The following post was contributed by Robert Niles, whose son Brian was one of the GO PUBLIC student directors.
If all you know about public schools comes from reading newspaper headlines, all you’d think today’s public school students do is take standardized tests. While my children, who do attend our Pasadena public schools, take their fair share of tests, they get to do much, much more as part of their education, too.
My son was one of the 10 student directors on the “GO PUBLIC” project, an inspiring professional opportunity he got as a student filmmaker because he’s also a student in the Pasadena public schools. But “GO PUBLIC” wasn’t my son’s only chance to develop his filmmaking skills at school. This past year, he filmed several shorts for his seventh-grade history class, directing his friends in short scenes based on the historical events they were studying.
Film isn’t the only way that my son’s extending his skills beyond traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic. His school, Marshall Fundamental, is growing an ambitious music program, and hundreds of kids are getting involved in choir, orchestra, and band. My son is part of the middle school choir, and demand for tickets at the music department’s holiday show this year was so large that Marshall needed to move the program over to the larger auditorium at Pasadena High School in order to accommodate the crowd.
My wife teaches violin lessons and includes some Pasadena public school students in her studio. She’s commented on how participating in the Marshall music program has motivated those students, who have become more committed to and passionate about the violin, thanks to their opportunity to play, practice and perform through school.
My daughter attends Pasadena High School, where she took an AP [Advanced Placement, college-level] history class as a sophomore. PHS and Marshall offer a wide variety of AP courses to hundreds of students at each school, helping both schools make US News & World’s Report’s “silver medal” list, among the top 1,250 high schools in the nation for academics.
My daughter’s also extending herself outside the classroom, joining with her friends to start a public service club at the school. And she and half a dozen of her friends also are working with the administration to start a speech and debate team at the high school for next fall, too.
Opportunity abounds at our public schools — whether it is in the arts, sciences, forensics, or athletics. And that preserving those opportunities remains essential in protecting and improving the quality of education in our public schools. Kids who can pursue their passions are kids who are more likely to remain engaged in all aspects of their education, across the curriculum.
That’s why I hope that more families will choose to get involved in public education. With state funding long gone for most extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, it’s up to parents and community members to come up with the money for entry fees, transportation, uniforms, equipment and coaches’ and directors’ time. The more middle-class families that choose public education, the more families we’ll have to help support opportunities for all public school children.
Don’t fall into the trap of giving up hope. Our public school students are doing great things, in and out of the classroom. But with your encouragement and support, more students could aspire to even higher levels of accomplishment. Get involved. Get inspired. GO PUBLIC!