7 thoughts on “Amanda Ripley and the ‘Smartest Kids in the World’ Visit the Tobin

  1. This is a weird and misleading pull quote. Volunteering and creating active PTA’s are not about YOUR child. They are about all the children in the school and the school itself. So setting up this silly this or that scenario is false. Read to your children, talk to your children, volunteer, and build your PTA.

  2. “Probably the most enlightening claim, at least the one that drew the biggest sigh of relief, was that the children whose parents are the most active in the PTA and volunteering at the school are not better off academically. The children who are better off are those whose parents read to them (and for their own pleasure!) while they are young and talk to them as they get older.”

    Indeed, I am often grumpy when my hours volunteering take me away from my kids. But this doesn’t give parents a free pass.
    Take robotics. A few parents donate a ridiculous number of hours to fundraising for the supplies, developing the curriculum, and committing to coaching the students while working crazy schedules to make up for the time they take from their regular 40-hour per week jobs. Due to limited funds and *volunteer* staff, the program was limited to less than 20 kids last year though there were more than 100 applicants. This year those volunteer parents have worked hard to adapt it to allow for more kids, and 120 applied (in a school of just over 500, kids are chosen by lottery). [The program was initiated a few years before that by another parent, with a small group of kids]

    Take Art. For years parent volunteers who wrote grants and raised money made an art program possible at the school. Now, after at least 10 years of paying for an outside program, the district is supplying a full time art teacher.

    Take advanced English curriculum materials. For years, parents raised funds to pay for these materials. Now, after a number of years, the district is paying for them.

    Take Regional Science Fair. For years, the school never sent any kid. Bring in one dedicated teacher and a group of parents who said “Don’t worry about registration costs. Get the kids doing their projects and we will make sure the costs are covered.” And you have a group of kids who thought they could never be scientists compete – and win – against some of the top private schools in the city.

    These pet projects “forced” on the school have meant that a group of kids who otherwise would have no exposure to engineering or art now have whole new worlds open to them. And fortunately, the school’s current administration is both open and supportive to this type of help.

    While it’s true that an individual kid does better with parents who are more involved in their daily lives, until our schools receive more funding to pay for a broader spectrum of academic options, many kids in our inner city school – the kids whose parents definitely would not have been able to attend yesterday’s luncheon because they’re working multiple part time jobs – rely on the rest of us who can put in those hours of volunteering and fundraising to provide academic opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.

    I’d love to stop volunteering and just do stuff with only my kids. I’d love to not spend 10-15 hours a week fundraising to provide materials for a school gardening program to enhance the environmental science program, or media club, or Spanish grammar texts for teachers, or teacher training programs, or a playground, or iPads or any materials the teachers ask for to enhance their ability to teach. But my kids aren’t the only ones who matter. They may be sitting next to the next Einstein, whose parents may have a 3rd grade education and work 3 jobs between them.

    I can’t fix the poverty their school mates live in. I can offer them opportunities they would not have otherwise.

  3. Wow – I never considered joining the PTA so that my kid would achieve academically. I joined the PTA to help ALL of the kids at the school and serve teachers. Silly me – volunteering and giving others a chance to imply my intentions were selfish. I am going to spend more time at home reading, because that makes the whole community better.

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