Who's Minding the Children?
Text and Photos by Lonnie Harp
What a mess.
Across the nation, school officials in wealthy towns find themselves pitted against their poorer neighbors in pursuit of precious tax dollars. Ohioans, for example, joined the fiscal fray this summer when a judge ruled that the state's system of funding public schools is grossly unfair.
From Connecticut to California, new tests and curricula meant to improve student learning are polarizing educators and baffling parents. The result is a bitter public debate in which political conservatives paint leading school-reform experts as sinister social engineers.
In Baltimore, Minneapolis, and other cities, teachers and school board members are putting a new spin on the old argument over how schools should be governed. Their fights over whether schools should be turned over to private managers are creating stark divisions.
After the chorus of the 1980's--when educators, politicians, and academics agreed that schools had to get better--the work of bringing about that improvement is proving anything but harmonious.
The parade of special-interest groups, each armed with its own solution, is dizzying.
From teachers' unions to administrators' associations, from abstinence supporters wanting to reign in teenagers' sex drives to the high-technology activists pushing for expanded disk drives, today's education-reform "community'' looks and sounds like a raucous flea market.
You can't help but wish for a group that could rise above the partisan bickering. A group that would have the best interests of children at heart. A group in which parents and teachers would approach the tangled issues with a strong understanding of the workings and challenges of local schools and local families.
Something like a parent-teacher association.
That's just what Jimmy Story was thinking when his son started school in this Mississippi River delta town of 6,000, four years ago. At Nunnelly and Whitten elementary schools here, he found that a single PTA with just 53 official members served both schools. Once Story became number 54, he quickly recognized that something was wrong--the group was too small and too quiet.
Since then, the chapter has grown to more than 350 members that this year split into two groups. It has worked hard to better link parents with their children's schools and has sponsored the city's first health fair, which was a roaring success. The National PTA calls it one of the best local chapters in the nation.
Its success is due mostly to the cajoling and homespun marketing of Marianna's jailer and deputy court clerk.
"He's Mr. PTA,'' a visitor to the local police station says of Story.
"It's my priority,'' explains the gregarious 34-year-old father of two. "And, through this, what I do for my children in the long run helps all the children.''
Such enlightened self-interest should be the trump card of the National PTA, which thinks so highly of its feisty Marianna chapter. With 6.7 million members, the PTA is by far the nation's largest education association, dwarfing, for example, the combined membership of the two national teachers' unions.
In reality, though, in the midst of an education-policy debate badly in need of a reasonable voice and credible mediator, the group is largely silent. State policymakers across the country confide that the PTA has nowhere near the clout of teachers' unions, school boards associations, and other education groups in influencing school funding, curriculum, and governance decisions. Washington insiders tend to agree.
Among its most recent national efforts, the PTA has espoused bicycle-safety awareness and produced videotapes on social tolerance and communicating with teenagers. Indeed, as it sets its agenda for a new century, the group is calling for the same thing it did 100 years ago--parents who will take an interest in their children's education.
The PTA was founded in 1897 under a banner reading "All Children Are Our Children.''
A pioneering force in campaigning for family values, the group was organized by Alice McLellan Birney, a Georgia native who lived with her three daughters in Washington and had grown distressed by the circumstances facing many of the city's children.
"How can the mothers be educated and the nation be made to recognize the supreme importance of the child?'' Birney wrote.
She won the interest of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, a philanthropist and California socialite, also living in Washington at the time.
Hearst, a former Missouri schoolteacher, was best known as the wife of California mining tycoon George Hearst and, later, the mother of publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst. After moving to San Francisco, however, she founded several kindergarten programs and did the same when she moved to Washington after her husband was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
At the first meeting of the National Congress of Mothers, the spread of public kindergartens became one of the group's chief goals. The association's work was characterized by the diligence and directness of its founders.
"She went into the back alleys and the narrow streets herself,'' a biographer wrote of Hearst in 1928. "She talked with working mothers who didn't know what to do with their children while they were at work, and she talked with them herself,'' her biographer wrote. "She made herself acquainted with kindergarten teachers from other cities, invited them to visit her, and asked their advice and learned from their experience.''
The new group's roots in motherhood gave it instant credibility, its organizers realized, and added urgency to its goals. Their view of children as souls fresh with imagination and possibility--rather than as mere workers-in-training or future citizens--would give resonance to the fist-pounding the group of restless mothers had in mind.
