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It takes a village

POSTED April 26, 2011 9:33 p.m.

Recent reports on the state of public education are shocking.

California high schools are providing less time, attention and quality programs, according to an annual report produced by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access, in partnership with UC/ACCORD.  As a consequence, student engagement, achievement and progress to graduation and college are suffering.

UCLA’s report goes on to say school reform has all but sputtered to a halt due to staff cutbacks and the elimination of time for professional development.

Our youngest students are also suffering.

The National Institute for Early Education Research found that California continued to be one of only five states in the nation to meet fewer than half of 10 benchmarks for pre-K quality standards and the state continued to rank in the bottom half of all states for access to state pre-K.“America has far to go before every child has access to a high-quality education even at age 4, much less earlier.  Yet, in much of the rest of the world this opportunity is taken for granted. As America falls behind in the early education of our children, we also fall behind in school success and economic competitiveness,” said W. Steven Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.While budget cuts can be blamed for most of the problems facing public education today, increasing funding for our schools may not be the only solution.Let’s take a look at the history of public education.

Public education in nineteenth century rural America consisted of one-room school houses, built and maintained by the community. Farmers supplied the wood or other fuel for the stove to keep the schoolroom warm in the winter. Parents built school desks and took turns cleaning and stocking the stable that housed the horses the children used to get to and from school each day. Teachers often lived with local families, rotating from household to household.

Those one-room school houses eventually turned into large institutions of learning ran by bureaucracies.  While I cannot fathom sending my child to a school that does not have modern electricity, there is a vital element to those schools of old that is missing in many of today’s institutions — community.

Yes, I know that in the 1800s most parents worked from home — on farms or other cottage industries. But if today’s moms and dads have time to stop by Starbucks on the way to work and spend an hour at the gym working on their muscle tone, they have time to be involved in their child’s school.

If the entire community came together to support local schools — with time, money and manpower — local, state and federal funding would go a lot farther. Parent volunteers in the classroom make all the difference in the educational experience.

According to Turlock Unified School District’s School Readiness Program Coordinator Judy Huerta, the educational partnership between teachers, social workers and parents is what makes the Head Start preschool program in Turlock so successful in preparing children for the rigors of the K-12 educational system.“We can’t just focus on the children, we need to help the whole family,” Huerta said.It takes a village to raise a child, states an ancient African proverb. This is ancient wisdom that can make a world of difference in today’s modern schools.To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.
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