Your child’s report card, in large part, is determined by their commitment, work ethic, environment and support system. Your child’s school also gets a report card from the Department of Education once per year. This annual progress report is determined by many of the same attributes. Each school is given a grade from A through F as well as a rank, so parents can quickly assess how their child‘s school measures up against others in the city. Well-ranking schools not only have the highest graduation rates and strongest student performance on standardized tests, but also serve to increase property values in their neighborhoods. The stakes are high, with children’s futures often hanging in the balance. What can parents do to up their school’s rank?
Learn From the Legend of P.S. 205 – A sleeper elementary school in Bayside, Queens, P.S. 205 jumped up 160 spots in the annual rankings, putting it in the top 20. One of the reasons attributed to this meteoric rise is the aggressive fundraising efforts by parents. A zoned school where 36 percent of students receive free lunch, much of the monies raised go toward extra-curricular activities supporting the rich science curriculum this small school is known for. The take-home lesson? Parents can and should have an impact on their school’s use of funding and can best accomplish this if they are actively working towards financially supporting programs of importance to their children.
Stay Informed – Keep in the loop about the issues affecting your child’s school specifically. Is it class size or the lack of qualified teachers pulling down the rank? Once you know what needs to be fixed, you can take an active role in creating change. One way to do this is by reading your school’s progress report and comparing it to other schools in the city. Progress reports for the NYC public school system can be found here.
Become an Advocate – PTA meetings are a great place to start, but if your child’s school is in trouble, it will probably not be enough. Town Hall meetings run by local neighborhood groups or assembly members often focus on the state education budget and other specific issues impacting schools, such as street safety and traffic concerns. Attend as many meetings as possible and organize other parents to do the same. Come armed with information about the issues concerning you and, if possible, viable solutions such as increased funding or new school leadership. Create letter writing campaigns or online petitions about specific curriculum or staffing issues and send them to local politicians and the office of the NYC Schools Chancellor. Most importantly, don’t let up and don’t get discouraged. Change doesn’t happen overnight.
Be a Community – Keeping connected with your child and helping them stay motivated and energized about their studies will help pick up the slack and fill any gaps left by a lackluster school. The influence of parents is paramount to children’s ability to achieve and the better kids do, the better the school does as well. Pool the power of other parents and create study sessions in each other’s homes after school, or organize weekend outings that support the curriculum and add to it. Expand your reach to grandparents, teachers, librarians and local community leaders. A healthy, well-functioning school supports the entire community and is of importance to everyone in it.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.