I have watched students lose ground. By Dr. Cheryl Anderson

I believe that education has the ability to make the quality of life better for individuals and their families. However, it is only making things better for some. A large portion of our children and their families have not bought into the need for an education. Year after year, I have watched students lose ground. The deficit is tall and vivid in the performance of socio-economically disadvantaged students. Often, they are the ones in the classroom not paying attention, the loudest, the rudest; and these behaviors causes them to be the ones who are the farthest behind academically. People are products of their environment, and what happens in these environments influences how the students behave and perform in school and the pathways they take after they complete school.

Classroom teachers are discouraged and many do not want to teach in areas where this type of population is in the majority. I am not saying all teachers feel this way, but there are enough to notice. Teachers want to teach, but inappropriate behavior and lack of interest makes it very difficult.

It is unfair to the students who grow up in homes where education is not valued or in homes where proper mastery of the English language is not valued or understood. These children tend to enter kindergarten unready for learning. On their first day of school, they are already lacking basic skills, and it’s not right. There is a level of inequity for students who enter school at the age of five already behind. They don’t advance at the same pace as their on-grade peers and by the age of eight, many of them are already two grade levels behind in reading and math. Although twelve years of free public education are provided for all children, these children are missing out on their education. Not because it is not available to them, but because it is not significant to them. They do not see education as an opportunity.

Their parents do not see education as an opportunity. I am not unrealistic. I understand that there are varying levels of cognitive ability, as well as variations in the will to be academically successful, but as a society, we need for the majority to want to learn and want to develop into citizens who can be a part of our country’s mainstream. The solution to this problem cannot be to continue to build prisons based to failing reading score.

If this perspective is to take root, our society must work on planting and cultivating the concept that education is important. Most communities have literacy groups of some sort for adults. But, we need to reach our children and stop them from becoming illiterate adults. Behaviors that we, as a society, want young people to exhibit have to be taught. All behaviors are learned; either formally or informally. The lessons that are now needed cannot be taught just in the classroom. We have to have help outside of the classroom. Education has to be encouraged from every angle; this includes media platforms.

I understand that money is the driving force behind what we advertise and experience in our society, but there are other factors that are just as important as money. Many of our children do not have a fighting chance. For years, the reply to this situation has been it is the responsibility of the parent to instill values, cultivate self-esteem, and teach that education is an opportunity that cannot be missed. These things haven’t happened, and the gaps are widening. If there is to be a measurable change, a balance has to be achieved. All venues will need to encourage education. We need a defensive structure for our children. We need to advertise and sell education so that the importance of education takes root in our children and their families who, for generations, have not taken advantage of educational opportunities.

School districts across the country are implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), an evidence-based framework for developing positive behavior. Efforts are being made to teach appropriate behaviors and to reward students for exhibiting those appropriate behaviors. Because appropriate behavior is now deemed a priority; time, energy and, financial resources are being used to foster these efforts. However, PBIS requires implementation with fidelity which means that all stakeholders must actively participate. If the processes identified within the tiered framework are not consistent throughout the entire school, the results will be compromised. Schools are seeing some success; however, success that brings nationwide change requires the buy in of all stakeholders, including communities outside of the school system.

I truly believe that we all have to take part in order the help our children. Full participation is the only way for society to experience the education reform that the educational arena speaks of so frequently and to realize a difference as school age children move into adulthood. People can do better if they learn early what better looks like, understand how to work towards better and believe they have the ability to achieve better; this starts with taking advantage of the free public education that is already in place.

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