It was only a couple of weeks into the school year when I found myself venting to family and friends about the amount of homework my first-grader was getting. After a long day at school and at work, we barely have enough time to eat dinner, do baths and get to bed on time—let alone time for the kids to play and be kids.
Other parents I spoke to chimed in agreeing it was “way too much.” One mom of a child in Pre-K told me that the amount of homework given every night was a shock to their system.
I hear consistently that the amount of work and pressure being placed on students today is too much. Yet, at the end of every day I go from saying, “It’s too much!” to thinking, “Is it enough?”
They’re Still Not Learning
As an African-American mother of two boys, ages 6 and 3, the achievement gap between white and black students weighs heavily on my mind. The stats for black males in particular are truly depressing.
Even for my boys, who live in the suburbs of New York City and by almost every measure have more advantages than most kids in this country, research shows that black middle-class students perform at lower levels than their white middle-class peers.
That’s why I feel so conflicted. Our kids are seemingly drowning in work, but statistics show they’re still not learning what they need to succeed in life. While much of the conversation about the “achievement gap” is focused on urban schools with low-income students of color, the fact is neither end of the economic spectrum is truly having their children’s education needs met.
Spending to Close the Gap
Last month, it was reported that New York State’s Common Core exams for third through eighth graders will be shortened, after just 31 percent of students passed the Common Core reading tests, and 38 percent passed the math exams this past spring. Twenty percent of eligible New York students opted out of the standardized tests in 2015, and most of them were concentrated in the state’s upper middle-class districts.
This tells me that the high-quality education affluent families think they are getting in their highly-ranked local schools may not actually be preparing their kids for the real world either. The difference is that parents who can afford it are spending thousands of dollars on top of their high real estate taxes to make up for the gap with after-school enrichment and tutoring. Many others don’t have that luxury.
So, all of our kids—black, white, rich, poor, urban and rural—are being overworked and over-tested, but to what end? Much of the focus for our broken education system lands on teachers, which I think is unfair.
But I do believe teachers, school administrators and elected officials have a responsibility to ensure that each and every student has the tools they need to meet the high standards that have been set for them. And, they need the full support of parents to do so.
Collectively, we are failing at this. Every parent I know wants their child to be challenged and pushed to higher levels of achievement. But I’m not sure we as parents always put in the time and effort necessary to help our kids succeed. Nor am I convinced that educators and policy makers always have the answers as to what is required to be successful.
What I do know is that this is not an issue that only impacts certain zip codes. It extends to the suburbs and beyond, and affects students of all income levels and races.
We all need to hold ourselves accountable in order to solve the problem. It affects our future, our children and the world they will live in.