Another school year has begun and many parents are already wondering what they should be doing to make sure their children are poised to have a great school year. If you are one of those anxious parents who desperately want the best for their children, this post will be of particular interest to you.
As a father who has been where you are, there are so many things that I would like to tell you as the new school year begins. Yet, knowing that most of us only have an eight-second attention span, I’m going to focus on one specific theme.
BE A SKEPTIC
When it comes to your child’s education, I believe it’s time that parents view schools the same way we view pharmaceutical advertisements. I don’t know about you but when I see a pharmaceutical advertisement, I generally laugh out loud. No, I don’t send someone a text or an instant message with “LOL”, I literally laugh out loud.
Drug commercials almost always begin with a narrator telling us how much better life will be after taking the drug. Unfortunately, the benefits are overshadowed by the narrator’s lengthy list and menacing explanation of all the possible side effects. I don’t know about you but by the time the commercial concludes, I am left wondering why would anyone ever choose to take the drug.
America’s education is eerily similar to the pharmaceutical industry. Schools make a lot of claims just like the drug companies. The most common claim of nearly every schools is that it is a place where children are receiving a “rigorous”, “high quality” education that is preparing them to be “college ready” and “career ready” for the “global and technological” jobs of the “twenty-first” century.
Not only is that common school claim a long sentence just like the drug’s side effects warning but there is something much worse than the length of the sentence. Most schools are failing miserably at doing any of the things they claim. To make matters worse any school is able to continuously make these false, misleading, and unsubstantiated claims without fear of reprisal from state or federal governments. If only there was a federal requirement mandating truth and proof of advertisement for schools.
NEVER FEAR SUPAMAN’S DAD IS HERE
Since there is not a federal mandate to warn you about a school, in the very same way you can be cautioned about a drug, I’ve decided to share with you five things you should know about your child’s education.
1. Determine whether your child’s school’s students are performing better than students nationally and internationally. In specific, you need to know that your child’s school’s students are performing at the highest national and international reading, language usage, and mathematic proficiency levels. Ask your school leader to provide you with comparative national and international data to show how and where the student’s at your child’s school are performing.
If your child’s school is what it claims to be – “accelerated”, “high-performing”, “global prep”, and the like – this a simple first requirement to meet. If, however, your child’s school fails this first step, it is time for you start reassessing your options. It’s time for you to be a skeptic!
2. Assess in a quantifiable manner how your child’s educational performance has been helped or hindered by their school. Start by asking for your child’s NWEA progress (MAP) report.
Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) is an adaptive educational performance test which was created by Northwest Evaluation Association™ (NWEA™). The MAP® measures a student’s achievement level at different times of the school year and computes growth.
The importance of knowing precisely how your child’s school has prepared them to perform against national benchmarks and being able to measure their academic growth throughout the school year cannot be understated. I’ll say it again if your child’s school is what it purports to be, your child’s MAP® will match the school’s advertising claims and it will match your child’s report card. If there is no match, it’s time for you to be a skeptic!
3. Ask yourself if your child is attending a school that values student independence and learning differences. Every student is unique. Every child and family has its own specific set of goals and needs.
Schools that are truly committed to preparing students for the globally and technologically advanced twenty-first century not only embrace the uniqueness of each child but they are equipped to do so. Inquire of the capability of your child’s school to provide your child with a personalized learning plan.
Personalized learning plans exist to keep students challenged continuously and helps them grow individually. Personalized learning plans should also adjust to your student’s goals and mastery of the subject matter. Moreover, personalized learning plans are not bound by arbitrary, artificial, and archaic age-based grades.
If your child’s school is as advertised, it will have already prepared a personalized learning plan for your child. If your child doesn’t have a personalized learning plan, it’s time for you to be a skeptic!
4. Don’t kid yourself for one second, if your child’s school is truly capable and committed to making sure students are competitive in the 21st century, the student’s at your child’s school will have a STEM-based curriculum. Students need a STEM-based curriculum if they have any chance of possessing the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in the knowledge-based economy.
And don’t let a school leader try to convince you that because they say a curriculum is STEM that it is actually STEM. Demand that your child receives a STEM-based education that is based on international benchmarks. One such international benchmark is TIMSS.
TIMSS, The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, assesses the mathematics and science knowledge and skills of 4th- and 8th-graders internationally. Ask your child’s school for their international STEM rankings. If your child doesn’t measure up internationally, it’s time for you to be a skeptic!
5. Last but not least, ask your child’s school for a detailed account of the S.T.E.M. teachers’ academic background. This might be news to you but a large percentage of American S.T.E.M. teachers do not have degrees in the subject matter that they are teaching. The lack of subject matter mastery is a huge problem and a key indicator that your child faces daunting odds in being prepared for the 21st
Let me ask you one more question. If your child wanted to learn how to play basketball would you want Michael Jordan or me to be their personal coach? Enough said! Right?
I think we would agree that expertise and mastery matters in both basketball training and in educating our children. Make sure S.T.E.M. experts and master teachers are educating your children. If your children are being educated by anyone other than S.T.E.M. experts and master teachers, it’s time for you to be a skeptic!
Galileo said that we should “measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.” I believe that Galileo was 100 percent correct. So this school year, I implore you to reject the usual qualitative indicators and flowery language as proof of your child’s educational progress. Instead, I’m urging you to demand quantifiable proof.
Make certain that the letter grades on your child’s report card correlate with national and international benchmarks of reading, English, math, and science. Also make certain that the adjectives that your school uses to describe itself – “high achieving”, “magnet”, “college prep” and other imaginative phrases – are truthful expressions that can be supported by national and international educational benchmarks. Finally, when it comes to your child’s education, follow the path of Galileo. Measure everything; be a skeptic!
How does your school compare to international educational benchmarks? How many of your child’s math and science teachers have degrees in math and science? Does your child have a personalized learning plan?