When you hear the term “manifesto” what comes to your mind? I looked up the term on dictionary.com and was provided with the following definition, “a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization. Origin: 1640–50; Italian.” Ok, well maybe this is not a manifesto in its purest form, but I am going to run with it for my blog.
Today, I had the privilege to meet with Senator McCaskill’s education staffer. I presented him with a six page proposal regarding pertinent issues in education. He was quite receptive to the proposal, impressed with the organization of my document and appreciative that he did not have to take notes during our conversation. He took the time to discuss and address each issue I presented within my proposal. I even offered to testify and/or speak before members of our legislation to provide a “Mom’s perspective,” of education. We will see if that ever comes to fruition. (Fingers crossed).
Many thanks to Missouri PTA, teachers, fellow parents and Mom Congress friends for sharing ideas and concerns regarding education issues; you all provided inspiration for this proposal. The following is my Educational Manifesto to Senator McCaskill. FYI: I also heard from Senator Blunt’s office. They would like for me to visit the senator’s office on Capitol Hill when I’m in DC later this month. **SWEET**
Again, I will apologize, this is a long one. Thanks for reading!
Remember, United, we are ONE VOICE FOR OUR CHILDREN!
Dear Senator McCaskill:
I would like to thank both you and your staff for the opportunity to discuss matters pertinent to education. We live in the Pattonville School District, which encompasses the municipalities of Maryland Heights, St. Ann, Bridgeton and a portion of unincorporated St. Louis County.
I understand that this is a lengthy submission and your time is precious given all you do to support our state. I would be happy to travel to Washington, DC or Jefferson City to speak before members of our legislation regarding the issues I will respectfully present to you via this document. I am passionate about my education and believe that every student must be given the opportunity to succeed through their education.
I am honored and humbled to be selected by Parenting Magazine as the Mom Delegate for the State of Missouri. I will be in Washington, DC April 28 through May 1 for this conference on Education and Learning. The theme of this year’s conference is “Teach Me Something New,” which will focus on the crucial relationship between parents and teachers. This is something I am quite passionate about.
I am a mom of two incredible children. My son, Jarred, is 11 years old, in 5th grade and will be heading to middle school in the fall. He is in the ALPHA program for gifted and talented students; loves to read (he reads on a 12th grade reading level) and has aspirations of becoming a Marine Biologist. My daughter, Rachel, is 9 years old and is in the 3rd grade. She was tested for the gifted program, however, she missed the admission requirements by 1% (she scored in the 95% percentile, she needed to score in the 96% percentile). Due to limited funds for gifted education, she has to be retested and we are hoping that she will be admitted into the program later this year. She reads on a 6th grade reading level, it goes without saying that she also loves to read. She hopes to be an Olympic swimmer and famous artist.
First and foremost, I am mom. I am an active volunteer in their school. I serve on the PTA Executive Board. I completed my 2-year term as PTA President; currently, I am the Head Room Parent Coordinator, overseeing 40+ volunteer parents. I volunteer once a week in both of my children’s classrooms, leading reading groups, assisting students that may have struggled with homework, and completing tasks as needed for the teachers. In the aftermath of the Good Friday Tornado in 2011, I opened a donation center 48 hours after the devastating storm to provide for families that suffered tremendous loss. Additionally, our principal knows that he can call me at any time for assistance. As a school district volunteer, I serve on the Parent Advisory Council, which is hosted by our superintendent and am working with fellow parents and district administrators in the formation of a parent-led Legislation Advocacy sub-committee. Lastly, I am a parent member of the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan. In short, participating in my children’s education is of the utmost importance to me and appreciated by my children. Both my husband and I are active in their education and believe that parent involvement is essential to our children’s success.
In addition to my multifaceted role as mom, I am an Adjunct Professor in Public Policy Administration. I earned my Masters in Public Administration from Saint Louis University (Go Billikens) and recognize that I would not be where I am today without my education and my parents’ support. My husband and I are not millionaires, we are of middle class means, and we cannot lavish our children with the world’s amenities. What we can give them is unconditional love, support and a solid education.
This is where I turn to you for your assistance. I am asking for your support on a number of bills that are before the House and Senate which are related to Education. Additionally, I implore you to please, in the wake of the 10 year anniversary of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), re-evaluate this legislation and examine the negative impact it has upon educators.
