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No, Mr. President, A Longer School Year Is Not The Answer

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Today President Obama spoke about extending the school year so students can do better. I totally disagree with that suggestion. I think holding parents and school districts accountable will go a long way in helping solve the problem with students not doing well.

Studies have shown that students that do well have parents who support them and are very much engaged in their educational journey. You can’t expect students to do well without parent involvement. The school and teachers can only do so much to help students excel.

In the area of town where I live, the schools are known for academic excellence. Every time there are parent-teacher conferences, I expect to spend two hours or longer to visit with teachers. Usually the parking lot is so full you can barely get a parking space. Ninety-nine percent of graduating seniors go to college. To achieve academic success it must be a marriage between school, teacher, student, and parents.

I live in the suburbs, but I decided to teach school in an urban area. I must say it is so disturbing to see firsthand how very little parent involvement can make a huge difference in how well students do academically. I spend most of my parent-teacher conference time grading papers because very few parents show up. How do you expect students to do well if there is no parent oversight?

The solution to students not doing well is not prolonging the school year. I think parents should be held accountable for their children, I say some of the lazy parents should take a check-up from the neck up. Want your child to succeed, get involved in his/her life, and don’t expect the school to do your job for you.

You can’t fix a complex problem by coming up with a simple solution. So much time is spent blaming teachers and schools, very little is done to encourage parents to advocate for their children.

Another area that should be looked at is holding school districts accountable for wise spending. I have seen so much waste. Too much money is spent on high paying school officials; not enough money is allocated to the classroom. In the school district where I teach French and Spanish, I have up to 39 t0 40 students in each class. How am I supposed to teach that many students a foreign language?

I remember when I first studied Spanish in high school in New York, there were 20 students in my class. We all did very well. By the time I was a senior I was speaking fluent Spanish. The next year I double majored in French and Spanish in college.

So, Mr. President, there is a lot to be considered before making drastic changes to a very complex problem. Let’s examine very carefully why students are not doing well. Encourage parents to get involved in their children’s educational life. Encourage school districts across America to use funding wisely. Monies should not be utilized to pay high ranking school officials and instead should be used to decrease class size and provide updated textbooks for every classroom.

 

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About Nicole Weaver

Nicole weaver is an award-winning author. Her first trilingual book Marie and Her Friend the Sea Turtle was published in 2009. Her love for languages and other cultures resulted in publishing the award-winning book, My Sister Is My Best Friend which was published in 2011 by Guardian Angel Publishing. My Sister Is My Best Friend has won the following awards: 2012 Creative Child Awards Program consisting of moms and educators has awarded this book the 2012 PREFERRED CHOICE AWARD Kids Picture Storybooks category. 2012 Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval 2012 Children's Literary Classics Gold Award Readers' Favorite 5 Star Review Her newest book , My Brother Is My Best Friend was also published by Guardian Angel Publishing, January 2014.
  • http://kristibernard.wordpress.com Kristi Bernard

    This is a great article with a wonderful point. As a single parent I was always involved with my child and their school. The kids that don’t succeed have parents who don’t care. It is very sad indeed.

  • http://www.melangeofcultures.wordpress.com Nicole Weaver

    Kristi,

    Thanks for your wonderful comment. It is truly sad that parents do not advocate for their children. The irony of it all, the blame always seem to fall on the teachers. Teachers can only do so much. It is time we identify the true reasons why students are failing.
    Nicole

  • http://heloise8.wordpress.com/ Heloise

    Nice try Nicole, but you must not be from around here. My second language is French and I know the French system of education and how everyone in Europe is trilingual and how the best get the best public education over there.

    But what you suggest is also not an answer. We must work with what we are given. As one principal used to say they sent us the best they got! Forget the parents they ain’t coming and they ain’t teaching their kids a darn thing at home. To suggest that parents are to blame is a third rail and we are taught not to touch it. I’ve learned to leave it alone. Right, lower SES parents do not come to open house, agreed…get over it.

    Yes, longer school year is an answer unless it becomes an unfunded mandate like NCLB. So, it’s not that it won’t work but teachers are salaried by #of days they work. So if they extend by 30 days they will have to come up with another month’s salary for teachers. Do the math, teacher, it’s a lot of money.

    Summer school could be extended and the day extended too. We could go to laptops and dump the textbook for every child, that too would help.

