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Why Todays Students Need Our Support

 

by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D.

 

For the next two minutes or so reading time I intend to shock you with information, increase your anxiety about the future of our society, and tell you what you can do about it. The focus is our often criticized K-12 education system, which some describe as a boat run aground, and others say has been torpedoed. Instead, it may help to examine the passengers.

  

As of fall 2014, about 50 million students attend public elementary and secondary schools - one out of every six Americans. An additional 5 million students attend private schools.[1],[2]

 The kids who go to these schools have very different lives than you and I did at that age.  

There are three main areas of change - rising numbers of single parent homes, rising number of neurological birth defects, and rising number of students who speak English as a second language.

  

In 1970, one in ten children born in the United States was born to an unmarried woman. By 2013 that number had risen to four out of ten.[3]  Add to that the children living with one parent as a result of divorce. The total of these two groups results in 20 million children being raised in single parent households out of the total of 55 million students.[4] The student's need for support increases.

  

Now add to this picture the fact the number of students whose primary language is not English. The percentage doubled between 1991 and 2001, and has continued to climb.[5]  Today, the national average is one in 11 students is speaking English as a second language, with some school districts having far more.[6],[7]In Cabarrus County, North Carolina, near where I live, there are currently 81 different languages represented, with Spanish the largest language group.[8] The student's need for support increases.

 

 Now pile on the increase in the number of "special education" students, which now sits at around one in ten members of the student body. Broadly stated, there are two kinds of special education students - those with visible birth defects and the ones you don't see, like autism and/or learning disabilities.

  

The invisible ones appear to be rising faster. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) autism has gone up 30% between 2012 and 2014.[9] One interesting fact is that by far most of the students requiring special help are boys. Environmentally caused birth defects seem to hit boys harder than girls.[10]

  

Again, the student's need for support increases.

  

To summarize: Today's classrooms have more children living in single parent homes, more who are being educated in a language different than their parents, and more who are defined as needing Special Education assistance. It adds up to a real challenge.  

  

Now think about the fact that North Carolina ranks 48th out of the states in per pupil funding, and since 2009 has eliminated 3,470 positions from the school systems statewide.[11]

  

educationteacherThere is a role for you in this.   You can do everything from delivering a guest lecture to being a supervisor of an extracurricular club or working as a classroom volunteer. Volunteers are particularly needed with skills in foreign language, science and math.

 

You can reach out to the Rowan schools at their website http://www.rss.k12.nc.us/volunteer

  

To volunteer with the Kannapolis city schools, you reach out to the individual school principal.

 

To volunteer with the Cabarrus County school system, go to http://www.cabarrus.k12.nc.us/Page/3767 and follow the directions found there, or call 704-262-6229

  

You can sign up for a regular daily or weekly assignment, or just special events, so that your volunteer work can fit into your other responsibilities.   

  

Be advised that due to the rare but well publicized issues which have occurred nationally when adults took advantage of children, there is a process of background checks you have to go through before you are given your assignment.

  

Every school system I talked to did make an important point - many volunteers make commitments and then do not honor them.

  

Walk your talk.

  

We can moan about how our society is falling apart and do nothing. Or as responsible adults have done since the beginning of time, we can step up.  

  

The one thing we should not do is blame the kids - they did not make this situation. If they are floundering, it is up to us to throw the life ring to them.

 


[1]http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372

[2] http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_105.20.asp

[3]Data from the National Vital Statistics System and the National Survey of Family Growth, Number 162, August 2014

[4] https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/the-number-of-children-living-in-single-parent-homes-has-nearly-doubled-in

[5] http://www.nea.org/home/13598.html

[6] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2014). The Condition of Education 2014 (NCES 2014-083), English Language Learners.

[7] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2014). The Condition of Education 2014 (NCES 2014-083), English Language Learners.

[8]Office of The Superintendent, Cabarrus County Schools, phone call.

[9]"Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder among Children Aged 8 Years- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2010.

[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11745830

[11] http://www.kannapolis.k12.nc.us/cms/One.aspx?portalId=1025449&pageId=6850082

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