Editorial: Parenting for success

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 22, 2006

How many people do you suppose wake up each morning and muse, “I think I’ll be a bad parent today and undermine my children’s education” ?

Zero. But educators often tell of students who come to school showing no sign of a parent’s care. They’re hungry, sleepy and without paper, pencil or completed homework. Teachers are responsible for what happens once children walk through the school door, but educators long to hold someone accountable for what happens on the other side of the threshhold.

In some ways, we’re all accountable.

As the Rowan-Salisbury School System strives to improve its standing under No Child Left Behind, leaders have to deal with the fact that this is a low-wealth county. Over 10 percent of our population lives below the poverty line, and several schools have more than half their students on free and reduced lunch. Thanks to generation upon generation dropping out of school to work in textile mills, our grown-ups aren’t so well-educated, either. Only 14.2 percent of Rowan’s adults hold a college degree, compared with 22.5 percent statewide.

Rowan is reaping what it has sown. Consequently, some parents wake up each morning thinking more about how to survive than whether their kids did their homework. Then there’s the deliberate neglect that occurs. Either way, heaping blame on poor parenting doesn’t help the schools reach the goal of Adequate Yearly Progress. Unfortunately, teachers have to overcome that problem.

Long-term, the best news for school improvement could come from Toyota, which may build its race production center to Rowan, initially bringing 40 jobs with an average annual salary of $70,000. That should raise our median household income level — now $37,691 — and help schools.

Short-term, schools need to make swift improvements in test scores, and every bit of parent support will help. The National Education Association offers these tips for effective parent involvement:

* Check homework every night.

* Limit TV viewing on school nights.

* Discuss your children’s progress with teachers.

* Vote in school board elections.

* Help your school to set challenging academic standards.

* Become an advocate for better education in your community and state.

Somehow the community needs to remind all parents of the pivotal role they play in their children’s education. Like them or not, tests are the current gauge of education success, and failing to measure up gives the county a black eye. Parents can help fix that problem — for their children and the community at large.