Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Educations Woes: Is it the parents, school or the teachers?

A recent Indianapolis Star “Our Children, Our City” article headline infuriated me.

The headline – “THE PROBLEM IS PARENTS” – reportedly is a direct quote from a teacher.

It is understandable why this teacher would want to redirect the blame. As legislative bills that include merit pay for teachers are debated, hard working, dedicated teachers feel they are unfairly blamed for unsuccessful students. But to put blanket blame on parents is as wrong as placing the blanket blame on educators.

Yes, some, maybe many, parents are struggling. They struggle with challenges of day-to-day living, which affects parenting. I am executive director of the Indiana Partnerships Center. The IPC and several other local not-for-profits have been working hard to help and teach parents how to become partners with schools in the education of their children. We also work with schools to help schools effectively partner with parents. Sometimes the biggest challenge is understanding one another’s perspectives and not judging each other. We all want our children to be successful, healthy and ready for meaningful work and careers.

Two weeks ago, IPC, the Marion County Commission on Youth and the Indiana Youth Institute sponsored what we believe was a fresh, fun, informative and educational workshop for parents.

A panel of experts along with nearly 100 parents addressed the following questions in small groups. The only rule was that participants could not talk about their personal problems. They had to come at the questions from a more global perspective or at least a school-wide perspective.

Here are the questions. We’d love to read your answers to them. The information we collect will be used to inform our work and improve our programming.

  • How can schools more effectively communicate to families the ways to help students graduate on time and continue with post-secondary education?
  • What can principals do to create a welcoming environment for families?
  • What can parents do to partner with schools that would result in better attendance and overall achievement and attainment for our children?
  • What are policies and practices at your school that help students’ overall success? I.e.: discipline, attendance, homework, parent/teacher conferences?

Parents, we know raising children is the hardest yet most worthwhile journey you will ever take. Please let us know how to help as you navigate through your children’s education journey.
Sincerely,

The Indiana Partnerships Center encourages and enables parents to engage with their child’s school, to the mutual benefit of the child and the school.  The center, which serves all of Indiana, is one of 62 Parental Information Resource Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The pursuit of the perfect college: About a mother and daughter

It was rainy and miserable, unseasonably cold. And then there was that desiccated squirrel corpse lying on the sidewalk.

Not pleasant conditions, of course, but were they sufficient reason to strike a campus from my daughter’s list of prospective colleges? Apparently so.

At first, I thought my daughter was hasty in nixing that institution so early in her college search. But I soon realized that sometimes intangible feelings are reason enough to whittle down the list in pursuit of the perfect college fit.

We visited a lot of campuses during her quest. The trips proved to be fun family outings. Sometimes we happened to be in the area of a school and figured, “why not?” In fact, we were on a planned visit to one campus when we learned about another just an hour away, and it was the second one that ended up high on her list.

That school, however, didn’t pass the Facebook test. Again, I wondered if she were rejecting it too easily. But she explained that she had joined a Facebook group of high school seniors who had been accepted by the school, and after a lot of conversations she realized that their interests did not jibe with hers.

Still another school sounded perfect for her when she researched it online. But when we visited, she found little to like. The classes were too big, the campus too impersonal.

She ultimately chose another college that we had visited on that same cold, rainy day. In her mind, the campus shone despite the overcast weather. Now, almost three-quarters of the way through her undergraduate education, she remains thrilled with her choice, enthusiastically ensconced on a campus where she sensed then – and feels today – that she belongs.

In fact, she’s a tour guide there, happily helping prospective students and their families decide if her beloved college is right for them.

Are you planning to make college visits soon? (Contact Angela Short at 205-2595 to learn more about The Indiana Partnerships Center’s trips for teens and their parents to Vincennes University Monday; Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis Tuesday; Anderson College and Ball State University Wednesday; and Ivy Tech Community College Thursday.)

When you go, encourage your teen to research prospective schools online, where he can learn about academics, the campus’s characteristics, requirements and expected test scores. And when you and your teen head out on college visits, keep an open mind about his feelings about the campuses. Even if his reasons seem arbitrary for keeping one on the list while rejecting another, your teen is more likely to succeed in college if he chooses a campus where he feels that he fits in and he wants to live for four important learning years.

