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Are Things Okay In Your Local School?




If you ask most parents if their child's school is okay, the answer you get is likely to be "yes." Yet, every day we see headlines about poor student achievement, out of control students disrupting the classroom and attacking teachers and students alike, and inappropriate content being taught to young children.


Where is the disconnect between what is going on in schools and what parents think is going on in schools? Is it an intentional or accidental disconnect? Or is it both?


Most parents I talk to nowadays are extremely busy between working to provide for their families, ferrying children from school to activities likes sports, and doing household duties that must be done to maintain a healthy standard of living for their children.


They don't have much time left to take a deep dive into what is going on their child's classroom much less their school or school system. They rely on teachers and district personnel to communicate with them. Sadly, teacher communication either doesn't happen at all or is skewed to specific purposes such as discipline issues or poor classroom performance relating to the parent's child. It's not that teachers don't want to keep parents in the know, they have no time either. In some cases, teachers are told to restrict their interactions with parents to as little as possible.


District communication, on the other hand, is often used to publicize all the "happy news" of the school system. No Superintendent wants to send out information that highlights district failures. Occasional extreme incidents such as school lockdowns or threats are generally limited to the schools involved. State test scores are revealed as required by the State.

So, again, parents generally don't know what is going on in their child's school. They look at their child's grades and based on that, determine whether things are "okay." If their child is getting A's and B's, all is well. If not, well that's the child's fault and not an indicator of something going wrong in the school or school system. So, they are blissfully unaware of what might be going on.


To be fair, some schools are actually "okay." Smaller rural schools seem to be less susceptible to the radical influences of administrators/educators who promote gender ideology or divisive politics.


Others such as larger urban schools may not be. Recently, in our county, two students were arrested for assaulting a teacher and a school manager. Parents and teachers recount incidents of students being assaulted in the hallways by other students. Still, busy parents may not know exactly what is happening in their child's classroom.


What can they do to be informed?


  1. Stop relying on classroom grades to inform you of whether your child is learning or not. Sadly, grade inflation has infected most U.S. classrooms. Teachers are told to make sure students succeed despite their actual performance or work. In many schools, failing grades don't even exist anymore because administrators and education "experts" think they harm students' mental well-being. So, students who should not pass from one grade to the next fly through the system and end up graduating without being able to read or do math. Instead, parents should ask for their child's standardized test scores and then compare to his/her grades. If grades are high but your child is achieving below grade level, you know there's a problem. At that point, ask for a conference with your child's teacher and the administration of the school to see where the disconnect occurs and determine what needs to be done to fix it. Be aware that unless your child has learning disabilities, the school will not be inclined to offer extra tutoring or help since they are too busy dealing with students who have been determined to be in a subgroup they are targeting for improvement OR for those who are further behind than your child. If that is the case, then you may need to find additional tutoring on your own or supplement your child's learning yourself.

  2. Listen to your child. This is something parents don't always do. Again, when you're busy driving kids from activity to activity it's sometimes easy to miss what they are talking about. So many parents find things out through what they hear from their children. One parent described how she learned that her kindergarten child was learning that boys aren't necessarily boys and girls are necessarily girls from her classroom teacher. A grandparent was told by her grandchild that "boys can have babies" because teacher said so. Other parents learn about violence in the schools or that their child is afraid to go to the bathroom during the day because boys are in the girls' bathroom or vice versa, all because they listen to their child. There is an art to listening and encouraging your child to talk to you about these issues. When you DO hear something, follow the chain of command in the school to confirm. If you think someone in that chain is not being honest, keep going UP the chain.

  3. Learn to be the pesky parent. I can't tell you how many parents tell me they don't want to be "that parent" and that is why they don't go into schools, don't ask questions, and don't participate in their child's education. Being a parent is about raising your children to be good, productive adults who will be able to support themselves and their families as adults. This is NOT a task for those who are worried about public perception. Once you had that child, you made a silent process to fight for that child. This does not mean you hover like a helicopter parent or that you don't allow your child to fail, to have her feelings hurt or to struggle, but that you will be there as the adult when the child cannot handle issues on her own. ASK QUESTIONS and when you get answers, keep asking questions. Responsible, professional educators who truly want what's best for children will get it.

  4. Attend any school board meetings, school board work sessions, administration information sessions where you can hear from and interact with the Superintendent of Schools, and school board members etc. These meetings are often long and boring, but you can learn so much about the "nuts and bolts" of what goes on in your district's schools. If there is time for public comment, use that when you want to speak about what is going on in schools. Know the rules of speaking and stay within those rules.

  5. Educate yourself. Learn what different terms, acronyms, and abbreviations mean. The more you know about these, the more you will be able to understand what is happening in schools and WHY it is happening.

  6. Be prepared for good or bad news. If you want to be intellectually honest, understand that either can be true. If it's good news, don't stop digging. If it's bad news, don't stop digging.

In today's times, parents have to be more aware than ever. Their children's well-being and education depends on it. Don't take anyone's word for it. Find out for yourself if your child's school is okay.


Jan Greenhawk, Author

April 1, 2024


Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.


Originally published on the Easton Gazette:

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