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Where Do We Begin?

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Where Do We Begin?

[box type=”1″ align=”left”] EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of articles by local parents on the public school system here in Huntsville, AL.
[/box]When I first sat down to write this, I quickly realized I was writing a treatise I couldn’t possibly finish. Even if I could, no one would want to read it – not even my mother and that’s saying something. There is so much to discuss on this issue, so many factors to consider that just writing about it can be overwhelming. Imagine actually trying to fix it.

So let me begin with something simple. Let me begin with this; I wholeheartedly agree with Sarah’s directive from last week. Get involved and stay involved in your child’s academic life. Parents who are involved in their school community and in their child’s life in general are the solution to many of our educational system woes. Having worked as a teacher and administrator at two different independent schools where this was a requirement of attendance, I know this to be true.

But that solution alone will not solve our city’s crisis because it leaves the students who need the system the most too vulnerable. Do we punish a child for their parent’s lack of involvement? Do we tell that child, if your parent can’t be bothered to help you then neither can we? How do we break a cycle of poverty and lack of education when we put the onus on parents who are part of the cycle themselves? Sarah wrote that the issue in Huntsville wasn’t racial but in that I disagree, at least partly. The issue is economic and in Huntsville, in the South, in most of the country for that matter, the reality is that the poor in this country are overwhelmingly and disproportionately non-white.


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For today, I am not offering a solution but rather asking more questions. I posit that by asking hard questions, of ourselves and each other, we can come to a more complete answer to the myriad problems our schools face.

  • Is it acceptable to you that the “best public schools” in Huntsville exist only in the whitest and most expensive parts of town?
  • Do you feel it is important for teachers to reflect the diversity that exists in the classroom?
  • Are you prepared to play an active role in the academic life of not only your own child but his/her peers as well?
  • What does a “good school” look like?
  • What is a “great teacher” worth?
  • Is standardized testing a true measure of a great education?

See Also
birds eye view of Randolph School campus in Huntsville


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I know you care about this issue or you wouldn’t take the time to read this. If you haven’t already, take some time to watch a few of the documentaries listed below or read some of the articles or listen to the radio interviews. It can be heartbreaking to watch and read about what children and parents are going through in an effort to get a good education, but it can be motivating as well. I’ve tried to include people with varying perspectives and ideas about what can solve our educational system in this short list and the list is by no means comprehensive but it’s a start.

Since my daughter is still too young to be involved in the public school system here (but will be very shortly), I’m curious to hear first hand from parents who have experienced the good and bad of our school system. What do you think the REAL questions and concerns should be? I invite you to join our discussion in the comment section, on our Facebook page or by contacting me through the site and writing your own article. I don’t pretend I have ANY answers but I’d like to try and find some and I believe with the help of this community, I can.

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View Comments (4)
  • LOVE THIS. Thank you for pointing out that there are many reasons why students and schools fail and that saying “oh well, your parents should be better” isn’t a valid solution. Nor is saying “it’s not racial, it just looks that way.”

    Let’s work for ALL children, not just the ones from your upper middle class neighborhood.

  • What you are attempting to fix is a problem that starts way before school. I started to say where the problem comes from but I would have to say I really don’t know why some people have the need to get ahead (in anything they do) and some don’t seem to be motivated to do anything. Even showing up, and when they do they don’t seem to care if they are even there. Yet others are driven to do their best no matter what it is. When you can fix this problem–then a basic piece of chalk and a blackboard to write on would be all that was needed to teach this person. There is no stopping them. I don’t think schools and teachers can fix a problem that starts with the adults that are raising the children that come to school that don’t care and basically say by their actions that they are there because they have to be but you aren’t going to make them like it.

  • Although I’ll be writing more next week, I want to say that I’m also in the same position as Jennifer in that we are not currently parents in the school system (although we ARE in a federally-funded daycare system). I hope that the dialogue that continues here sparks SOME sort of ideas that are executable in the real world .. and maybe that we can get someone in the right position to listen.

  • I have so much to say about this and will go back to the last post to comment, too. I have one child in school and one still at home. Though my son is only in 3rd grade, I think we have tried every educational option available to us. He’s been in an incredible pre-school, had an awful experience at a highly regarded public school kindergarten, suffered through a year and a half at a “selective” private school, and finished out that year doing homeschool with me. Finally, we are back in a different public school (the very magnet school Sarah wrote about) and feel that we have found a school that actually cares about both the educational and social development of our son. Each of the schools that we’ve been in have been geographically and culturally all over the map. The one constant that seemed to determine the most about a school, in my opinion, is the attitude and example set by the school’s administrator. If the principal (head of school, director, whatever) is open to communication with parents and is willing to allow his or her teachers some flexibility in how they accomplish their goals, it makes for a much more successful environment. I’m getting very long-winded here, so I’ll wrap it up 🙂 We should look to the administrator of a school, maybe even more than its location, funding, racial make-up, etc. to see what is possible at a given school.

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