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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Asking Questions

I sit here at the Maine Principal's Association conference helping Prepare Maine launch its parent involvement piece for their wonderful initiative. I see principals that are excited to see what the vendors are offering and excitement to see old colleagues and friends. There is a sense of comraderie and understanding for the day to day goings on in their respective schools.
I am thrilled at this opportunity and want to be able to understand so much more, but one step at a time. As I  walk around from booth to booth to get a better understanding of what is offered to schools in this state and at the national level, I feel amazed and honestly a little overwhelmed. I had no idea what was available and how programs were initiated in a school district. There are many that long to be chosen, education programs, photographers, playground builders, computer programs, printers for sale, fundraising ideas, and the list goes on. 
Prepare Maine offered something no one else did. It wasn't about a sole business trying to add to their portfolio or list of accounts. It was not selling anything but the idea, and solutions to do so, that we must engage each part of the community to get our education system back on track. Ultimately, the goals of Prepare Maine span not only education but the economy, jobs, and of course a more dynamic work force that will bring more business to Maine.
There were 38,000 unduplicated jobs, in Maine, that were not taken last year due to a workforce that didn't have the appropriate qualifications. That does not only mean higher education degrees, it means certifications as well. We must get education to the forefront.
Frameworks Institute has come up with the words to better convey what the Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education is doing: "The update of the educational system is a lot like remodeling a house. When you remodel a house, you do more than just repaint it: You make substantial changes, keeping the previous shape of the house, but updating old parts...The bad news is that remodeling creates temporary dust, noise, and inconvenience, but the good news is that when you remodel you don't have to start from scratch--you strengthen what's working and fix what's not." One of the portions that need remodeling is the parents' accountability for their children.
"Cumulative evidence from several decades of research points to several benefits of parent involvement for children's; learning, including helping children get ready to enter school, promoting their school success, and preparing youth for college."
It's important to recognize also that our communities are not equal. Some schools are denied resources they need and it becomes difficult to end problems like a poor educational system. This can't happen. Prepare Maine wants ALL children to have the same resources and have the same opportunities across our state. This is the necessary step to bridge the gap.
It's time to educate each other as parents. I hope to bring to the table a view of this initiative that will help all of us come together; end the idea that only parent groups in school need to know what's going on in our schools. It isn't about that anymore. It's about parents attending your school board meetings, and making sure that students are the focus. Ask questions! I recently attending a PTA meeting and the questions were asked; Do you know that the graduation rate of your high school is? Did your school make the AYP or annual yearly progress list? These are the questions we need to start knowing the answers too. Here you can find some of that information, www.maine.gov
If you would like more information, please log on to the website www.preparemaine.com. Also, I want to see what you have to say about your school, ask questions, and engage in some of the commentary on our facebook page!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Prepare Maine: A Parent Perspective

Learning about education has been an extremely enlightening process.Over the last few months I have come to a small understanding about education in Maine; which makes me realize I have a tremendous more to learn. As a parent I try to be objective and positive as my children are out there in the public school system and I hope for nothing but the best. Then a certain reality sinks in. Our education systems are not fool proof and being involved sometimes dredges up an understanding of things that create a sense of unease, especially when it comes to our children.

Getting involved sometimes proves to be difficult when some that are more involved in the school systems  don't want to let you in.There can be a feeling of intimidation if you don't know someone or are unsure of how some things work. There certainly are more politics involved in our school systems than should be. I read articles about where are schools are headed; and I read about who is leading the meetings, making the decisions and watch them mull over statistics and policy. Does everything always have to be about statistics, or is it going to be about action? In my opinion this is completely about action. However, in order to perpetuate change, the statistics are necessary.

So let's make it more than that. What if it took you, as a parent, to make sure your child graduated high school and found his or her niche in society. We can not only leave it up to our education system to have every child meet his or her full potential.  We must stop playing the blame game. Yes, the teachers are supposed to be teaching, but in a educational system that has difficulty keeping up with technology,  thanks to inevitable yearly cost cutting and as the continuation of the 'us vs. them' mentality becomes more universal thanks in part to our economy, we see it's just not working.

This is why I support the Prepare Maine initiative which has been carefully crafted by the Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education. Launched in the spring of 2010 their initiative has helped spark an education movement throughout our state.  They look at our school systems, businesses,communities and parent involvement as an orchestra, piece by piece, instrument by instrument,  to bring them together in a symphony, expertly composed.  

This is not about the educational elite, or only PTA parents, it is about you and how you can be more involved your child's education, and more importantly, their future. It is going to take a community action to get our education system working for the children. Does it mean you need to make every meeting at school or volunteer for every function? It is more than that. Making sure your child is progressing and ready for the next year is necessary. Don't allow your child to slip through the cracks.

Since statistics rock the boat, here are some stats that turned my head : 3,800 students didn't graduate from high school last year as they should have, fewer than half of the 11th graders met only basic learning standards in math, science, reading or writing, and between 25% and 44% of Maine students who go on to college require remedial courses. (information from www.preparemaine.org )   It's true that those that don't graduate become a liability to our state and our future. I don't want my child to become that part of the statistics.
Prepare Maine has solutions. Solutions that are met with high regard for those that are working for a better system for your child. Their supporters and partner list is exemplary. Teachers of the year,  businesses and business leaders, community groups, and a list of growing support from parents just like you. This is a statewide call to action.

Knowledge really is power. It is not just a cliche'. Help your child succeed in this ever changing society. Things are not the same as they once were. It only takes a few moments to check homework, point them in a direction for upcoming community events, listen to them read to you while you cook dinner, or glance at this website while checking your messages to see what you can do to be a part of Maine's future.