Educational standards have long been an issue, and it’s certainly understandable why. In a system that offers free public education to a large population of students between the ages of 5 and 18, there will be a wide range of abilities and attitudes (on both the part of pupil and parent). With such a big system, it seems only logical that there would be big problems. Such big problems, in fact, that a number of parents are looking for alternatives. I know many, for example, who have opted to school their children at home. I know still others who have placed their kids in a private school. And for those parents who cannot afford the time or tuition, there are other options available as well.
Educational standards are extremely important in my household. Raised by an educator, I and my siblings were expected to do well in school. Homework came before everything else. We could not watch television until our homework was completed. And if we wanted to participate in any extracurricular activities, we could do so only if our schoolwork was not affected. Holding their children to these standards certainly paid off for my parents. All three of us graduated from high school and college. One even went on to receive a graduate degree. And now, all three of us are educators, two at the high school level and one at a community college.
I am proud to say that I hold my daughter to these same standards. And I am delighted that her public elementary school is exceeding the standards of many others. In kindergarten and first grade, she is already learning much more than simple letters and numbers. One day last year, for example, I heard her singing a kindergarten tune that listed the seven continents. (Having traveled and lived outside the U.S., I was thrilled to hear her name places beyond her own borders.) When I told my brother, who teaches at a public high school, that she could correctly pronounce and name our world’s major landmasses, he shook his head and said this was more than many of his freshman could do.
Yesterday, I received a reminder of the high standards to which my first grader (and her parents) will be held accountable this year. In her backpack, I found the homework packet we had diligently worked on the previous week. Each day, we had come home, eaten a snack, and gotten right down to work. My part was to read the directions and note where she needed to make corrections. And, though tempted, I refrained from giving her the correct answer. As my parents would have done (and as the teacher expected), I made her figure it out on her own.
Part of the homework packet is a daily reading log. Each night, parent and child are expected to read together for 20 minutes. It is the parent’s responsibility to keep track of these sessions. He or she notes the number of minutes read and then signs off on that day. Last week, I signed off on the first three days, and my ex was supposed to sign off for the other two. And he forgot to do so. I know that he read to her on those nights. It was just a simple matter that he forgot to sign. Yet, it was those two missing signatures that earned our daughter her very first B.
When I pulled the packet out of her folder and saw the grade, I first checked to make sure we hadn’t gotten any answers wrong. None were marked. Confused, I thought that maybe the teacher had made a mistake. That’s when I saw that there were two parental signatures missing from the reading log.
My first instinct was to be offended. How dare the teacher grade my daughter down when she did everything right? But I knew the teacher was justified in giving a B because the packet was, in fact, incomplete. I would have done the same. And in a system where many schools don’t give homework or even grades, I was impressed that a first grade teacher would hold both student and parent accountable.
We definitely need more of that.