In an early mission statement, the group made its case: "The wisdom of experienced and intelligent motherhood, applied to all that pertains to childhood, whether in home, school, institution, reformatory, or factory, can do more to raise the social and civic conditions of our country than any other one thing.''
The national congress expressed its mission as being "to rouse the whole country to a sense of its duty and responsibility to childhood.''
Early in its history, parenthood training, policies encouraging and strengthening marriages, and the establishment of kindergartens, a national health bureau, and juvenile courts became the organization's chief crusades. State affiliates sprang up across the country and local parent-teacher circles were formed.
In the early 1900's, a local group in Irondale, Mo., sponsored a box-supper fund-raiser to pay for new paint and lighting in its school; in East Gloucester, Mass., parents and teachers held a seminar on first aid and installed emergency medical-supply cabinets in the school; in Washoe, Idaho, the local group organized a sewing class for girls.
Other chapters advocated better roads for children traveling to school, crusaded for fireless cookers to make lunchrooms safer, and in one Missouri town, helped the girls' culture club raise mushrooms.
Such activities were seen not only as providing short-term assistance to schools, but also a springboard toward long-range work in shaping the direction of education.
Observers said in 1912 that the work of the circles helped relieve "overburdened'' schools while giving parents a forum for cooperative involvement.
"In the sympathetic atmosphere of the parent-teacher circles, the parents learn that they and their children cannot live for themselves alone, if they wish to live the best way,'' the U.S. Commissioner of Education wrote in a 1912 report. "The mother who is not yet beyond the stage of fighting for her children, whether right or wrong, learns as she listens to the discussion that her child cannot have his rights unless he is willing to allow equal rights to others.''
"On the other hand,'' the report continued, "the teacher, sometimes dwelling too much on system and curriculum, finds her sympathies refreshed in coming into contact with the home relations of the children. Even untrained mothers can give common-sense advice, and the contact of such a mother with the trained mind of the teacher is of incalculable value to the home.''
In 1924, the group changed its name to the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and made its local associations the focus of the organization.
In an early guide to building a local chapter, the PTA argued that leaders should not expect too much at first. Discussions of childrens' sleep habits were suggested, as were seminars on the proper care of childrens' eyes, ears, and teeth.
"Talks on such subjects foster the feeling of intimate relation between home and schools and serve to create a comradeship between the two that may lead to radical reforms whose proposal, in the beginning, might arouse antagonism,'' the guide noted.
National organizers suggested a regular series of monthly meetings that would begin informally in the afternoons with mothers--and the groups' familiar tea and cookies--and soon grow into evening forums for both mothers and fathers and other members of the community. A sample topic for a first meeting was nutrition, the second might focus on home conditions, the third on the duty of the home. By the fourth meeting, the group would be ready to tackle community expectations of the schools. (See box, Page 32.).
Some top educators sensed that they were on the verge of a new chapter in the history of the nation's schools. The climate for improved schools would be led by the consensus of the rising PTA's.
"Schools are better off without factional politics, fanatics, and faddists,'' William M. Slaton, the superintendent in Atlanta from 1907-15, said in the Education Commissioner's 1912 report. "We cannot expect the highest good in municipal or state government until public opinion demands it, and public opinion must be created, and the parent-teacher organization is the power to form the right kind of public opinion.''
Added William H. Elson, Cleveland's superintendent from 1907-11, in the same report: "A battle against the ignorance, conceit, and inertia of parents in home, school, church, and state, and its victory, will mean a new environment, a new development, a larger life for every child.''
As the staff of the National PTA--today a $7 million-a-year operation based in Chicago--plans its centennial, many state policy officials and education observers can only marvel at how the group has become such a mainstay in American life without wielding more influence.
The plight of working parents with little time to devote to their children remains a constant source of frustration for teachers in still-overburdened schools. Rather than becoming the home of public sympathy and goodwill, the nation's public schools have become the target of ridicule and criticism. And, for the past decade, a high-level school-reform debate has sought to rethink the direction of public schools. Governors, legislators, educators, professors, philanthropists, business leaders, and U.S. Presidents have left their mark on the discussion. The PTA, meanwhile, could be termed missing in action.
"There is no local base of support or understanding for school reforms,'' says Michael D. Usdan, the president of the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington. "We have to pay more attention to the local level because parents have the feeling that school reform is a faraway train being driven by the academic and business elite.''
