Last week (August 20), Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley called on communities across the country to celebrate a very special time of year -- the opening of schools for the fall term.
"Children can be very observant," Riley said. "They notice what adults consider important and what they ignore. We must send a clear message that school is important, and we do that by investing our time and our attention."
Now in its third year, America Goes Back to School is an initiative of the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education -- a coalition of more than 3,000 business, community, religious and education organizations.
Riley said the initiative seeks to draw attention to the critical need for parents and communities to support their schools. "The most effective schools draw their strength from the parents and other adults that make up the neighborhoods where the children live. There is simply no substitute for the attention of adults when it comes to shaping the lives of children. This annual effort focuses on improving education across America and takes place during the months of August through October when students around the nation head back to the classrooms. America Goes Back to School is a special time for communities to reaffirm a commitment to education. I hope parents and business, cultural, civic, and religious leaders, as well as elected officials, will seize this opportunity to go back to school."
The national co-chairs of America Goes Back to School are family and child advocate Tipper Gore, Drew University president and former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean, actor Michael Keaton, and National PTA president Lois Jean White. The 55-member steering committee includes students, educators, mayors, and representatives of business, media and community organizations, as well as the current Miss America, Tara Holland.
Last year, America Goes Back to School events took place in every state across the nation. For example, in Macomb, Mich., a fifth grade teacher and principal organized a back to school barbecue the Saturday before school began to encourage parents and other adults to get involved in the new school year. This informal setting helped break the ice among teachers, parents, and other community members and was used to sign up needed reading tutors.
The Chicago Academy of Sciences created a "Chicago Goes Back to School" committee of diverse partners representing families, educators, employers, and other community groups. The committee organized family involvement activities around a different theme each month of the school year. The first activity, in late August, worked to help parents see that the "dreaded" science fair experiment could be fun and educational for parent and child. This year, the committee's first event will be a parent fair with a focus on providing positive role models for students.
Among the America Goes Back to School activities scheduled this year:
For more information on the America Goes Back to School initiative, including a free activity kit that gives concrete ideas, resources, and examples of how parents, families, community groups, employers, and educators are working to help children learn, call 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) or visit the U.S. Department of Education's homepage.
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