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WARNING: This article could have been twice or five or ten times as long. The fact that I listed only five items reflects not my naivety, but my desire to keep this article under 1500 words and my editor happy. Enjoy!

#1: Back to School Night. Nobody wants to say it so I will. No one really enjoys Back to School Night.

Not the parents who feel obligated because of a vague but powerful notion that “good parents” always attend such events, even when they desperately don’t want to.

Not the teachers who do not look forward to coming back to their classrooms after a long day teaching—especially in the late summer after having already sweated it out for hours on end.

Not the administrators who must organize, execute, and satisfy a long list of to-dos in order to satisfy their districts, their parents, and their teachers.

There was certainly a time and a place for Back to School Night in earlier generations. And even today Back to School Night makes a lot of sense for K-6 students who cannot be counted on to pass on information to their parents about classroom policies, teacher preferences, or the school calendar of events.

But for modern middle and high school students, Back to School Night is unnecessary, and yes, terribly awkward, event for everyone involved. Parents rush from classroom to classroom for two hours on campus they are usually unfamiliar with in order to be exposed to the most basic of presentations about a specific class and teacher.

With the advent of e-mail and apps such as Remind or Bloomz, teachers can engage in more direct and meaningful communication with parents. And for the more adventurous teachers, encourage parents who really want the scoop of what happens in class every day to come to school one day and attend themselves. I have been doing this for years and the parents always seem to enjoy it—especially when they don’t tell their son or daughter they are coming to class.

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Jeremy S. Adams is the author of HOLLOWED OUT: A Warning About America's Next Generation (2021) as...

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  1. I liked your article. To get rid of Summer vacation, the schedule has to be uniform across the country. Alaska was a high custody state and I suggested the year round school that was recommended in California, and high custody came up. I was suggesting year round as a bandage to fix up groups of schools, in need of repair. Proper year round would have also had openings in all hunting seasons. Now, Alaskan schools have one textbook for 4 students, and bright-sized the teachers.
    BTW there is one tool teachers will rarely use. (I was considered to have gang-mentality for even mentioning it to teachers.) Students who feel that the school is “theirs” tend to take care of it better. The feeling of ownership makes a difference. I recently saw what happened when a renter bought my dad’s house. As a renter, someone else always takes care of things. As the owner, you are that responsible party. My former neighbor said the new neighbor’s told her it was their first house, and they are not really young. After a year, they are still learning the difference. I have seen feeling of ownership work in schools. It can be cost effective.

  2. What a wonderful article! You are spot on! Probably the biggest point is that our education system is run my individuals who think they know so much about education because they went to school! Glad my auto mechanic doesn’t think he can fix my car because he drives a car! Our education system is broken because the “bean counters” think we should run the education system like a business–we don’t produce widgets we educate human beings! That sadness continues because teachers have no voice in the conversation! The victims are our kids and their teachers/staff. When will we get it?

  3. How about uniform national teacher certification FOR REAL and not the current raggedy thing left up to the states? the same qualifications in every state of the union and DC. That way teachers can go wherever they are needed. There should also, uniform national pay scales for teachers would not go amiss. Another thing…normal schools/teaching schools are too far away physically and professionally from the reality of the school systems they tend to serve. Teaching schools should actually be associated with or operate out of a school system or several systems. For example, a teaching school in New Brunswick, NJ will quarter itself in the local system of Somerset, NJ. out of a school building no longer used for students. Teaching interns will follow the pattern of medical interns. No teacher would be left alone in any classroom for the first 4 years of a career.

    1. I like this…also do something about pensions, national not state. I’ve taught in 3 states, nothing transfers unless you buy years, but that is limited. Or get away from them and pay into SS.

  4. Great post thanks for posting such valuable information with us all. It’s nice to see that someone’s discussing some of the outdated things that are still being used in the education system. Nice work and keep it.

  5. Of the problems facing education, your article focuses on the “low hanging fruit”. Our schools have become self esteem factories and are in need of a complete overhaul regarding their philosophy about who children are and what they need. Largely dominated by those possessing a left leaning political ideology, we specialize more on indoctrination than education. Meanwhile, as the ship continues to slowly sink we busy ourselves with rearranging the deck furniture.

  6. Summer vacation was not created because of farming families. Plants grow in the summer, there is no harvesting in the summer. Children of agrarian families went to school in the summer and they had breaks in the spring for planting and breaks in the fall for harvesting. Summer vacation was created when city doctors told city parents of children who lived in the smog filled cities to send them to the country during the hottest months of the year. Kids were getting sick in the brick buildings in the inner cities that had no way to provide cool, let alone, clean air. So the city cousins went to stay with their country cousins during the summer who were going to school. The country cousins got upset that they had to go to school when the city cousins were visiting playing in the creeks cooling off from a hot summer day! This, summer vacation was created.

  7. Yes to all of this and, the glorification of sports is a bigger problem then we let on. If the money spent on football went back to the classroom that would be huge! Teacher training and class sizes are two more big problems.

  8. Having been a high school teacher, school site administrator and a district level supervisor and now retired. I agree with most of what has been said, but I may not consider all of it to be of significant importance. Back to School Night is public relations for the school with the parents. I agree that with technology a different format could be achieved. However, I have noticed that school sites that each teacher has a website, the information on it is often only posted at the beginning of the year and is very generic. One of the best elements of technology is that parents can access their student’s grades online daily/weekly if the teacher keeps the records on line through the parent portal. Of course, this also means that parents must make the effort to monitor the grades and then follow through with conversations with their student to provide praise or support for improvement. Technology is a tool that is to be used by educators not the educator.

    The reform issue is very true. Many teachers become turned off by all the new reforms because they are never given enough time to make them work. Eventually some teachers just refuse to implement the reforms and continue with how they teach whether it is effective or not.

    Part of the issue in California with the disparity in economics is that schools that have the most challenges are not staffed with enough experienced teachers. Part of the problem is with the unions not allowing staffing to be done to meet the needs of the students rather than accommodate the teacher. Teachers at more challenging schools should be given more support. It would be good to have “master” teachers to supervise teachers in either grade levels at k-6 or subject areas in middle and high schools.

    I know sports in schools are often a sore point with people but sports, drama, student government, clubs are all things that help students connect to school. Unless these activities are picked up in the community, kids will miss out on a lot. In other countries, the communities often provide all the sports activities at all ability levels.

    I also agree that more focus needs to be on how to support the community to improve attendance, extended learning activities, and parenting skills. Teachers cannot be expected to do all of this. This support needs to come from other avenues.

    The one thing that I know is often true, but I also often disagree with it is the single parent issue. I was raised by a single parent and I was a single parent throughout my son’s educational years. My mother’s five children all went to college and all but one have advanced degrees. My son completed college and has a masters. I think it has to do more with parenting skills, the education of the parent and generational poverty that exists in some families.

  9. While I agree with most of your thoughts, however I think that there are areas of concern that need addressing before parent night such as excessive amounts of homework , class sizes, administration that has limited experience in a classroom, lack of creative classes and so much more. If we are to bring education into the 21st century we have to change our current mindset.

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