For its part, the National PTA is reconsidering its own efforts. At a board meeting earlier this month, the group studied a marketing plan intended to narrow its focus.
"We have taken a scattershot approach where, if it was about children, we got involved,'' says Kathryn Whitfill, a mother and grandmother from Pasadena, Tex., who is the PTA's national president. "We've diminished our effectiveness.''
Yet, it is a bigger image problem that often keeps the PTA from the table in policy discussions, Whitfill contends.
"In some states, the PTA is being shut out of the policy discussion by the people who do the inviting,'' Whitfill says. "A lot of people are glad to think of us as the cookie-baking, tennis-shoe-wearing little old biddies that intervene and raise money for schools.''
Indeed, as the PTA has grown from its origins at the first national mothers' congress, its focus has become more and more local. In its own literature, the National PTA refers to its national and state operations as serving largely to provide information and resources to local chapters. Meanwhile, in local communities, the PTA's have worked primarily within the boundaries of individual schools. The groups routinely are pressed into service to address the facility needs of buildings and classrooms--working years in many cases to help buy air-conditioners and, more recently, computers.
The PTA, which trumpeted its recent efforts to have parent involvement included as one of the national education goals, is still striving to acquaint parents with schools. For the local volunteers who spearhead such work, much of the attention at national headquarters is devoted to reinforcing and rewarding local leaders. The group's national conference, held last June in Las Vegas, serves more as a reward for local overachievers and volunteers than as a congress for fervent parents.
Whitfill points out that the meetings include a wide range of informational and organizational sessions, but says the group also tries to combat the burnout of its volunteers. Its emphasis on involvement is, in part, a realization that more people need to be volunteering.
Coaxing greater participation includes both encouraging parents and changing the atmosphere of many schools that "often send the wrong message to parents that they are not wanted,'' Whitfill says. "We need to let people know how they can help. The single parent holding down two jobs needs to find one thing he can do for his child at school and stick with it, so that the child feels like the parent cares.''
There are, however, many who would like to see parents do more than volunteer a few hours in school.
"The issues addressed by the PTA have nothing to do with the academic performance of children,'' argues Kay Wall, herself an active PTA member in Greenwich, Conn., who has launched a separate organization to address her school-reform concerns. "They are more concerned about funding for the playground and computers and the social aspects of children.''
"The organization has very little to do with whether Johnny is reading as well as he should be or as well as he did 10 years ago,'' she says.
Wall's idea of meaningful parent involvement goes much further than the PTA's. In one of its organizational guides, the National PTA advises its local leaders to inform parents who complain about a lack of time that "some PTA's have found that members are willing to volunteer 'one time' during the year, which seems more manageable than feeling pressured to attend all meetings and events.''
"Keep in mind,'' the guide continues, "that even when people cannot donate their time, their dues make it possible to have more programs and services for the children and youth in your school and community.''
In addition to paying dues and spotty volunteering, parent involvement could include parents reading to their children at home, knowing the names of their children's teachers, visiting classrooms, or signing up to be part of a telephone tree to notify fellow parents of upcoming meetings. Rarely does the group call for a more substantive discussion of the issues swirling around schools and children.
"They don't really want parents involved in the way I want to be involved, which is knowing the details of the curriculum, knowing what is being tested, and questioning the new standards,'' Wall says.
Many school-reform crusaders are eager to see involved parents like Wall turn their attention to policy matters--to sit down as parents of all children to help resolve school-finance battles in Ohio, Texas, New Jersey, and other states; add the parents' perspective to conflicts over open-ended tests; or finally get around to the discussion promised so long ago about what results parents should expect from schools.
A national reform effort may be doomed without such broad-based parent involvement.
"We will make very little progress if parents come to the conclusion that our reform efforts have little if anything to do with their immediate concerns,'' U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley said in a speech this summer. To underscore his point, Mr. Riley convened parent groups in Washington last month to urge a more concerted effort to enlist parent participation.
"We definitely need for someone to play the honest broker, but they have not been at the table at the level they need to be,'' Christopher T. Cross, the president of the Council for Basic Education, a Washington group advocating a strong liberal-arts curriculum in the nation's schools, says of the PTA. Like many observers, Cross sees the unique niche the organization occupies in American life, but has no sense that the group is preparing to take advantage of that.
"There is that potential,'' Cross says. "But they have to cast themselves in a way that is different than the way they have been cast, which is just as boosters.''
Whitfill argues, however, that the PTA may never be able to unify parents on highly charged school issues.
"We have a big difference of opinion within our organization, which represents every social strata and every color of the rainbow,'' she says. "It would be great if we could look at things like school-finance equity from an unbiased perspective, but we can't.''
In many places, organizations backed by or composed of parents--ranging from Wall's Connecticut group to the Mississippi-born Parents for Public Schools--are springing up to do the things the PTA is not doing. The hint they offer of the power of parent activism is inspiring or frightening, depending on your perspective.
Georgianne Ginder, a former PTA member and teacher, believes there is no shortage of parents willing to tackle thorny education issues. The mailing list for her year-old grassroots organization, Taxpayers for Excellent Academics in Minnesota, now stands at about 400 names. Ginder, who calls herself a pushy mother, recently led a campaign to remove a three-year-old outcomes-based curriculum from her school district. She's now tackling issues ranging from textbooks to multi-age grouping to bus routing.
"Many parents are interested in the schools for more than becoming a room mother or hosting a party,'' she says. "But the nuts and bolts of day-to-day school and child issues are not addressed by parent-teacher groups.''
The docile reputation of the PTA, she says, has led many educators and political analysts alike to conclude that activist parent groups entering the policy debate are working as opponents of public schools.
"My dream is to put together an organization that will legitimize a dialogue on some of these really major issues,'' she says. "People tend to want to keep parents at arm's length, but hearing what parents want and trying to understand that is the only way to solve this.''
Indeed, much of the backlash against states' outcomes-based reforms has been led by small groups of angry parents capitalizing on their standing as nothing more than the mothers or fathers of children. Such battles have put several state PTA chapters in an awkward spot, as individual parents have challenged reform plans the state groups have endorsed.
State school-reform leaders have thus often found themselves with few defenders at the grassroots.
"It is important to stir up more parent voices--to counter the notion that folks coming from the right who would like to censor books and control the curriculum and school board speak generically for parents,'' says Deanna Duby, the director of education policy for the liberal civil-liberties group People for the American Way. "In most communities, I have not seen the PTA get involved at all.''
In Alabama, Stephanie Bell, a PTA member, has made numerous local appearances arguing against Gov. Jim Folsom's school-reform plan, which has won the backing of the state's business leaders and its major education associations, including the Alabama PTA.
Yet, when Bell appeared at local forums at the civic center in Bayou LaBatre or at the Huntsville Marriott or at Cullman High School earlier this year to criticize the reform bill, no parents--and no PTA representatives--stood to defend the bill. The reforms that would set new standards for Alabama students and call for sweeping changes in classroom teaching and testing in an effort to boost student achievement found few parent defenders.
The backlash from the citizens' group Bell leads, known as score 100, has helped stall the school-reform bill.
"Obviously,'' she says of the state PTA, "their troops were not in motion.''
"I went to every town in the beginning fully expecting to be challenged, but that response never came,'' says Bell, who counts parents and teachers as among the biggest supporters of score100. Critics contend that many of the group's supporters are unfamiliar with the aims of the proposed reforms.
"Most people in this state were confused and puzzled,'' says Cathy Gassenheimer, the managing director of A-Plus, a citizens' coalition that is the chief supporter of the Governor's reform plan. Despite the endorsement by the PTA and other education groups, A-Plus has decided it must back up and explain the basics of school programs and reform ideas to Alabama citizens, and parents in particular.
"A lot of parents have been supportive to the extent that they understand what we are talking about,'' Gassenheimer says. "But we are committed to spending the next 10 to 12 months explaining to people what better schools look like.''
Gassenheimer says she expects the PTA to be helpful in rounding up parents to discuss the reforms further. The task of A-Plus, she says, will be refocusing parents who have worked at the chores of their local schools without thinking much about their performance.
"The local PTA chapters work so hard just to provide money for the schools to operate because our funding needs are so great,'' Gassenheimer says. "You can't blame them for going directly where they can affect children.''
Being able to respond to the issues and concerns that connect individual campuses--subjects like testing and teacher training and curriculum that are at the heart of policy discussions--are the blind spot of the PTA, some observers contend.
"The PTA's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness--that parents look out for their own school,'' says Dick Molpus, the Mississippi secretary of state who five years ago helped found Parents for Public Schools to address "white flight'' and other issues in the 56 Jackson, Miss., public schools. Today, the group now boasts chapters in 12 states and has grown, in part, because it takes a different tack than the PTA.
"The PTA is not organized to address systemwide issues,'' Molpus says.
Nearly all of the members of Jackson's Parents for Public Schools chapter are also active in the PTA's at their children's schools. But they agree that the organizations serve different purposes.
Renee Jones, the mother of two, has worked with Parents for Public Schools on a host of issues--from school violence to course offerings to the district's building program--yet her work with the PTA has focused almost exclusively on what is happening in the elementary school her children attend in Jackson.
When the state PTA does take a policy stand, it is rare that local members become familiar with what's at stake.
"It doesn't always trickle down the way it should,'' she says. "Things at the school take priority over what's happening at the state level. They don't worry about what the curriculum is statewide unless someone says it means you are going to lose your music teacher.''
In many ways, the PTA has become the caretaker of local school buildings, fighting against violence and drugs and other threats to its security. Chapters at individual schools often work heroically to fend off funding shortfalls and other troubles. The group offers helpful advice to the parents who come to meetings and friendly reinforcement to teachers, whose participation in the association is often perfunctory. Yet, only in the most dire circumstances, political observers in several states note, does the organization rally a significant number of parents to the steps of the statehouse.
In the early 1980's as many Kentuckians became concerned about the quality of the state's schools, the PTA was practically dormant. The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, one of the country's leading citizen groups, was formed, in essence, to speak to the best interest of Kentucky's children.
"There was not a citizen-based or parent-based organization talking about education reform in a serious or hard-hitting way,'' recalls Robert F. Sexton, the executive director of the Prichard Committee. In recent years, the PTA has become more visible in the state capital, improving its political standing, yet it is far from being considered a hard-hitting presence.
Even as it tries to assert itself in state policy discussions, Sexton says, the PTA is hampered by a complex decisionmaking process and a skeleton staff. As in many other states, the PTA is easily out-muscled by lobbying giants like state teachers' unions, school boards associations, and other interest groups. The PTA often is paralyzed in dealing with contentious issues, observers say.
"It is hard for them to think through complex issues or deal with controversy,'' Sexton says. "Their process does not lend itself to tackling those kinds of things, and they have been so connected to the school structure and organized teachers' groups that a lot of deviation from that course is difficult.''
The aversion to thorny political issues, in fact, is an easy concession to stressed-out parents, who sometimes want to be attached to their schools and work on its behalf, but are not eager to get drawn into the hornet's nest of school-reform debates. "With the PTA, all you have to do is sign up at school and pay a modest fee,'' Sexton says. "It does not imply any real commitment to the ideals of the organization.''
Arkansas is one of the states where legislative observers say the PTA barely functions at the policy level.
Yet, Jimmy Story has found a world of work to do in Marianna without ever turning an eye toward Little Rock or Washington or anyplace else. As he and school officials here can attest, oftentimes the job of the PTA is far from planning for the future. Instead, the immediate task is the hard labor of rebuilding the foundations of a community.
Story, a father who wanted to make sure he was doing all he could for his children, has tackled the job of reconnecting parents and citizens to their schools.
Like many communities that sit along the lower reaches of the Mississippi River, Marianna is poor yet proud. Despite the many vacant storefronts, city of marianna is painted in tall letters across the municipal buildings on one side of the old town square--the anchor of this community surrounded by fields of cotton, rice, and soybeans.
Whitten Elementary School is a block from the local granary. In the afternoons, children stream from the Whitten campus and Nunnelly, the neighboring elementary school, making the short walk home.
The children faithfully come and go. Yet, even in this small town, parents rarely linger in the school buildings. School is not a place where many of the adults in Marianna thrived, and few return there without great reservations.
"I've heard parents say that coming here made them feel uncomfortable,'' says Elizabeth Johnson, the principal at Whitten Elementary. "We're the educated people in this town and, for many of the parents, they remember adult teachers that they felt like weren't nice to them. We have to watch our mannerisms and how we speak.''
"We have to do a lot of tap dancing to make these parents want to do something for their children,'' she adds.
The Marianna schools are not only isolated by their strained relations with their former students who have become parents. They are also separated from many of the town's middle-income white residents who pay to send their children to the private Lee Academy, which sits just outside of town.
