Precepts for Helping Students Achieve More
A recent article by Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews (“The Money Myth in Improving Schools,” The Washington Post, April 10, 2009) highlights some precepts regarding educating the students at Hayfield Secondary, and elsewhere, that we all should use as a guide. Doing so will do much to ensure each student’s best outcome from their time at Hayfield – and give our students the best chance to have the sort of life they decide on. And we all know that this decision is ultimately theirs regardless of how much influence parents and educators try to assert. You can read more about each precept in Jay’s article, and get even more depth in the book he references. Briefly, and in no particular order, some of the precepts include:
I urge you to read Jay’s article – it’s only a few hundred words - and the book he refers to. Both may strip a cloud from your eyes - they did mine.
There are several large initiatives being considered by the School Board that will affect everyone in the Hayfield Secondary community, one being proposed changes to start times. Elsewhere on this web site you’ll find the FCPS press release announcing the Town Hall meetings intended to inform the community of the specifics regarding the changes. The proposals themselves come from the 70-member Transportation Task Force that the School Board created in 2007, and which, after months of meetings and discussions proposed changes to transportation services – who gets picked up and dropped off, when and where – that will save the system more than $30 million while making much needed systemic fixes, along with changes to start and dismissal times for every student in the FCPS.
The Hayfield community is in the unique position of having four of its members on the Task Force, including me as Chairman. You should use this resource to help you decide whether or not to support the proposals. Brad Center, our School Board representative from Lee District and a Hayfield parent, noted the proposals and the Town Hall meetings in a newsletter (direct quote, emphases his):
“The Board continues to explore the possibility of revising the bell schedule to allow later start times for high school students. At our January work session, transportation staff presented Iteration #3, as a blueprint of what a revised schedule could look like. We have not made any decisions on the proposal and won’t until the community and staff have a chance to comment. While I support the science behind later start times, I realize this issue is complex and concerns exist. However, I believe we create a false dichotomy if we try to frame the discussion as a choice between accepting the bell schedule or accepting a trade-off. We should try to resolve or mitigate the problems; if that’s not possible, then a trade off determination would be made …but, we are a long way from this step. I encourage you to attend one of the community meetings that will take place during the last week in February and to share your opinion on the proposed schedule. If you cannot attend, please complete the online survey that will be available beginning February 9th at www.fcps.edu. Details of the meetings and a link to the survey are available as well under the heading: Proposed Changes for School Start and Dismissal Times.”
I encourage all of you to become familiar with the issues involved by reading the Task Force’s report online. The report is lengthy at 300+ pages. The Executive Summary is much shorter at 20 pages. The rest of the report is appendices (A-U) that go into great detail, in particular on the impacts of the proposed changes. The web site also has links to the many documents and thousands of pages of research the Task Force used in developing its proposals. Please read as much of this information as you can, especially the Executive Summary. And if anyone still has any questions they may contact me through the PTSA and I’ll try to answer them.
Hayfield Secondary PTSA President
We all have concerns about school. Your Hayfield Secondary PTSA exists to help deal with those concerns, whether it’s with the Administration, the faculty, another student or something else here at Hayfield. Luckily, at Hayfield we rarely have concerns with the Administration or faculty. We’re truly blessed in that way. Even so, most of us are concerned with our child’s schooling.
Want to know something that you, as parents, can do to improve your child’s performance in school? Something simple, and easily within reach? All you have to do is start insisting that your children fully apply themselves to their studies—and commit yourself to doing your part. That means making sure they do all the work expected of them as well as their abilities allow. It also means making sure everything at home stands behind these principles and supports the idea of learning.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And it is. Many of you are already doing this. All should.
You’ve probably heard that Parents or Guardians are the largest factor in student success, more than any one school or teacher or even Principal. Let me quote from a meta-study by Michigan’s Department of Education: “The most consistent predictors of children’s academic achievement … are parent expectations of the child’s academic attainment and satisfaction with their child’s education at school. Parents of high-achieving students set standards for their children’s educational activities.”
Income doesn’t matter. Parental education doesn’t matter. There are no real barriers here. Any family can insist that schoolwork be Job Number One. Tell your kids that you have no doubt they can do well, and that, in fact, you expect it of them. Let everything in your home revolve around their success in school. Repeat this message regularly, and communicate this to teachers and administrators, making it clear to them that you want to be kept well-informed. Believe me, they will be very glad to hear this, and will move mountains to work with you—especially here at Hayfield. Make your first move tonight.
Resist the impulse to help too much with homework. Think about it—would your doing pushups make them any stronger? The same applies to schoolwork—including science projects. Let them do the work. Be available for consultation, of course, but let them do the learning.
Finally, remember that incentives matter. Blowing off school must have a high cost — I feel that extracurricular activities should hinge on school performance — but this is each family’s decision. And don’t simply rely on the FCPS minimum grade requirements to substantiate performance, either. Have your own expectations and apply them.
Our kids will form lots of habits over the years, some good and some bad. Isn’t it great that doing well in school can be one of them?
Hayfield Secondary PTSA President