Schools and school districts across the US urge parents not to take kids to work for the annual “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” according to news reports including one by the Associated Press.1 Apparently, school districts and administrators are of the opinion that the absences earlier in the school year due to the H1N1 virus outbreak and the “high-stakes” standardized testing make the timing of “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” wrong. “Every day your child is out of school his or her learning achievement suffers,” wrote Virginia B. McElyea, the superintendent of the Deer Valley Unified School District in Phoenix, Ariz. 1
Is there any “research” or “statistics” to support or prove this statement? How about any case studies? Does one day of missed school work really cause a student’s learning achievement to suffer? I will supply a case study (experience and evidence) that proves that “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” changes lives and can improve student achievement, student learning, and the likelihood that a student will graduate.
Is it possible that a little boy or little girl who attends work with a parent or mentor on “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” this year might find his or her dream career or a motivation to go to college? Yes, it is. And if that inspiration were discovered, do these superintendents and educators understand how much easier their job over the following days, weeks, months, and years would be while teaching an intrinsically motivated student? When students get to miss school for “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” they are excited about going to work with their parents and it also creates excitement for “going to work” in the future and motivation for furthering their education.
What if the parent’s job is boring, uninspiring and low paying? In these cases, many times students realize that they would absolutely hate their parents occupation or pay check and this inspires them to be the first person in a family to attend college and create a new legacy for their family. And in both of these cases, whether an exciting career or a lack luster occupation, that ONE day of work place exposure and experience would do more for that student’s learning and achievement than 1000 worksheets, 100 school days, or 10 teachers could do or inspire.
If students have a motivation for learning–that can easily be discovered through events like “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day”–then they will be more interested in school, learning, and testing during the rest of the year. I participated in this event each year, it was one of my FAVORITE days out of the whole school year. I went to work with my mentors who were biologists and it helped motivate me not to drop out of school. I had a 4.0 but I hated school and desired to drop out so that I could attend college early and quite wasting my time.
I left my high school campus during my senior year to attend college. My high school did much to block my efforts including stripping me of my honors and scholarship opportunities from the school at graduation. I had to write the governor of Florida to help with my case. I ended up earning an Honors AA and a scholarship from one of the best private universities in THE SAME YEAR that I was scheduled to graduate from high school. The scholarship from the university was valued at tens of thousands of dollars more than the high school could have ever given me. And I wore my honors medallion from my college graduation in place of the honors that I was stripped from AT my high school graduation.
Why did my high school fight so hard to keep me at least showing up for the morning head count and enrolling in AP courses despite me attending the equivalent or higher level courses at the local college at night? It was all about attendance money and high AP test score money. The high school was not interested in my best interest (earning a huge scholarship by leaving campus or the added strain of attending college full time at night while attending high school during the day) or my education (earning a college degree instead of attending senior year courses). In some states, the schools get funding based on overall attendance figures while in other states the funding is more tied to day-to-day attendance so these schools are hyperactive about getting students to attend or at least show up for the 1st period head counts on time.
And so this repeats in schools all over the US year after year. The way a school is funded needs to be restructured so it is not related to attendance or test scores in the same way it is now. For instance, consider funding high schools based on graduates rather than high school attendance. Then if a student graduates in 10th grade or 12th grade, the school will get the SAME funding or even a bonus for the 10th grade graduate. If this one element was changed, we would see schools all over the nation TRULY motivated to reach the students and teachers being encouraged to spark a student’s love for learning (internal motivation) rather than teaching to the tests.
Written by an educator of K-12th grade students, adults, and teachers in public and non-profit schools who became a teacher after earning a Finance degree and working as a financial analyst to recruit more students into math and science related degrees and careers and to help other teaching professionals integrate real world applications into their curriculum to peak student interest and increase student achievement and learning.
1 Don Babwin of the Associated Press, Schools Urge Parents Not to Take Kids to Work, Google News
Special Thanks (in chronological order):
My biological father: Thanks for taking me to work with you so I learn about developing residential communities, clearing land, and growing palms for landscaping. Thanks for letting me drive a dump truck with your help and a bull dozer-by myself-before kindergarten. Your actions backed your confidence in me when you told me that “You can be anything in the world including the first woman president or an astronaut” as we looked at the night stars together. Thanks for buying me an adult sewing machine for my 4th birthday and a high school chemistry lab with real chemicals and burners for my 5th birthday. You inspired my love of both art and science and once again showed your absolute confidence in me.
My stepfather: Thanks for helping teach my blind and deaf brother how to ride a bike. The photograph taken of my blind deaf brother and your smiling face as you ran down the street after him is priceless. Thank you for taking me to work with you as an engineer and letting me help create REAL circuit boards for fighter jets at 8 years old. When an 8 year old gets to participate in making circuit boards for fighter planes that will carry real people in them, it is a vote of confidence in my ability to do anything and be anything I want. And thanks for arguing with me over endangered sharks, you helped develop my “fighting spirit” which is critical to success on earth.
Deirdre Irwin: Thank you for introducing me to your love of the environment and exposing me to college course material in science while I was 8 to 10 years old by coming to our school to give a speech about your career. You helped to show me that women can and do succeed in science and you also gave me yet another vote of confidence that I could make it. Thank you for bringing me to work with you and being my friend at such a hard spot in my life.
Lorne Malo: Thank you for introducing me to your passion for birds, crossing creeks with alligators, and scat identification. Thank you for taking me out of school to be an “environmental biologist” for more than just one day per year. Thank you for taking me to the herpetological society meetings and being the best mentor and friend that anyone on earth could ever have. if there was only a mentor like you for every child on earth, the world would be the most amazing place in the universe.
ECC: Thank you for allowing me to come to work on “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.”
SJWMD (St. John’s Water Management District): Thank you for allowing me to come to work as an “enivronmental biologist” on many, many other school days. Thank you for allowing your employees to come to the schools to talk to children and youth about their careers, the environment, and conservation. And thank you for changing the course of my life by allowing me to “shadow” your employees. I never did drugs, I stayed in school, and I graduated from college several times and your company and it’s child friendly policies contributed to this. Thank you.