Helping St. Louis

A Blog About Helping Each Other

St. Louis – Education

Posted by Schevus on February 4, 2009

All too often when talking about the declining quality of education in America public schools take the lion’s share of the blame. Certainly there are many aspects of public schools that could be improved, but ultimately many of the shortcomings of our youth’s education are caused by parents. This point is one that President Obama makes regularly. No matter the quality of the school a child goes to, if the parents are not actively involved there is no guarantee that the child will be engaged and productive at that school.

I know that many families are single parent homes with the parent struggling just to make ends meet, let alone being able spend enough time involved with their children’s schoolwork or activities. I think if you absolutely cannot devote time to your children’s education then it is important to get them involved in a program that will serve to fill that role. There are many varied mentorship and after school programs that serve this purpose. If you need help finding one, please leave a comment and I will try to help.

Getting back to public schools, as I said there are definitely problems that need to be addressed. Many public schools are underfunded, which can result in loss of extra-curricular activities, lack of basic supplies, outdated equipment and books, or in some cases not even enough books for all students. It is pretty obvious to anyone that students need some basic amenities for education to be really successful. In many cases teachers spend large amounts of money out of pocket so that their students have the supplies they need. Obviously this burden should not fall on the shoulders of teachers.

Aside from material issues, public schools are often accused of dumbing down the curriculum. This is normally blamed on the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Basically the act states that students must progressively do better on standardized tests from year to year or the school will lose funding and face reforms to “get back on track.” Taking away funding from schools that are not “performing well” seems incredibly foolish to me, but I digress.

Based on these guidelines and fear of lost funding, many schools are accused of “teaching to the test,” rather than actually trying to educate students. Certainly curriculums must be tailored so that they focus on the information covered by the test, and this might limit flexibility.

In an effort to bring back some flexibility, the charter school movement was born. Charter schools are granted a charter to operate in a more unique way or to target certain special needs or at risk groups. Charter schools have their proponents and critics (I happen to be an ardent supporter), but one key point is that they are still open to the general public and still fall under the NCLB act.

After a cursory search, it does not look like St. Louis currently has more than a few charter schools. A friend of mine is currently in the process of setting up a new charter school called the Active Minds Institute.

So, what can we do to improve the quality of education in St. Louis? I have already mentioned what I feel is the most important solution, which is increased parent involvement. Every parent has the ability to improve the education of their children by taking the time to work with them. They also can improve situations at the school by becoming involved in PTA/PTO groups or simply by opening lines of communication with teachers and staff. Schools often welcome volunteers for various activities.

You can become involved in the charter school community by joining a committee at Active Minds, or even starting your own charter school.  Charter schools almost always welcome donations to improve their programs and also normally appreciate volunteers.

If you are interested in donating, but would prefer to improve the public school system, you can donate to the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation. Here is their mission statement from their website:

The St. Louis Public Schools Foundation seeks to fund projects and activities with a measurable impact on academic achievement, high school graduation rates, and the successful transition to post-secondary goals, such as college or entry into the workforce to ensure that each student has the opportunity to become a productive citizen.

Finally, you can volunteer for a mentorship, tutoring, or after school program designed to help at risk or underprivileged children. I have participated in these programs in the past and they are extremely beneficial for the participants. I will do some further research and try to highlight some of these programs in the St. Louis area in a future post.

If we work together we can make our education system better and keep it from continuing its slide compared to other developed nations. Our future depends on it.

Advertisements

3 Responses to “St. Louis – Education”

  1. Schevus said

    Apparently my post was very timely. A friend of mine just pointed out this post on the White House Blog.

    – Schev

  2. I think you make a really good point here. A lot of parents’ mentalities seem to be “I send my kids to school to learn, why should I do their job for them?” and this is serious mistake. If education isn’t being reinforced at home in some way then the school is wasting it’s time and tax payer’s money on future janitors.

    I’ve never been able to understand a person who decides to have a kid but can’t spend the time to help get them excited about an education. My own parents were blue collar laborers but pushed me at math, science, and technology pretty hard. If people aren’t going to invest the time into developing a healthy mind for their children then they shouldn’t be having kids to begin with.

  3. Schevus said

    Some kids can get all the education they need just from school and by working on their own, but if parents are not involved that is not at all guaranteed. I agree that everyone could do more to get kids excited about learning. It seems all kids are interested nowadays is how many hours they can talk their parents into letting them play video games (if the parents even care).

    – Schev

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: