Parental involvement in education is not an option but a requirement

Given very taxed school systems, parents do not have the option of not being actively involved in their children's education if they want them to excel.

There is nothing more political about raising children than the education of our schoolchildren in the United States. The public school systems are challenged to keep our children competitive worldwide with other countries. In 2002, UNICEF compared public education in twenty four nations around the world: the US ranked 18. Forty years ago America had the highest graduation rate: now America is ranked as 19th. US 4th grade math scores remained the same since 1995 while other counties have improved.  Currently, in America, the property taxes imposed by counties and municipalities  fund, among other things, local public schools. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that those schools in wealthier areas have more resources, and on average children in those schools do better on standardized tests. I live in a county that has more poverty and less affluent areas than neighboring counties in Montgomery and Fairfax counties which have the best school systems in the nation, and locally. This is not  to say there are not stellar children that excel either, just there are challenges.

A few years ago, friends of mine who lived in a nice large house in my county sold their house and moved to a smaller matchbox of a house in Montgomery county. They had to pick between paying less mortgage and having to shell out money to pay for private schools or move to a high performing county and scale down their home? They chose the latter. I know of a few other friends and colleagues who have elected to do the same.

Irrespective of all of those dynamics, I still am of the position that the key to success of any child is parental involvement. Raising children in the United States is so different from the way my parents grew up in Africa. In their small West African nation, parents send children to school with the expectation they will be thoroughly educated and disciplined even. When they immigrated to the states, they did not think they had to be actively involved in the school system. It was a culture thing for them. Fortunately for me, I went to a solid public elementary school in the District of Columbia and was a bit of an egg-head so I did well even without their active involvement, perhaps a testament that parental involvement isn’t always necessary.

However, that is not an option for me and my children, even though my children attend a pretty decent private school. As I type this, I sit in a public library, very challenged to get my 8 year old to fall in love with reading. I admit that my husband and I are guilty for introducing him to video games too early in life. When I was growing up, my parents purposefully denied us access to video games and limited our television watching. We spent our spare time at the local library across the street from our home. My favorite place there was the reading cove and I would get lost in a book for hours until the library would close. Fast forward 15 years and here I am back in the library trying my best to make sure my kids stay above the fray.  The boy loves television a bit  too much than we would like. He has an addictive behavior and personality and just seemed overly obsessed with both and so much so that we ended up banning him and his siblings from viewing TV and playing video games on the weekdays during the school year.

Now we play catch up. Fortunately, I own my own business and have the luxury of working from home. My schedule is that I can carve out time to spend with them in the library.  My husband wakes up extra early each weekend and does math and reading drills with our kids too. We simply cannot rely on the school to do all of their education, unfortunately.

Unlike my parents native Sierra Leone, in America, it is quite different especially in school systems with taxed teachers. Also, sometimes, students are in a class with other children that have behavior problems and the teachers must spend a good part of their day dealing with discipline issues. Also in any given class, there may be a wide spectrum of abilities. It really does require parents to be an active participant. I have found that the most active and involved parents also have the most engaged and high performing children. It’s not to say that other naturally bright students do not excel without parental involvement. Indeed, I dare say I am an example of that having earned scholarships to attend the most prestigious schools in Washington, DC when I was 11 years old and without an active parental support.

All this is to say that those parents who are single parents or working multiple jobs to put food on their children’s plates may not have the luxury of being as actively involved. It’s not that they don’t want to but just after a hard day’s work, it is so easy to just let the kids do their own thing and relax in front of the television. Weekends can get so busy too.  

What is a wary parent to do? If you cannot get your child in a free high performing magnet school, charter school or public school and cannot afford private school, and neither have the luxury to do your part to supplement the education your children are getting, what are your options? Is there an alternative? I am not sure there is one.


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
 
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
 
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
 
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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