Education Nation

Commentary: Education Needs High Standards & Involved Families

Involved Parent

Mother and son bonding while doing his homework. All text in notebooks and cards create for this photoshoot and copyrighted Willie B. Thomas Willie B.Thomas

Last month, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of mathematics, science and reading literacy administered to 15-year-olds in the United States and 64 other countries. On the test, U.S. students scored slightly above average in reading, average in science and below average in math, compared to their peers around the world. Overall, the scores of U.S. students reflect little change since the test was last administered in 2009.

According to the OECD, the countries in which students perform the highest on the PISA prioritize links between families, schools, and communities and have established rigorous and coherent academic standards. The findings from the PISA demonstrate a clear need for the Common Core State Standards, which raise the bar and provide consistency for what all students need to know to be prepared for postsecondary education and the workplace. The test results also underscore the importance of family-school partnerships.

To remain competitive globally, businesses depend on a highly-qualified workforce prepared for 21st century jobs. Today’s workplace requires employees to think on their feet, make decisions, and solve problems. It is imperative that students are prepared with critical thinking and reasoning skills necessary to engage in these complex work environments.

As a parent, businessman, and the leader of the nation’s largest child advocacy association, I believe the Standards are an essential tool to ensure every child receives a high-quality education that prepares him or her for success upon graduation from high school.

In a survey released in October by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers indicated that they expect the Common Core to improve student achievement. More than 70 percent of teachers surveyed said that they are enthusiastic about the implementation of the Common Core, believing the Standards will hold students to higher expectations and improve their ability to think critically and use reasoning skills.

As states have begun voluntarily implementing the Common Core, questions and concerns have, understandably, come up. The Standards have given rise to a new approach to teaching, learning, and assessing student knowledge that drastically changes conventional methods. The road will be bumpy as the Standards are implemented in classrooms, but it is critical not to back away from this effort to raise the bar and demand the highest expectations of our children.

As schools transition, it is important that families are involved in the process and that families, teachers, and administrators work together to support student success.

More than 40 years of research shows when families and schools work together, student achievement increases, and schools improve. Education remains a shared responsibility, and this is even more evident given the results of the 2012 PISA.

If we want children to achieve at higher levels, it is critical that meaningful partnerships are established between families and schools in every district and every school. To build effective family-school partnerships, families and schools should make sure they are:

  • Welcoming All Families into the School Community – Families should be active participants in the life of the school and feel welcomed, valued, and connected to each other, school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class.
  • Communicating Effectively – Families and school staff should engage in regular, two-way, meaningful communication about student learning.
  • Supporting Student Success – Families and school staff should continuously collaborate to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school.
  • Speaking Up for Every Child – Families should be advocates for their own and other children to ensure students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.
  • Sharing Power – Families and school staff should be equal partners in decisions that affect children and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs.
  • Collaborating with the Community – Families and school staff should collaborate with community members to connect students, families, and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services, and civic participation.

Together, we must raise the bar and remain committed to ensuring all students graduate prepared to succeed globally. The Common Core State Standards and effective partnerships between schools and families are important first steps.