GOOD

7 Things You Need to Know About Your Local Public School

Unless you work in a public school or have a child enrolled in one, chances are you don't get to spend much time in them. This list will catch you up.

Our public schools are the last real space where people from different classes and different walks of life come together to learn, to share ideas, and to be afforded a fair opportunity to reach for the American dream. At the same time, unless you work in a public school or have a child enrolled in one, chances are you don't get to spend much time in them.


Two years ago I founded Going Public.org, a site for those who believe that public education is the heart of our democracy. One of our goals is to educate the average American on what the challenges and successes of public education really are. To that end, here are seven things you need to know about your local public school.

1. Most parents really, really like their neighborhood schools.
In a recent poll conducted by Hart Research Associates, more than 75 percent of parents surveyed said they are satisfied with their children' teachers and most would rather see their neighborhood schools strengthened and given more resources than have options to enroll their children elsewhere.

2. Parents are the single most important key to student success.
Henderson and Mapp revealed in an analysis of 51 studies that students with above average parent involvement had academic achievement rates that were 30 percent higher than those students with below average parent involvement. Henderson and Berla found that the most accurate predictors of student success in school were the ability of the family (along with the support of school personnel) to (a) Create a positive home learning environment, (b) Communicate high but realistic expectations for their children's school performance and future careers, and (c) Become involved in their children's schooling.

3. Your school has lost a tremendous amount of state and federal funding and has little ability to replace it.
If you are asked to contribute Kleenex, hand sanitizer, poster paper, markers, paper cups... it's because funding for teachers, textbooks, and school buses are just some of the areas that lawmakers are choosing to cut from public education. House Republicans have cut proposed funding amounts lower than in any year since 2004.

4. Too many minutes each week will be spent "teaching to the test."
Because of the relentless pressure to boost scores on standardized tests students at your local public school will lose the classroom time that has traditionally been used to engage in critical thinking, participate in the arts, music, and even physical education. Some parents are beginning to opt-out and are keeping their children from taking standardized tests.

5. Your neighborhood is as important as the school it supports.
Trying to fix a public school without fixing its neighborhood is like trying to clean the air on one side of your screen window. Families, neighborhoods and communities are inexorably intertwined.

6. If fewer than 10 percent of the children in your local public school are on free or reduced meals, congratulations!
You can count on the fact that they will rate at the top on any international assessments in math and science. The problem in our schools is not teachers. It's poverty.

7. If your school believes that the purpose of public education is to prepare students to be well educated in order to take part in our democratic society, go to the head of the class! Does your school invite students to weekly town hall meetings? Do students have a voice in some decisions? Are teachers part of a collaborative team along with parents and administrators? If so, your children are better equipped to preserve, protect and promote our democratic way of life.

Teachers throughout the country are marching, picketing, and joining others to inform the public about the dangers of corporate control of public schools. They cannot do it alone. They need the support of parents and other community members who will not allow the privatization of public education to happen right under their noses. We need to you to contact educators with your support and your time. It's the entire community who will, in the end, save public education for our kids. YES, WE CAN!

Want to volunteer at a public school? Click here to say you'll do it.

Nancy Letts is the founder of Going Public.org. She has been an educator for 50 years and is the author of “Creating the Caring Classroom."

High school hallway image via Shutterstock

Articles
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science