Only 30 percent of children receive appropriate schooling, expert says

More than half the school children in America are under-served by public schools because parents fail to get involved with their teachers and other school officials, said Joetta Gatliff, an expert in Early Childhood Development for Mustang Public Schools and adjunct OCCC professor.

“Only 30 percent of our children are getting an appropriate education,” Gatliff said, in a free parenting workshop held earlier this month at OCCC’s Family and Community Education Center.

Who are the children who receive an appropriate education? “It’s the 30 percent whose parents are involved,” she said.

Gatliff impressed upon the 18 people in the audience that once children enter public school, a lot of communication between parents and caregivers is lost.

She said that it is important to develop a relationship with the teachers and to ensure there is family involvement in the child’s education. Parents need to follow up and follow through, Gatliff said.

“The child knows that mom and dad respect the teacher and the teacher respects the mom and dad. There is a relationship there, and any time you have that relationship, the child is going to be more successful.”

Gatliff focused on making transitions easier from private child care to public school, emphasizing that it is a big transition in a child’s life.

Parents need to take steps before school starts to help their child learn and be successful. “So often transitions are hard even for us,” she noted. “We have to constantly ask, how is our child’s life going to be impacted by this transition?

“How do we as parents help them transition to these very different worlds?”

Gatliff also offered tips on what parents can do to help their child be successful:

  • Know how you feel about your child starting public school because your feelings can influence the child’s perspective.
  • Be careful of what you are say to your child about school.
  • Know your school district and where your child will be going to school. Do you know where the school is?
  • Know the date and proper procedures of enrollment before time to enroll your child in school, so you can ensure the process goes smoothly.
  • Know the expectations of your school. What are their goals, and are the expectations of the school developmentally appropriate?

Parents need to be the experts on their children, she said.

“As parents, we’re going to have to be the ones with that voice,” Gatliff said.

She also gave advice on how parents can prepare for the first day of school.

As a parent you can help make learning fun, help your children learn to follow two-step directions, and help them know appropriate behavior before they start school.

Practice the steps they will go through on their first day of school, Gatliff said. Drive by your child’s school and get them familiar with the school and the process of how they will be dropped off and picked up through role play.

“Practice, practice, practice,” she said. “Something as simple as ensuring children know their first and last names can be key to a happy first day. Children need to be able to communicate these things, which they may not have done very often in the past.”

She stressed that education is very important.

“Education is knowledge, and knowledge is power,” she said. “It is not just about what I do today with this child, but it is about how today affects them for the rest of their life.

“What do we have to do as parents is we have to make it fun; we have to convince them that they can be successful.”

Gatliff has been teaching for more than 20 years and is a National Board Certified teacher.

For more information on upcoming parenting workshops, e-mail Lee Ann Townsend, Child Development Center Lab supervisor, at

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