Like many others across America, actor Tony Danza knows there’s a problem with public schools in this country. Politicians know it, teachers, parents, students know it. We’re lagging behind, often way behind much of the world in the quality of public education, and so Danza spent a year teaching 10th grade English in Philadelphia to see if he could figure out what was wrong and convey it to the rest of the country.
Everyone knows we have a problem. By every education metric, we’re no longer No. 1 in the world. Dropout rates in many districts approach 50%, and some estimates put the number of dropouts at more than 1 million a year. How do we sustain a great country with those numbers? Education has become a national security issue. If we don’t get our schools right, we won’t have the labor force or the soldiers we’ll need in the future.
A parent doesn’t always think that way, though. A parent asks, justifiably, how do I help my kid?
There’s one important thing I learned in the trenches at Northeast High in Philadelphia: Teachers have no problem being held accountable by parents. In fact, they crave parent involvement.
If parents do nothing else, they should persuade their sons and daughters to take part in their own education. Kids should hear the message loud and clear: “You have one life, and this small part of it will make all the difference.”
And parents, you should walk the talk by showing up for the play, the debate, the science fair. There were evenings when, as an English teacher hosting an open house for parents, I stood mostly alone.
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