Interview with author Peg Tyre
September 8, 2011 ~
We had an opportunity to talk with Peg Tyre, author of the new book, “The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve.” Peg worked for 20 years in journalism, writing for Newsweek, The New York Times and other national news publications as an education reporter. She’s published two books about education, “The Good School” and “The Trouble With Boys: A Surprising Report Card on our Sons, Their Problems at School and What Parents & Educators Must Do.” Peg talked to us about “The Good School,” and we are thrilled to share Peg’s insights with you. Her advice is a great resource for parents who are looking for the best opportunities for their children.
Q: You’re a strong voice for parents in the educational debate, but you started your career in journalism. How did you become an educational resource?
I spent years covering education as a journalist and I had the opportunity to pore over a great deal of research on education. And many times, when I found nuggets of useful information buried in a 20-page academic paper, I thought, wow, I wish I knew about this when I was making decisions for my own child! So I set out to write a book that distills the best in education research but FOR PARENTS—in a way that is engaging and highly accessible.
Q: What do you want parents to learn from “The Good School?”
Parents that read this book will be armed with enough information to choose the best school for their child—and when they don’t have a choice, they will have the information they need to constructively engage schools in order to get the very best for their child.
Q: Many Kumon parents have children entering school for the first time this year. With so many criteria to consider when choosing a school, finding the right fit for a child can be overwhelming. What should parents prioritize in their selection?
Good question, and it depends on the age of your child. In preschool, the most important thing is the relation between the child and the teacher —the teacher should be connected to the children, know their strengths and weaknesses and take obvious pride in their learning. In K-3, you have to take a hard look at the reading and math instruction—and the balance of recess and seat time. My book tells you how to do just that.
Q: Do schools have any resources to help parents make the right educational choices? In regions with limited school choice, what can parents do?
Schools give you test scores which are useful—sort of. But people who build standardized tests say that relying on test scores to choose a school is like choosing a car based on the color of its paint—there are better metrics. The Good School tells you what they are and how to use them.
Even if you don’t have a choice of schools, there are still important ways that you can support a school—and the teachers and administrators there—in order to get your child the very best education. But we have to make ourselves a little more sophisticated about education. It’s not fair to our child’s teachers and their principal to ask them to educate US about education while, at the same time, educating our children. We need to meet them halfway.
Q: How important is technological adoption in the classroom? Is a teacher with an iPad better than a teacher with a chalkboard?
I wish it was that simple. I’m hopeful that technology will improve learning—I think in some places, with some teachers, it does. But teachers have to want it—they have to be trained in it and it has to easy for them to use. For my child, I’ll take a master teacher with a blackboard over a first year teacher with a SMART Board and an iPad any day.
Q: Colleges put an emphasis on students being well-rounded, but many schools have been cutting down extracurricular activities. How can parents help their students become well-rounded when many schools are being forced to focus solely on test scores?
Schooling needs to be a pleasant experience that children look forward to. Math and reading boot camps—well, they may produce more academic achievement, but that will come to naught if the children won’t go to school. Parents know there needs to be a balance.
For more information about school choice and making the best decisions for your child, be sure to check out “The Good School.” You can also read more about the book in this TIME article (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2089618,00.html) and on Peg’s website (www.pegtyre.com).