Back to School - Can We Ease the Administrative Transition?
We all talk a lot about collaborations that can make it easier to improve outcomes and change the way we do business for children and youth. I was reminded of this in a recent discussion with my sister, who has four young children. The beginning of the school year is a good opportunity to start fresh and with my oldest nephew starting high school, it's got me thinking about how we (the proverbial village) can make it a better experience than ever before.
Case in point: today is the first day of school. My youngest nephews are in elementary school, my niece in middle school, and my newphew at the local high school. My sister has been going crazy trying to get all the information that she needs to get all four kids ready for school. With class schedules, school sports schedules, other after school activities, etc., getting the logistics of four kids in three schools worked out can be a nightmare.
And that doesn't even touch on the back to school shopping with two to four-page supply lists. Per kid. It can easily cost $200 per child just to buy school supplies – Kleenex, white board cleaner, hand sanitizer, paper towels, etc. (Too many schools can’t afford these basic supplies anymore.) It’s a mess.
On top of all this are the questions about the kids teachers, classes and additional educational supports. A last minute surge in enrollment left the elementary school scrambling to rearrange class assignments. So right up until this past weekend my sister wasn't sure if the youngest boys' were still assigned the teachers they'd been given last June when school let out. Our family has been part of Seaview Elementary for the past nine years, so my sister knows the teachers well and advocates for those who best fit her children's needs. The uncertainty about class assignments just added one more layer of stress to the multitude already associated with back to school.
All of which leads me to this. Even though my sister is a veritable pro at the chaos that is back-to-school, every year she has the same question:
Why, when the kids are all in the same school district, can't back-to-school and transitions be better aligned?
The schools work together, but only very superficially. They pass the kids’ grades on to the next school, but other information gets lost. For example: children with learning disabilities often have to be re-tested and re-diagnosed to receive services. Interpersonal issues between students isn't shared, even when past events are serious and have implications for things like class schedules (ie, cases of bullying).
When my sister has questioned the principals, teachers and district administrators about the lack of coordiation between schools, the response she gets is this: it is the responsibility of every parent to ensure that her kids get the education they need. I believe it is true that parents (with support from grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, churches, etc.) need to be actively engaged in their children's education.
I also believe, though, that school administrators need to stop passing the buck and do a better job of educating our students. That means good teachers, good curriculum, and effective, verticaly and horizontally aligned services and administration.
Do others experience this? Are there local or state innovations making this easier? Let me know!
Tara James is SparkAction's Sr. Outreach & Engagement Associate, and an actively involved aunt to four school-age kids.