. School should be a positive experience for our children, and should inspire them to reach their potentials. If this is not happening, then we as parents need to figure out how to communicate this to the school to change the experience. We are working with my son’s school on ways that the school, experience  can be more fulfilling.

Individualized Learning – Thanks to technology and an entire world of online learning, no student should be forced into a classroom that does not meet his/her needs. Of course there are different extremes and there is nothing wrong with multi-leveled learning in a traditional classroom. Students however should be able to work at their appropriate levels. In the “old days” an advanced student would be given extra work to do as a method of enrichment. In most cases, this should not be an acceptable solution. One of my partner schools has been running several special math and science classes for groups of 1-3 students. From a purely financial standpoint, this is a huge commitment for the school. When I asked the principal why they were doing this on such a widespread level, she explained that the school views it as their responsibility to provide its students with the ideal education. If a student is able to work at a more advanced level than his peers, there is no reason to hold him back from reaching his potential. Many schools have realized that while they may not be able to meet every student’s needs “in-house” that they can meet these needs by using online learning programs. As parents, we should be making sure that our schools are offering our children every opportunity to excel and to develop their skills.

Communication – This seems obvious, but often poor communication can turn a small issue into a large problem. This can be true of both academic and social issues. Many schools are currently using LMS (learning management systems) to communicate. So, in theory, two way communications between the school and the parents should be easy. Sometimes though, this type of interaction does not happen as it should. Parents should have a reasonable expectation that emails or messages sent to teachers will be answered within a day. If it is a serious issue, we should be looking at our schools to be proactive in being in touch. Parents should never be walking into a parent/teacher conference blind. Between posted grades and other communications, these meetings should be more of a “check-in” rather than an update. If this is not the case, or if you feel that your child’s school is not communicating properly, this is something that should be raised with the school’s administration. In today’s world, communication should be easy and simple.

Partnership – All of the issues mentioned above are really about creating a partnership between the parents and the school. In the ideal educational experience, the parents should be working to help support the school’s educational goals. Many schools do a great job of involving the parents in various programs and in creating a transparent atmosphere that encourages both positive and constructive feedback. If you feel at odds with your child’s school, this is a potential problem, as you cannot work in partnership with someone when there is no team atmosphere. This is true in a marriage, in business, and in education. If our children feel that we do not trust the school, or if they hear us disparaging the school’s faculty/staff, this will make it more difficult to create a solid working relationship. Even the best partners have occasional disagreements, and it is okay when that happens with your child’s school. The question is what comes next. Are you able to find a way to work together with the school to move forward and to find a solution?

All parents want to make sure that children receive the best education possible. When we choose a school we are putting a lot of faith into the unknown. While we do not want to micromanage our child’s education, it is also important to make sure that the schools that we have entrusted to educate our children, are in fact doing everything they can.

About the Author
Aryeh Eisenberg is the CEO and General Manager of Bonim B'Yachad, an online education technology provider for schools and individuals. Based in Israel, Bonim B'Yachad works with students all over the world.
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