Accountability · Blog

A Child’s Education: Whose Job Is It Anyway – The Parents’ or the School’s?


This may come as a shock to my readers: Not everybody loves me.

I know! Who’d have thunk it?

When I wrote last week about the Department of Education’s latest multiple screw-ups, from high school admissions to Pre-K, I was chastised:

(S)top perpetuating the myth that public schools are poorly managed and inferior… All things considered, the DOE does a pretty impressive job serving its over 1 million students. No district is perfect.

When I wrote that if Hunter College Elementary and High School were a charter school, it would be shut down because:

Hunter is not accountable to the DOE, has its own admissions process that it declines to reveal or justify, doesn’t backfill, cannot objectively prove it adds value to a given student’s education, regularly expels those who can’t keep up academically, is not ethnically or economically diverse, diverts resources from the needy to the already advantaged, and culls the top students from the city’s other public elementary and high-schools.

Then a mom there fired back:

One of the most twisted, incorrect and incomplete articles I’ve ever read on education in NYC.

I inquired: Which parts are incorrect?

This was in November of 2016. I’m still waiting for an answer.

When I disagreed with Computer School principal Henry Zymack that School Is NOT a Family: Why This Flawed Metaphor Hurts Your Kids, he responded:

Since you clearly have come to some conclusions about me and about the school I have been privileged to serve for the last 26 years without ever setting foot in our school or meeting me, I invite you to come and visit us and would be happy to meet with you and show you around. It would have been nice if you had done so before writing your article, but too late for that. Consider it an open invitation.

I enthusiastically wrote back:

Hello, Mr. Zymeck! Thank you for writing! Is the quote from your webpage about tracking math students by ability inaccurate? And has it been inaccurately reported that while your school is judged to be one of the top performers on the Upper West Side, 40% of students are not performing at grade level in math? Would love to discuss further! Perhaps an interview in the Fall once classes are back in session? Looking forward! Alina

This was June of 2018. I’m still waiting for an answer.

But the biggest and most consistent push-back I get is when I repeatedly suggest that, with 60% of New York City students not performing at grade level in either math or English (the stats are much worse for Black, Hispanic, and low-income kids), the schools are not doing their job.

My detractors counter:

  • I am tired of this woman’s smear campaign aganst  the public schools in NYC.
  • Children need to learn responsibility for their own actions and be instilled with a solid foundation of values and principals.. That happens at home, through parenting.
  • You want parents and students who were interested enough to study for this in the first place.
  • The reasons for their poor academic performance is not due to “bad teachers” or a bad curriculum…. Ask any teacher in one of these inner city schools about the behavior of their students and the lack of support teachers receive from the parents of these kids.
  • See all of you are missing a KEY COMPONENT. It’s not the schools who make a smart child. It’s the parents who check home work  read with their children, talk to teachers about how can they improve their childs school experience.
  • Parents should be more responsible for kids education rather the Schools…. It is very hard for the teacher to pay attention to a specific students and it is unfair to other students as well, additional, not all students want the attention from the teacher anyway. Therefore, more attention are needed from the parents and came from parents. The Statewide Exam is given each year from grade 3. The students and parents know the results every year and see the difference; Whoever want to catch up or even want to do better will Put in more time to study on their ow

I could go on, but the gist of many comments comes down to: It’s the parents’ job to make sure their children are properly educated.

Now, I’m a huge fan of parental involvement (which I learned from my mother-in-law). I call it The Flip Side of Accountability in this post.

But, as someone who immigrated to the United States, I also know that some parents simply don’t realize that it’s expected of them. Or they don’t have time because they’re working three jobs. Or they don’t speak English. Or they don’t have the skills, especially in Language Arts.

Parent involvement is wonderful. But if parents are responsible for ensuring that their children learn, what’s the point of having schools in the first place?

Shouldn’t schools be the places where children learn everything they’ll need to function in society whether or not their parents are up to the job? In loco parentis, and all that?

I am not, under any circumstances, arguing that having uninvolved parents doesn’t make the process of teaching harder. Much, much harder.

But, again, isn’t that the job?

Shouldn’t teaching kids in spite of their parents’ level of interest be the default position, and kids with involved parents the pleasant bonus?

I’ve also written before about the massive amount of tutoring that goes on outside of school hours, and the secret of making all schools “good” in one easy step.

But that’s not teaching. That’s rubber-stamping (and taking improper credit for) learning that’s being done elsewhere. No one and no program will ever be able to even the playing field for what children receive at home (without going full-on Vonnegut). But shouldn’t we be trying to make it so that what every child receives in school is comparable? And, preferably, extra supports for kids who can’t get the basics anywhere else?

Whose job is a child’s education, anyway? Are schools obliged to step up when parents don’t? Isn’t that why public schools were created? So that all children, not just those with families who have access to private tutors, can be educated? Isn’t that what Julia Richman, the first female superintendent of NYC schools, was referring to when she decreed, “Between the alien of today and the citizen of tomorrow stands the school, and upon the influence exerted by the school depends the kind of citizen the immigrant will become.”

Share your thoughts in the Comments section. As you can see above… they don’t have to be positive ones!

What do you think?

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