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Celebrate American Education Week

November 14-20, 1999, is American Education Week. Celebrate the event and strengthen the bonds between your schools and your community with activities suggested by the National Education Association. Included: Tips for recognizing school staff and involving parents and business during American Education Week!

This week, schools and communities across the nation join together to celebrate American Education Week. Created in 1921, in response to a 25 percent illiteracy rate among World War I soldiers, the event began as an attempt by the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Legion to generate public support for education. Today, American Education Week, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and 12 national organizations, continues that effort by providing opportunities for strengthening the spirit of community within schools and developing partnerships between schools and local communities.


An African proverb, made famous in a book by Hillary Clinton, says that it takes an entire village to raise a child. The goal of American Education Week is to help build and support that village by encouraging all segments of the community to work together to ensure a quality education for all students. Within individual schools, the goals of Education Week are to recognize and support the efforts of students and school workers -- including both teachers and support staff. The NEA offers a number of "tried-and-true" suggestions for accomplishing that end. They include:

  • Encouraging students to create thank-you cards for support staff.
  • Providing ice cream for students and teachers, because "school is cool."
  • Placing "Construction Zone" tags on all classroom doors to signify futures being built.
  • Hosting a supper for teachers during parent-teacher conferences.
  • Displaying photos of school staff in "real life," outside of school.
  • Presenting teachers with notepads saying, "Our school is special because of you."

Building a village also requires the involvement and support of those in the wider community. The most visible segment of that community is, of course, students' families. According to studies cited in Strong Families, Strong Schools, "When families are involved in their children's education in positive ways, children achieve higher grades and test scores, have better attendance at school, complete more homework, demonstrate more positive attitudes and behavior, graduate at higher rates, and have greater enrollment in higher education." The author adds, "School practices to encourage parents to participate in their children's education are more important than family characteristics like parental education, family size, marital status, socioeconomic level, or student grade level in determining whether parents get involved." Schools, says the NEA, can encourage family participation during Education Week by:

  • Inviting family members to join students for lunch in the school cafeteria.
  • Presenting a student show at a PTO meeting.
  • Inviting family members to attend classes with their children.
  • Asking family members to teach a class about a hobby or special interest.
  • Providing families with a list of good books for their children.
  • Distributing American Education Week pamphlets to families.

Parents, of course, aren't the only members of the community affected by the quality of the educational system. According to 1997 U.S. Census Bureau figures, between 35 and 40 percent of U.S. households do not include children. Often, those households are disconnected from, and largely uninterested in, what is happening in their schools. However, as Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) pointed out in a speech delivered on November 23, 1900, popular folk wisdom says that every time a school is closed, a jail must be built. "I believe," Clemens said, "it is better to support schools than jails." The education of our children is as important to the community at large as it is to families with children. And community support, in terms of funding, social programs, and business resources, is vitally important to the success of schools. The NEA suggests that schools and school districts demonstrate the importance of those mutual interests during Education Week by:

  • Inviting community and business leaders to a school breakfast and open house.
  • Displaying student art work in local businesses.
  • Inviting business leaders to be "guest readers" in elementary classrooms.
  • Encouraging townspeople to display school colors.
  • Holding a career fair with help from local businesses.
  • Marching in an American Education Week parade down Main Street.


The theme of this year's American Education Week celebration is "Students Today, Leaders Tomorrow." Those leaders will, of course, affect the entire community -- and the entire community should be involved in their education. Visit the NEA's American Education Week site for many more ideas for fostering that involvement in your school and community during American Education Week.

This year's American Education Week sponsors include:

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

Originally published 11/15/1999
Last updated 11/20/2007