Northwest NEWS

August 23, 1999


Guest Editorial

Back-to-school time is not just for kids anymore

by Richard W. Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education

   Back-to-school time has always been exciting for children. It's a time to meet new friends, new teachers, and resume the adventure of learning. But back-to-school time is not just for kids anymore.

   If our schools are going to do the job we expect them to do, everyone must pitch in and help. That includes parents and everyone in the community. The fact is, schools today can't do the job alone.

   We are living in the Information Age, a time when our nation's economy and security depend more on the quality of education than at any other time in our history. That's why more and more states and communities are requiring students and teachers to reach for high standards of learning, and why the public is demanding real results for its tax dollars.

   So I encourage every parent, family, and citizen to use this back-to-school season to make a personal commitment to supporting better education in their community. When children are surrounded by adults and communities that value education, they get the message that their education is important.

   We've also prepared a colorful, fact-filled "America Goes Back to School" kit which provides plenty of good ideas for getting involved in your schools and staying involved all year long. It's called "Challenge Our Students and They Will Soar," and you can get a free kit by calling the U.S. Department of Education at 1-800-USA-LEARN, or by visiting our website at

   Here are a few ideas that can get you started:

   Elementary school students should focus on reading, reading, and reading--and math, too. Develop those basic skills. And no child should be promoted to a grade they're not ready for. Let's get rid of social promotion. If some children aren't making the grade, give them the extra help they need, either after-school or over the weekends and summers.

   If you want to get involved, you don't have to go it alone. Building partnerships is the key. Join with others in your community to determine your school's needs and then ask teachers and principals how you can support their efforts.

   No one stands taller than when they stoop down to help a child. Get involved with your community's young people, and you will stand taller--and feel taller--than you ever have. Back-to-school time is the perfect time to start.