Challenges to Teach Linked to Parents & Funding
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
July 1, 2010

Perhaps between 85 and 90 percent of our school children attend public schools. So, just how they are doing is a very important query.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to hear observations from someone who has been teaching in another big city's public middle school for the past twelve years. The great challenge is to teach the students and keep them in school. The array of social and societal afflictions these students confront is enormous. Poverty is the number one issue, followed by all the ramifications of poverty: lack of education among the parents, not enough to eat, lack of clean clothing, lack of resources, no one being home because adults are holding down two or three jobs.

Dad's on methamphetamine! Mom's on meth. Children witness their parents' addictions to drugs. Without interaction and guidance from many of the parents, the children are left to themselves. Gang activity and presence becomes influential. Linked to socio-economics, this is not nearly so commonplace in the wealthier school districts!

"No Child Left Behind" should be a good thing. However, along with the pressure to increase the performance of at risk students there is a demand for serious funding for special interventions with all types of students who need special services to help them graduate.

Parents who are moving frequently keep their children in challenged transitional settings from which their children cannot easily emerge with success. Principals have pressure to keep the reportage of children who are disciplined down so to do that, teachers keep the disruptive children in their classrooms. The result is that the teachers cannot effectively teach in this environment.

The need for more teachers, smaller student-teacher ratios and counselors is significant. Intervention programs for students during or after school to mentor students, adequate educational resources such as school supplies and school field trips outside of school call for more money and are critical to student success. Funding is not the only answer, but it is a huge beginning.

Teachers are being held to a standard for their students' performance. Tutoring, parent-teacher conferences help but there is only so much a teacher can do for the children. In the health care profession, we do not hold dentists accountable for how many cavities their student patients have, but a teacher is held accountable for the educational deficiencies of his or her students. The fact that parents of student-patients do not have adequate monies to properly feed or time to supervise their children's eating and exercise habits is not the dentist's fault. But the child who arrives in the classroom hungry, traumatized by witnessing chaos in the home from which he or she has come create much underperformance in the classroom for which the teacher is held accountable.

Parental involvement and preparation for the 2011 Legislature to ensure that Texas' margins tax delivers on its promise to fund education is critical!

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