Education is critical to our children's future and the future of our community. Parents, school staff, human service professionals and private business all need to support our children in order to help them realize their educational goals.
As a parent or guardian, taking an active interest and encouraging your child in school takes time and energy. Recent studies have shown that youth who have parents that are interested and involved in their learning, do better in school. Being aware of your child's classes and teachers, helping with homework, encouraging them to take part in school activities, (i.e., sports clubs, music) all help to reinforce the value you put on their education. You become a partner in your child's education, not just an observer.
The education system can be overwhelming for parents/guardians. Parents may feel uncomfortable or inadequate to question the education of their child. You have the responsibility to see that your child gets a good education. Contact your child's teachers and school administrators if your child is having problems. Also, ask questions, get involved in the PTA or other parent groups, read the school newsletter and notes that come home with your child, take advantage of opportunities to meet your child's teachers at open house or a school event, or chaperon a school activity.
If you are a professional working with school age children, one of the most important roles you can play is to help build a bridge between the parent and the school. Parents often feel intimidated, and may need assistance in negotiating the education system. Help reinforce what youth are learning in school through activities and services you provide. Did you know that football pools are a great way to learn multiplication and percentages? Cooking can teach measurements and conversions. Finding bus routes is a great way to learn map reading and geography, and much more. Be aware of when you schedule appointments with youth and where. Schools may be able to provide you with meeting space free of charge.
As you help a child negotiate the education maze, you come across terms and procedures that you may not understand. The following outlines a few of the more common ones:
Compulsory Education means that children in New York State are required to attend a certified school program from age 6 -16. At age 16, a youth can choose to drop out of school. Attending school at age 5 is optional, but a public school cannot refuse to admit a youth as long as the youth comes with the proper immunization records, identification, proof of residency, and turns 5 before the cut-off date, (December 1st). Youth can stay in school until they are 21 if they are residents of the school district and have not received a high school diploma. Keep in mind that some schools have adopted a policy of not allowing kids to drop out of school until age 17.
G.E.D. stands for a General Equivalency Diploma. This is granted to a person who has passed a written exam. The person must be at least 16 and meet one of the other eligibility criteria prior to taking this exam.
Regents Diploma is awarded once a youth has completed a specific number of courses/credit hours and has passed all regent exams with a 65 or better.
Local Diploma is awarded to youth who have completed the basic courses and passed all of the State competency exams.
Committee on Special Education (CSE) ensures that youth identified as disabled and in need of a special education program and/or related services receive free and appropriate public education. The CSE process also applies to youth residing in a residential facility. The intent of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 and Chapter 853 of the New York Law of 1976 is to ensure the rights of children, and by establishing a process to assess the needs of youth referred to the CSE and to safeguard the rights of children to receive appropriate services in the least restrictive environment.
Suspension is the term used when a youth is prohibited from attending school due to his/her violation of the school rules. Suspension by a principal is short term (no more than 5 days). A student may not be suspended for more than 5 days without a superintendent's hearing. If the student is under 16, the school must provide an alternative educational service to the student while s/he is suspended.
Sometimes things happen in a child's life that impact upon his/her ability to stay in school. There are many services available in the area to help a youth finish his/her education. Talk with your child's guidance counselor or teacher or call the places listed below for more information.
If you are unsure of your child's educational rights or feel s/he has been unfairly discriminated against by their school, call Legal Assistance of the Finger Lakes, (315)781-1465.