In an age-old ritual, another school year starts this week in Tupelo, Lee County and across the region

By NEMS Daily Journal

In an age-old ritual, another school year starts this week in Tupelo, Lee County and across the region. Northeast Mississippi has long had a special relationship with its public schools. They are at the heart of our communities and are where all but a very small portion of the region’s children are educated. Most enjoy widespread support in their communities.
They have done comparatively well in educating children through the years, but the challenges and demands on them are greater now than ever. The world has changed, and what was good enough before is no longer sufficient. The standard has to be higher; we have no choice if our students and communities are to keep pace. Students must learn more and stay in school longer if they’re to have a chance to become productive, tax-paying citizens.
“Accountability” has been the buzz word in education policy circles in recent years, and there’s good reason for it. The focus of accountability has appropriately been on teachers and administrators.
But there are others who share in the accountability equation. No laws or state standards speak to parental or community accountability in education, but those are central to educational success.
Schools in which parents are actively engaged and informed do better than those where they aren’t. Homes in which parents emphasize the importance of education and hold their own children accountable will generally produce better students. Communities with both high expectations and high levels of support, financial and otherwise, for their schools will have a much better chance of seeing both their schools and their communities prosper.
Great teachers and administrators find ways to reach and teach children even when these conditions don’t exist, but it’s much harder.
We need to remember this as we go about the business of demanding that our teachers, administrators and school boards produce better results. The rest of us have a critical role to play in seeing that it happens.
Parents and grandparents should regularly ask themselves: Are we doing enough to instill the importance of education in our own children? Are we ensuring that they take school seriously, that they respect their teachers and fellow students, that they behave themselves and otherwise do what’s expected?
Communities should regularly ask themselves: Are we insisting on high standards in our schools? Are we providing the financial resources for the schools to meet those standards? Are individual citizens, businesses and community organizations donating their own time, effort and involvement to strengthen and support the schools?
Only when the predominant answers to these questions are yes will our schools be where they need to be.

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