National/state newspaper editorials from business interests rightly complain about the unpreparedness of many high school graduates for occupational and higher education success. TED talk experts on the web speak to the “crisis” in public education and offer highbrow solutions.

But from my point of view, most editorials/experts either omit or barely mention the most important and OBVIOUS variable affecting student achievement: PARENTS! In the absence of good parenting, high achievement is considerably more difficult.

If you want a rock-solid barometer with which to predict success in individual public schools, here it is: Parental responsibility.  I mean parents who roll up their sleeves and spend hours at night and on weekends helping their children learn, providing them enriching experiences, and insisting that their children get the work done. If there are enough of those parents in a community, the public schools shine. In such communities, many kindergarteners come to school already knowing the alphabet (or are reading). Their brightest and hardest-working 12th-graders go on to the most prestigious universities (as  do graduates in Pearland). Others get good jobs with good futures in skilled occupations. The PTAs in those communities exist to HELP teachers, not complain about them. In turn, kids graduate with the sense that achievement is their own responsibility, not someone else’s.

In another school district one of the moms berated the schools for serving pizza and potato chips instead of more nutritional lunch fare. This mom was at least 50 pounds overweight herself but apparently believed she was a victim of greedy potato chip companies. Schools had her child for 8 hours a day on 5 days of the week. She oversaw her child for the other 16 hours of the day, 24 hours a day on weekends — and for 24/7 in the summer. Moreover, we never prohibited her or any parent from preparing/bringing a lunch from home. Therefore, she merely shifted her responsibility for obesity to the public schools. (And incidentally, the state and federal governments are now taking the same approach by mandating school lunch menu choices.)

But my definition of the most outstanding PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT is NOT serving as a “helicopter parent,” making sure that no other child, teacher, or school does anything to displease you. It is not serving as a “snowplow parent,” blasting all obstacles out of your children’s way so they never face difficulty. Instead, it is making sure YOU as a parent are doing enough for your children, mostly by constantly placing the responsibility for learning and behavior squarely on their young shoulders and on yours, often at night (in those torturous episodes called homework).

What are the realities most affecting ideal parenting now — in the midst of this public school criticism?

  • Poverty: American poverty can best be described as single, unmarried, or divorced moms raising kids alone.
  • Education: The educational level of the parent(s) more often reflects the educational attainment of their children.
  • Work: Parents with difficult jobs are so busy that the education of their children is placed solely on the backs of teachers.
  • Priorities: Sports, cheerleading, and other school activities are deemed most important — and too remotely connected to academics and test scores.
  • Blame: Parents believe their children and themselves are “victims” needing public schools to do more and more and more.
  • Morality: Our increasingly lawless society rejects God and substitutes pleasure as its highest reward.

And please don’t exaggerate IQ or privilege as primarily responsible for the different outcomes among students. As research has revealed, the most successful students are those with GRIT, who work hard and persevere through failure before achieving success. Such students are most often inspired by one or more loving parents guiding them.

Now if many children and parents seize the opportunities available (AP courses, SAT Prep, career/technical courses, foreign language, music, drama, athletics, tutorials, etc., etc., etc.) and excel, are others really barred from such accomplishment? In truth, public schools now offer more individualized help and a greater variety of learning opportunities than ever before. Hard-working students can now earn 60 hours of college credit and even an Associate’s Degree through public schools.

Our Pearland students collectively achieve more than most communities on standardized tests. Yet there aren’t a lot of kids born with silver spoons in their mouths here. We are a middle class community valuing education and hard work with above-average educational attainment among our adult population.  Frankly, schools and students serving dysfunctional families must work harder to achieve the same results.

Why? When the public schools assume the parental burden, the system begins to collapse of its own weight, needing funds and resources far beyond that required for others. In short, there isn’t enough money to adequately substitute for parental responsibility.

I salute the majority of parents in Pearland ISD who help their children learn and who teach them personal responsibility and a work ethic. Frankly, without such parents, our best efforts aren’t enough.


  1. 1 JKWSmith March 19, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    I just stumbled upon your blog looking for other information. This is worth repeating and could be resourceful information in the registration packet. And just maybe positive parental involvement would increase. I commend and respect the teachers for doing such a great job!

  2. 2 Sandy Le December 10, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Dear Dr. Kelly,
    I just recently discovered your blog and are now reading all that you had posted. I have always felt blessed having you lead our district; ever since, I had the pleasure of reading a letter that you had sent to your staff asking for prayers and mentioning God in your letter when you first came to our district.
    I could not agree with you more! The key component that is missing in our society is parental involvement. Moreover, the day to day, nights, and weekends work that go into assisting, pushing, encouraging, teaching, modeling, and setting consequences for a child. As our society places more responsibility on our educators without rewarding them, we stand to lose more quality teachers each year. Teachers, who are passionate about teaching regardless of the countless hours that they pour into their jobs without paid will be leaving because they are tired of being parents to children that do not care because of the environment at home that nurture such behavior. A good example of an awesome teacher would be Mrs. Arthur, an 8th grade math teacher at Berry Miller. I sat in the parking lot at 6:30 pm waiting for my son one evening and saw Mrs. Arthur with a bag of fast food re-entering the building. At that time, the majority of us are home with our families, but this teacher re-entered the building to continue to work after the 11 hours that she had put into her job already. She pushes her students to where they will go “stir crazy”. As my son stated, “I love Mrs. Arthur and can’t wait for the day that I can say that I appreciate all the math homework that she assigns me!” But you know what, his average in her class is a 98. Ninth grade math in junior high… I hope and pray that their will be more leaders like you who are willing to push the envelope by doing what is right; even if it is unpopular or not politically correct. We do pray for all of our teachers, administrators, and staff at Pearlandisd each night. Again, thank you to all of you for choosing such a selfless career!

  3. 4 Gordon Paris August 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    As a former teacher current parent and grandfather in a rural area of northern Vermont.I applaud your Article. One of the major things that made me leave teaching after 17 years was hearing parents of students having problems with school saying to me. What are you going to do about it? I wanted to hear more say” What can we do to help OUR CHILD?” thank you for bringing this to the forefront and instilling this in your school system.

  4. 5 Mary Alice August 27, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Kelly. We love you. Thank you for not being afraid to say things with which some people might not agree. Thank you for accepting a very thankless job with dignity and intellegence. Thank you for saying and doing what it right even though it might not be popular. I totally agree with you and feel confident knowing my children are being educated in a school district that believes that parents are essential to success.

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