"In terms of knowing each other, we are close-knit,'' says one lifelong Marianna resident. "In terms of getting along, there are some problems there. We are not working together as a whole.''
Parents' estrangement from the public schools is not a recent phenomenon in Marianna. Story's involvement with the PTA stems largely from his own experience in the schools here.
"That's how it was with my parents--they came to my graduation, but I never saw my parents at school or at anything I did,'' Story says. "And one of the first experiences I had after I joined the PTA was a parent who came in and asked me the name of his child's teacher. It hurts me to know that person didn't know his own child's teacher's name.''
So over the past four years, Story and Johnson have turned the PTA into a group that will introduce parents to their children's teachers--and a group that is trying to introduce Whitten Elementary School to the people of Marianna.
Last year's Health Safety Fair was designed to do just that. At the fair, which more than 250 parents and students attended, the PTA offered free dental, hearing, and glaucoma screenings and other medical services in a county that lacks a hospital.
In addition, the regular meetings of the PTA featured presentations on infant car seats, bicycle safety, and aids awareness. With money from its fund-raiser and a grant from a nearby Wal-Mart, the group bought some new playground equipment.
For these efforts, the National PTA chose this group of Marianna parents one of the top eight local PTA's in the nation last year, awarding Story and Johnson its Advocates for Children award.
Yet, as the second week of the school year begins, Johnson is curious to see how many parents of the school's 420 students will attend the first PTA meeting. At noon, children fill all of the short, lemon-colored chairs in the open gym and lunchroom labeled the "cafetorium.'' She'll be pleased, she says, if half the seats are taken by parents when the PTA convenes.
The PTA's membership topped out last year at 384, alhough Story candidly admits that not nearly that many were active. "We get 25 or maybe 40 at a lot of meetings,'' he says.
He and Johnson made a public bet over whether 200 Whitten parents would join the local chapter. When the school hit its mark, local parents turned out to watch Story, the loser, get a pie in the face. He and Johnson arrange for children to provide entertainment at meetings to attract parents.
This year, Story hopes the chapter will vote to use some of its money to pay the expenses for two parents to attend the National PTA meeting next summer in Orlando. The winners will be the parents who contribute the most time this school year, working in classrooms or baking cakes at home.
If promotions like that are necessary to lure parents into schools, that's fine, Story says. Both the schools and the children will benefit.
"When I first put my child in school, I just knew I wanted to be involved. And with the ones we have who won't come, I don't know why. I don't know if they don't care or what. I couldn't tell you,'' he says. "I don't just let my children out at the door, I go into the building because I think they need to see me in the school and I think the teachers need to know me.''
"I think I would have enjoyed it if my parents had been in my school, and I think my children like it when they see me at school,'' says Story, who is a county school board member as well as a regional and state PTA representative. Yet, he also recognizes the barriers that prevent him and other like-minded parents from plunging into policy matters.
Of the 56 schools in his region, only eight have PTA's. In the Lee County school district, administrators must focus on digging existing schools out of debt and building new ones.
Story says he would like to see the National PTA work on behalf of reduced school violence and less violence on television, and has said as much in a questionnaire he completed for the organization.
But for now, there is plenty to do here.
"We have to keep telling parents they are welcome here,'' Johnson says. "And that they can have a voice.''
The following questions were suggested by the National Congress of Mothers in 1912 as part of a guide to leading local parent-teacher circle meetings. The group, today called the National pta, suggested beginning with hourlong sessions on Friday afternoons and easing into weighty issues.
The guide suggested that the first meeting be devoted to discussing child nutrition. The second meeting would touch on home conditions, and the third meeting would examine the duty of parents in relation to schools. By the fourth meeting, the group would be prepared to discuss broader issues.
Below is an outline of issues that could be covered at such a parent-teacher circle meeting on school results.
1. (a) What results are parents and the public justified in expecting from the schools? (b) What adequate provisions have they made for providing these results?
2. What relation have the teachers to the production of these results?
3. What duties have parents in aiding to produce these results?
4. What public duties have pupils in aiding these results?
5. (a) How does the general public aid and hinder the progress of the pupils? (b) What city regulations, rewards, punishments aid or hinder the progress of the schools?
6. What can parents and teachers do to foster such civic pride in pupils as will lead to better results?
7. What sort of oversight should parents give to children's home study?
8. What sort of oversight should the public give to the school conditions under which pupils study?
SOURCE: Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1912.