EDITORIAL: Value education, ask about school, and lend an ear

Students at Vale Elementary School chat with friends during recess. (The Enterprise/ Carolyn Agrimis)

Parents across Malheur County sent children back to school this week, and some may think education starts at the schoolhouse door. As a community, we do have high expectations of our school system. We also should have high expectations of parents.

The beginning of a new school year is a time of optimism. Students have advanced a grade, and share the thrill of a new room and likely a new teacher. Teachers spent part of their summer sharpening their skills and planning for the year ahead. And school administrators have adjusted staffing and programs, mindful that they will be judged on how their schools stack up with others across the state.

Across the county, efforts will be aimed at reducing dropout rates, cutting absenteeism and boosting high school graduation rates. But teachers, administrators and coaches can’t do it alone, nor should they.

Study after study shows parents and relatives are vital to helping students get the most out of school. We asked local school administrators about that. They agree. They want, and they need, the help of parents.

Here’s what Nicole Albisu, Ontario School District superintendent offered: The single thing that parents can do to stay involved is to ask their kids about their school day. Encouraging them to talk about his or her day is essential to developing an active and positive relationship. Simple questions like… How was your day? What did you learn in Math? Who did you play with at recess? What did you eat for lunch? Do you have homework? Engaging them in a conversation about school shows that you value it, and they should too. 

And from Chelle Robins, superintendent of Four Rivers Community School: Consistent evening routines and bedtimes. Of course there are many important components to children succeeding in school, but kids are only able to engage in learning when they are alert and ready for the day. The best tip I can give is for parents to require cell phones to be docked in a central location, not in children’s rooms. Social media and notification alerts keep kids/teens up and on their phones; thus kids may get less sleep and will be less prepared for the school day. 

Alisha McBride, Vale School District superintendent, advised: I believe that one of the most important steps is to encourage good attendance. Students cannot learn if they are not in school. In a four-day school week model, missing just one day of school in a week equates to missing 25 percent of the content that was taught that week. Good attendance is critical to academic success in all grade levels.

Education experts have tons of other advice for parents. Making clear that learning is a priority is one. Being a role model around home, such as reading. Getting to parent-teacher conferences.

For parents, every one of these steps is doable. They don’t require money. They don’t require technology. They don’t require any special training.

They do require time, and nothing a parent or relative can give a child is more valuable, especially when it boosts chance of academic – and life – success. – LZ