Tremendous pressure is placed on teachers because if students don't achieve at the required levels, school districts can be penalized.
But teachers and their students shouldn't be tackling the venture alone. Parents also play a role in their child's success.
"It takes more than schools to close the achievement gap. ...You can't make an overall difference without the fabric of us all working together," said Dr. Larry Bohannon, Sikeston R-6 assistant superintendent of professional development and secondary education.
As the new school year begins, most schools will use the time to inform parents about organizations and parent groups available to help students achieve success during the school year.
"The more parents can be involved or learn what they can do at home, the better they can help their children not start school behind," Bohannon said. Often times it's open houses where parents are first introduced to ways to get involved in their child's education. At Sikeston, the district's first open house will be at the junior high on Monday; other buildings will conduct their open houses before the end of the month, Bohannon said.
Parent-teacher-organizations (PTO) have been formed at each elementary school in the R-6 district. Middle school and junior high have the Bulldog Volunteer Organization (BVO), and high school parents have the Booster Club. "It's not as much fund raising as it is creating opportunities for students," Bohannon said about the organizations.
For example, BVO organizes a fun day to reward students for good behavior; PTO usually conducts activities to connect to student performances; and Booster Club raises funds and promotes school spirit.
There are other ways to be involved. Parents and individuals approved by the district can volunteer their time in various capacities. Parents are also utilized on a citizens advisory committee and sit in on meetings such as those relating to textbook and grant choices, Bohannon said.
Instead of PTO, other schools in the area may have parent-teacher-
associations (PTA) or home school organizations (HSO), which are similar to PTO.
Charleston R-1 uses a state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education program to involve its parents.
Since the 1990s the district's elementary and middle schools have been a part of the Missouri Accelerated Schools Project, a school improvement initiative designed to improve student achievement and parent and community involvement.
Steering committees/advisory groups are also in place at the schools. From these cadres, or core groups, are formed.
"Parents are part of those cadres and meet on things like school climate and academic subjects," Kevin Miller, Charleston R-1 superintendent, said.
At the elementary school are math and communication arts cadres. At middle school, family involvement and academic cadres have been developed. Cadres meet once a month and include teachers, parents, administrators, community members and whoever else wants to be involved, Miller said.
"What they look at is what problems we are facing in those areas," Miller said. "We would look at test scores, achievement scores and the numbers of kids who are failing, the number of kids affected by provisions under reading and all the aspects of communication arts to identify what concerns or problems there are. Then we begin looking for the best practices to address the concerns."
Charleston High School parents can join Parents in Education, or PIE, which is an advisory group with the principal; they meet to discuss concerns and suggestions.
Sometimes it can be more difficult to get parents of older students involved, but school districts need input from parents to help students succeed, Miller assured.
"Sometimes parents will think, 'I don't know much about curriculum,' but they know it from a student's side, and they're a valuable piece of information," Miller said.
Parents can also learn about ways to get involved through newsletters and by word of mouth, Miller said.
The relationship between parents and schools is a critical partnership, Miller said.
"A child has to understand the importance of education from all influential adults in their lives whether it's a parent or teacher. They all have to have high expectations for that student. When students have mixed messages between school and home, that's when they run into problems at school."
Miller continued: "I'm not saying parents and schools need to always agree, but we have to have what's best for that student and critical to their well being."
Any parent wanting to learn more about how to get involved in their child's education should contact the building principal for more information.