Due to the school of choice option mandated by NCLB, our school was mandated to admit 96 students into our school; eight times more than the typical number of new students. NCLB boasts the establishment of smaller class sizes, however, while class sizes decreased in the failing schools; our classes grew by four to five students per class, topping up to 25 students per class, five to 10 more students as compared to years past. Classrooms and teachers were added to a school already pressed for space. NCLB does not take into account the socioeconomic make up of the child and does not afford teachers the latitude to do what they are educated and trained to do, that being TEACH. Our students will be trained to take tests versus being trained to be productive, well-rounded and educated citizens. I ask that you please work with other legislators to look at the bigger picture, and see that education is more than just a test, but teachers need the freedom to ignite the spark that drives a student to succeed.
The Family Engagement in Education Act (H.R.1821/S.941) incentivizes schools and districts to meaningfully engage families to close the achievement gap. This bill was introduced on May 10, 2011 in the House of Representatives by Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), and in the Senate by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE). Research demonstrates that family engagement in a child’s education increases student achievement, improves attendance, and reduces the dropout rate. In my discussions with Missouri PTA, the overall goal is to pass this act now so when reauthorization of NCLB gets underway high impact effective family engagement will be part of the final vote. Missouri PTA is looking at developing very specific family engagement ideals including high impact models used by schools. These would be things such as home visits, positive home calls from the teacher, specific strategies given to parents to help their child at home, etc. Many parents feel outside of the education process. Studies show that family involvement raises student achievement. The passing of this bill will afford teachers, administrators and school districts the means to reach out and make parents part of the education process resulting in what is a common goal, the success of the student.
The TALENT Act (S.857 and H.R. 1674). This piece of legislation is near and dear to my heart being a parent of children that are accelerated learners. This act is designed to aid gifted and high-ability learners by empowering teachers with training, resources and support to reach every child that demonstrates higher learning capabilities that may or may not be afforded the opportunity of a gifted learning program. Our teachers are stretched to the limit in what they are tasked to do on a daily basis. Teachers must reach every student, however, most often, high-ability learners are left unchallenged and parents may not have the means or knowledge to engage their student. Often times, gift students, when left unchallenged, become disenchanted with their learning environments. I am fortunate that my children’s teachers recognize their abilities and make every effort possible to challenge my children within their classrooms. In addition to classroom learning, my children are exposed to museums, sports (swim team), theater, music (violin and piano), in an effort to continue to support their educational capabilities. As a parent of high-ability learners, one served by a gifted program and one that is not; the passage of the TALENT Act will serve a population of students that are often forgotten due to their high intelligence.
Early Childhood education unfortunately tends to get lost in the shuffle. Studies have shown that early childhood education, such as Parents as Teachers (which originated in Missouri) and First Steps, supports life-long learning and engages parents in the learning process during their child’s early years. Early Childhood education has lost substantial funding. I ask that you please work with fellow legislators in the support for increased funding for when early childhood programs are utilized, these programs have proven to provide significant preparation of children and their parents for school.
Finally, under the Transportation Act enacted by the Reagan Administration, the Safe Routes to School Grant Program received dedicated funding for communities to improve routes to schools. This line item was eliminated by the House in their mark up of the Transportation Bill. The goal of the House was to consolidate the grant program with others under the Clean Air act. This would put the program in direct competition for funds with other programs such as buses, carpool lanes, light rail etc. It is my understanding that an amendment was added to the Senate version of the Transportation Act that would provide the Safe Routes to School Grant Program, along with recreational and bike paths its own dedicated line item of funding. I ask that you and your fellow senators please support the Senate version, dedicating a line item for the funding of this grant program.
I wish I could say this outlines my positions and passion for education in a nutshell, however, I realize that I have spanned several pages with requests for your support. I am grateful for your time and consideration regarding the matters that I presented to you. Again, I am willing to testify/speak before state and federal legislators, presenting a mom’s perspective, regarding these issues designed to improve education for all children.
Please feel free to contact me at any time with any questions, comments or ability to speak on this matter further.
Angela Vos McCormick, MPA
MOM & Missouri Delegate – 2012 Mom Congress (Parenting Magazine)