Maybe you’ve already made some college visits. If so, share your experiences here.




The Indiana Partnerships Center encourages and enables parents to engage with their child’s school, to the mutual benefit of the child and the school.  The center, which serves all of Indiana, is one of 62 Parental Information Resource Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Monday, March 21, 2011

An expert's take on the new Child Care Regulations bill: Pros & Cons

Over the past few weeks there have been several comments and articles discussing the pros and cons of the Child Care Regulations being proposed in Senate Bill 56/ House Bill 1226. The strongest and loudest comments we’ve heard are focused on the separation of Church and State.

Senate Bill 56/House Bill 1226 standardizes basic health and safety requirements for all child care providers. Examples include ensuring all caregivers are at least eighteen (18) years old. It makes certain that all staff is trained in Universal Precautions and First Aid, with at least one CPR trained person on site. It also requires facilities have fire detection equipment.

At some point, individuals and groups should turn the focus back to the most important piece of the legislation, the safety of our children. The bill, as it is currently written, proposes changes to ensure safety for our youngest citizens, the ones who can not speak for themselves, and are taken care of in child care facilities daily. They need our support to make certain they are cared for in a safe and loving environment. I think this fact of the bill has been lost.

As part of my role of Early Childhood Coordinator for the Indiana PIRC, I have been blessed to work with several Child Care Ministries around Indiana. These programs have taken many steps to make sure children in their care are safe and well cared for every day. They have already taken many, if not most, of the steps outlined in the proposed bill. This is supported by the fact that we are not hearing from the Unlicensed Registered Child Care Ministries in opposition of the bill.

Take a moment to look at the proposed changes in SB56/HB1226 using this grid of the health and safety requirements. As a parent of three teenage boys, I honestly was surprised by the items that I thought would have already been in place at all child care centers. As parents, we look for a center were our child is happy, safe and well cared for while we are at work. We would not think to ask if everyone in the center is over 18 and not using illegal substances.

Remember parents, legislation can only go so far. We must be the front line advocates for our precious boys and girls.

For more information about Indiana Senate Bill 56/ House Bill 1226/ Child Care Regulations,  Download this PDF.


The Indiana Partnerships Center encourages and enables parents to engage with their child’s school, to the mutual benefit of the child and the school.  The center, which serves all of Indiana, is one of 62 Parental Information Resource Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Breaking Barriers: School through the eyes of a Spanish speaking immigrant

Evelyn Garcia
I came to the United States when I was 21 years old. I came to finish my bachelor’s degree in business administration. I had gone to English school back in El Salvador since I was six years old, but when I set foot in this country I realized how little I knew. It was a shock to me to find out that even though I had gone to school and learned English, to actually live here – to eat, breathe and dream English – was a whole different ball game.

Through the years I became more comfortable with the language and lost my fear of it. This experience makes me think of all these kids who come to the United States with no knowledge whatsoever of the language when they enroll in school. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to try to learn a subject such as history or science while not understanding the language in which it is taught and how hard it must be to take a test in that language.

My fear always was that I was not understanding the question right. I would read it over and over again, thinking, is this really what the teacher is asking? Imagine if one day all your teachers started talking in Spanish or Vietnamese or Chinese; would you be able to understand? I am glad that I found understanding from my teachers and my classmates. They were always willing to help me understand the questions and have the patience that allowed me to get comfortable enough that I could do my homework, take tests and not doubt my ability to learn.

I think is remarkable to see kids for whom English is a new language not only learning subjects at school but learning them as they learn the language. I truly believe that the support that I received from my parents, my teachers and my classmates helped me overcome the barrier of the language. So if you are struggling with the language or if your kids are, keep trying, keep pushing, keep learning. I know it is hard and sometimes it feels like you will never learn, but the reality is we never stop learning and that is the beauty of the challenge. I am still learning, I am still asking questions. Learn what you need to learn today; tomorrow you will learn some more.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced something like this? Have you ever gone to another country and felt lost because you couldn’t speak the language? How can we help and encourage these students? Let’s hear your experiences and ideas.


The Indiana Partnerships Center encourages and enables parents to engage with their child’s school, to the mutual benefit of the child and the school.  The center, which serves all of Indiana, is one of 62 Parental Information Resource Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement.