(Photo: Courtesy Crown Publishing)
If a child is performing poorly in school, you may want to think twice before you blame the parent for not being involved enough with the child's education.
For years, it has not been uncommon for unions to blame the poor academic performance of children on “bad parenting”, but some say that, with the academic futures of America’s children at stake, it’s time to use a different lens.
“I think that the impact of parenting on what your child learns in school is often overstated,” CNN education contributor and founder and principal of Connecticut’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School Dr. Steve Perry tells BET.com.
In his new book, Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve (Even If It Means Picking a Fight), Perry argues that instead of mainly blaming parents for the failure of students, more of the blame needs to fall on people like him — administrators and unions.
As a father himself, Perry runs what U.S. News and World Report has cited as one of the top schools in the country. Every year since its inception in 2004, Capital Prep has sent 100 percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges. Refusing to take the credit, Perry describes himself as just a “regular dude who hates losing, and who sees his fight as one for educational access.” But he says that even he has had run-ins with local unions.
When reflecting over the past year, he cites a bad snow storm in Connecticut that prompted he and his academic dean to come to the school on a Sunday, take shovels and plow through the snow. He says that they wanted to ensure that their children could safely attend school on Monday morning. Although they called for service, because the snow storm had been extremely bad, no one was available. The response received in later months for plowing the snow? A grievance from the custodial union insisting that he pay overtime to workers who could have plowed the snow as a form of work.
Perry says that if, for example, 700 dollars came back to the union because he simply shoveled snow on a day where no one else could, he would possibly have to end up canceling a soccer season because that 700 dollars would come from funds the school uses, such as the $1200 total paid to the soccer coach, per season.
“The unions are the ones who are robbing your children of access to a quality education. They, through their practices of doing everything they can to keep their members employed, come what may, are standing in the way of what should be first and foremost — the needs of the children,” he says.
More than anyone, he says that he wrote his book for parents.
He says that it’s time to shift the blame. For so long, many parents have felt that they are the reason their children are doing poorly in school, but Perry expresses that that has to be a horrible feeling, especially if it's not the case and you, as a parent, are trying to stay involved.
Perhaps your child has chemistry questions for her class at 10 a.m. the next morning, he says. Now it’s 10 p.m. and the last time you had chemistry class was 10 a.m., 20 years ago. You stay and struggle throughout the night trying to figure out the answers, but to no avail. The next day, the teacher chastises the student, and blames the parents for not doing homework with the kids, but that’s not the case and that’s wrong, Perry thinks.
“The blame should be on my back as an educator. You folks, as a community, pay me to educate your children, and if I don’t educate your children, you shouldn’t hire me again,” Perry says.
Born into his family’s third generation of poverty, Perry believes that every child has educational potential and that success is determined by where you end, not where you start. But, in order for children to succeed, there has to be change in our educational system.
“This all is solvable. Whether it be in your individual family, home, or if it’s on a macro, community-wide, or nationwide level, educational doldrums that we find ourselves in are correctible,” he says.
Calling the educational crisis in America not just an urban problem, but an American problem, Perry says that parents need to start wherever their abilities lie. If you are the type of parent who is a leader in the community, E-organize and rally other parents to e-mail your superintendent to let him know that you and others are tired of his/her “foolishness.” If you want to know what special services, or lack thereof, for which teachers are being compensated with your tax dollars, make sure that you are at the meetings when contracts are being negotiated with the teachers' unions, he says.
Most of all, Dr. Perry says that it’s important to do something, because if you don’t, at the end of the day, the children will suffer for lack of direct parental advocacy.
“We can fix this when we do something. You’ve got to get mad at some point. I just don’t know how many more lives need to be lost and how many more children need to be forfeited before we can begin to see that this is not a game,” he says.
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