    If more money and time are not the answer pushing parents who struggle to speak English, or put bread on the table is pushing a rock up the mountain. I would rather stay late and tutor or work an extra week or two in the year. That’s my two, very experienced, cents.

    Heloise

  • http://www.melangeofcultures.wordpress.com Nicole Weaver

    Heloise,

    You do not know what you are talking about.
    “the best get the best public education over there.” because these parents are on top of what is going on with their children’s education. Parents who do not care do not support their children, so extending the school day will not make students do better.
    Nicole

  • John Wilson

    Right on both points, Nicole.

    Excellent article.

  • http://www.gizmosforgeeks.com Khalid J Hosein

    Very good points Nicole, but if you look at the extended year suggestion as just one other tool in the arsenal, then it’s a decent idea, although it hardly trumps yours.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Nicole,

    IMO, to achieve academic success education must be a marriage of the school boards, superintendents, principals, superintendents,teachers and their unions, students, parents and the country.

    [According to this piece in The Nation, “In the Finnish education system, much cited in the film as the best in the world, teachers are – gasp! – unionized and granted tenure, and families benefit from a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that includes universal daycare, preschool and health care, all of which are proven to help children achieve better results in school.”

    In fact, even student teachers have a union in Finland and, overall, nearly 90% of the Finnish labor force is unionized.]

    Education Nation, was an attempt to number one above all, bust the unions. The fact that this was corporately sponsored, leaves a really bad taste. We are seeing this attempt to privatize all of our social institutions and programs that work! in every aspect of our country now. SS, Medicare, and VA health care are already at great risk by this loony wing of the GOP.

    Hollywood, the media, and corporate America announced that they were Superman and education would be fixed in a profit-driven dog and pony show.

    There was hardly any input from, the children, teachers, principals, unions(except to publicly- humiliate, Randi Kindergarten-President of the American Federation of Teachers)!

    The charters used as examples were the successful ones. Well, I have news, there are many public schools all across this country that ARE SUCCESSFUL. We have badly neglected the south(surprised?) and the inner-cities have been deserted for years, but even they are showing great improvement since Obama took the Oval.

    I really enjoyed your article, and I agree 100% we need to engage our parents in showing a greater interest in education. Maybe if the media would stop bashing public education and the teachers and their unions we would get somewhere.

    The media is very good at making anything look enticing, for a price.

    JD

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Sorry for the, two superintendents, but actually in my county, they are tripping over each-other, with one super for each little district.

    Nice for them! 100+k salaries, conferences, fully supported office suites…while the children and teachers’ classrooms suffer from the bleeding of resources by the top-heavy administrations.

    :O It makes you want to scream!

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    One last chirp: The local taxpayers are sqwaking about school taxes as it is. A longer school year means more of a burden on the individual. America, needs to fully-fund it’s educational system if we are all going to prosper.

    JD

  • Baronius

    Nicole, do you have any policy recommendations? I can’t think of anything besides the use of the bully pulpit that government can do to encourage parental involvement.

    Also, while Heloise says that parental involvement is related to social class, I don’t think that’s true among recent immigrants. But I can’t find any studies to that effect. Are you familiar with any?

  • http://www.mayracalvani.com mayra

    What a wonderful article, Nicole! Your’re a natural columnist! :-)

    I totally agree with you.

  • http://www.melangeofcultures.wordpress.com Nicole Weaver

    Thanks Mayra! Appreciate the support.
    Nicole

  • Margarett

    I really had to laugh at some of these statements.. we all know who is to blame for OUR children not learning as they should.. WE ARE TO BLAME… not the teachers, not the president, and not the schools. We the parents are to blame. First off it has been proven that children can learn to read even before learning to walk. Yet not many seem to care enough to order the tools to teach them this.

    That puts our children way behind to start with.

    Phonic’s is a wonderful tool that has been around for years. Yet we the parents still do not use this either.

    Lazy parents make lazy kids. There is no one who can change that but, the parents. No amount of money tossed into a house where no one gives a s–t will make it a home.

    Until parents care there is nothing we can do to help the poor children who are neglected in more ways than the world can even guess at. I have to say though we have to keep trying until something works.

    Ack .. jumps down from my soap box, folds it up and puts it away!

