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Letter — Parents have to be more involved

To the Editor:

None of the letters to the editor regarding the poor performance of students in local schools even mentions the key to improved student performance.

I am a retired physician who grew up in a family of educators. I have seen this dance of teachers, school boards, supervisors and superintendents many times in many places. I have served on a school board. Since I don’t have a job to lose, and I’m not running for any office, and I don’t care who I offend, I can say what these other people won’t say.

The key to improved performance by students in Prince Edward County is the parents. These letters make it sound like parents are supposed to drop their kids off and come back for graduation. Just leave everything up to the schools. This approach leads to tragic failure everywhere.

Behind almost every good student is a parent who puts value on education, a parent who knows what their child’s weaknesses are, a parent willing to work with their child every day, a parent who keeps up with homework, a parent who reads with their child, a parent who communicates with teachers, a parent who ensures regular attendance, a parent who monitors the child’s test results, a parent willing to apply discipline, a parent who insists on respect for authority and a parent who does not give up.

Nowhere in this discussion has anyone had the nerve to say that much of Prince Edward County’s failure in education is a lack of participation by parents — parent failure.

Let’s be honest. I’ve got my flak jacket on. I suspect that a majority of students come from single-parent homes. Most of those parenting responsibilities that make a good student are likely missing. Count on it.

When a drain is stopped up in your house the cause is almost always an accumulation of hair. When a school system fails on this scale, the reasons are almost always related to parent failure, not teacher failure.

The decline of America’s schools is directly related to the decline of two-parent families. Single motherhood is the greatest predictor of life-long poverty. Parents need to be educated regarding the slim likelihood of their child’s success in school without parental participation.

New teachers, supervisors, school boards and superintendents will not make much difference unless they invest in programs to engage the parent and the student, including afterhours programs to educate parents about their responsibilities.

Around the world, foreign students are outperforming U.S. students while their school systems spend far less per child than in the U.S. Those countries have more parental participation and less discipline problems.

More money cannot take the place of parent responsibilities. Teachers confronted with students whose parents assume none of their parental responsibilities are in a terrible position. The teacher cannot replace the parent.

I humbly suggest that Prince Edward County Schools initiate programs to engage the parent of every child. They would not be the first school system to do this.

Charles C. Anderson M.D.

Cumberland County