Crowded Classrooms

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What You Can Do

What you can do about it: Again, becoming politically active is the only way to make systemic changes. "Every decision that's made about education is made at the ballot box," explains Pate-Bain. But if your child is already stuck in a crowded class, there are steps you can take to make the situation a bit more tenable.

Volunteer-or better yet, organize a group of volunteers-to help in the classroom with tutoring, photocopying or marking papers (both of which free up teachers to spend more time with individual students), and so on. One study found no significant difference in student performance when the student-teacher ratio is 15-to-1 and when it's 30-to-2. Volunteers in the classroom can make a huge difference.

Enrich the educational environment outside of school. Read to your child every day throughout elementary school, even if he is big enough to read to himself. Enroll your child in enrichment classes at local museums and zoos.

Promote a peer-mentoring program at your child's school. When older children work individually with younger children, both benefit: The older child develops greater self-esteem and an enhanced sense of citizenship, and the younger child profits from one-on-one attention the teacher doesn't have time to provide.

You may not be able to solve this or any other major problem in education, but you aren't powerless, either. Constant dialogue with your child alone can go a long way toward reducing the impact of these controversial issues on her. As Bob Chase says, "Good parenting is the best way to reduce any school stress a child is feeling. No one can make a child feel better about school than a good parent."


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