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Doing well may in school is a sign of insanity.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Correction:

    Doing well in school may be a sign of insanity.

  • KELLIKO

    > When parents get involved they discover exactly what is being taught to their children – and that’s very important.

    > It possibly could be they are not being taught the things that really matter in life (real-life lessons) – like how to budget their money after they learn how to count it…., knowing how our past and current government works (the Constitution) and who’s in power ‘now’, etc.
    > Could it be that they are being taught too many things that are not benefitting them in actual life situations – or challenging their brains in a way that makes them want to learn and retain the lessons ???
    > Torturing them by longer and longer time in school is NOT the way to get the desired affect and may in fact achieve the opposite. . .

  • KELLIKO

    The writers comment here is also what I think is going on:

    “Too much money is spent on high paying school officials; not enough money is allocated to the classroom”.

  • KELLIKO

    > Regarding parent involvement, I don’t think that is the major problem (since I did very well in school yet my parents didn’t have time to attend meetings, nor could they help me with homework, since they came from a foreign land and didn’t speak fluent English). They did however expect me to do well in school and would not accept anything less than B’s.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    #13,#14 ,#15…how many others are the same person?

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    This is what absolutely sucks about these treads. They are chock-full of phony-wimps that didn’t make it in the real world. Here they are allowed to run around under-cover disparaging writers and com mentors.

    Cindy, since you desire anarchy, why don’t you join, DeMint and his gang?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Jeannie,

    What on earth are you on about?

    comment 13 – That person is not me and if you think I agree with her then you haven’t a very good understanding of my ideas and 14 and 15 both have my name on them. So, how are they ‘undercover’?

    Speaking of criticizing commentors, that seems to be your main desire. Seeing as how you can confuse me with someone I disagree strongly with, I question whether your criticism is anything but a temper tantrum of some sort.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    And Jeannie, I doubt that being a very harsh critic is the way to get across that harsh criticism is not the best method of disagreement. Or is it that since you are right and others are wrong, your opinions justify harshness?

    At least when I am harsh I know what the heck I am talking about. That is I don’t criticize people when I have zero idea of what them mean.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    bah humbug! time for dinner and a martini

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Ack .. jumps down from my soap box, folds it up and puts it away!

    looked like you…

  • http://karencioffi.com Karen Cioffi

    Nicole, I agree. Great article.

    I know a number of grade school teachers who deal with disrespectful, and even nasty young children who think they can do what they want to,and that includes not doing homework. And, the parents reinforce the children’s behavior rather than correct it.

    How do they do this? By not supporting the teachers and classroom rules, and by not letting their children know they have to do homework and study.

    It doesn’t matter if the parent doesn’t speak English, it’s a matter of teaching children respect for teachers, learning, and school.

    A longer school year is not the answer – teachers need that time off to regroup and de-stress.

    For generations the school time provided for children to learn worked.

    The school system needs to make children accountable for their actions – not just ignore problematic academic and social issues, and PUSH the child on through the system.

  • Arch Conservative

    It’s disturbing to see all teachers being held up as saints.

    The group that has done more damage to the pblic education system is the teachers unions.

    In NJ the teachers unions screamed bloody murder when the governor suggested a pay freeze, not cut but freeze. The teachers union found this unnaccetpable as the private sector employees that paid their salaries were being laid off and fired by the thousands. The union claimed it was “all about the children” what horseshit.

    What’s so unreasonable about holding public school teachers to the same standards as private sector employees and paying for performance?

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Well you are disturbed so I’m not surprised.

    How the hell would you know, anything, concerning teacher’s unions and how they work?

    From what I can tell you just spread a little hate here once in a while and then you move-on…

    :)chow

  • Donna McDine

    Nicole:

    I agree with you. Parents must be involved to instill the importance of education. Goes right along the lines that if you children don’t see you reading a book they won’t even bother opening one.

    It is cost prohibitive to extend the school year. It does mean higher salaries and then higher taxes to the residents who are already over taxed.

    Warm regards,
    Donna

  • Arch Conservative

    Nice to see that you didn’t address any of the facts in my post jeannie. Just ignored them and insulted me like a good liberal should do.

  • Baronius

    Karen, that sounds good. But won’t we lose a couple of generations before the message sinks in? And how long do the members of a school board stay in office when the graduation rate is declining?

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