“Ombudsman” Hired In D.C. To Work With Families

D.C. Board of Education names ombudsman as liaison between families, schools is the headline of a recent article in The Washington Post.

Here’s an excerpt:

D.C. parents have a new place to take their questions and complaints about city education: Joyanna Smith, the independent ombudsman charged with helping families navigate the District’s traditional and charter schools.

Smith is a lawyer and former charter school official who will serve as a clearinghouse for parents’ concerns and as a mediator to help resolve problems. She is only the second person to fill the position, which was created by the same law that established mayoral control of the schools but has been left vacant and unfunded since fiscal 2010.

It sounds like a positive development for families, but a bit odd. I’m not aware that other districts have “ombudsman” and, instead, have staff in some kind of parent involvement office. Ombudsman are usually fairly independent from the organization that hires them.

Are D.C. families so mistrustful of the district that they need to have an independent watchdog help them out? Or is it just a quirk in the law? If it’s the former, it seems to me the District has a lot of family engagement work they better start doing….

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Kellogg Foundation Announces Nearly $4 Million In Grants For Parent Involvement Programs

I’ve previously posted about the Kellogg Foundation’s initiative to fund parent involvement/engagement programs targeting families with children age eight and below.

They just announced a new set of grants and I thought it would be useful just to reprint their press release since it listed all the grantees.

Unfortunately, they didn’t send out anything indicating what specific efforts they were funding and, of course, we don’t know what they chose not to fund. In other words, right now there’s no telling what their definition of  what a “transformative family engagement program” really looks like to them.

With luck, they’ll be sharing more information about the grants soon…

W.K. Kellogg Foundation announces recipients of $13.7 million investment to empower parents as leaders and key decision makers in education

Thirty organizations from 18 states and the District of Columbia to create opportunities that connect schools, communities and families for economic and early school success

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) is pleased to announce a total investment of $13.7 million to 30 exceptional organizations developing and implementing transformative family engagement programs in the field of early childhood education.

In September 2013, WKKF received more than 1,130 applications for this investment, the most ever received for a single funding opportunity in the foundation’s 83-year history. The unprecedented interest and clear demand from the field was an important indication about both the need and opportunity to invest in efforts that would result in increased family engagement in a child’s academic life.

“This was an eye-opening moment for us. We knew there was a need and a value around the issue of family engagement, but we didn’t realize the extent of the shared value around families’ desire to more deeply engage in their children’s education,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the Kellogg Foundation. “We are actively seeding and cultivating authentic family leadership programs that create opportunities for parents to be engaged from the very beginning of their children’s education.”

The 30 organizations share WKKF’s commitment to family engagement, which:

  • Is defined as a shared responsibility between families, schools and communities for student learning and achievement;
  • Is a continuous process from birth to third grade and beyond that occurs in multiple settings where children learn;
  • Takes place in environments where empowered parents and families are leaders; and
  • Requires a shift in national conversations so that all families are viewed as powerful assets for their children’s education.

“All too often families are not at the table when it comes time to make major decisions impacting their children’s education,” said Carla Thompson, vice president for program strategy at WKKF. “These organizations recognize that family engagement is a core strategy connected to improving learning outcomes and are working tirelessly to lift up the voices of families in an effort to set all children on a path to success.”

A complete list of the 30 winners is provided below:

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“Why ‘parental involvement’ is not a ‘broken compass.’”

I’ve written a couple of posts skeptical of claims made by authors of a new book on parent involvement called The Broken Compass, with the most recent one about their op-ed piece in The New York Times on Sunday.

Inflated Research Claims Can Harm Children: Why “parental involvement” is not a “broken compass.”
is a post by Marilyn Price-Mitchell that is similarly skeptical.

And respected parent engagement expert Karen Mapp recently sent out this tweet:

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“More than 20% of [British] parents say they have been fined for unauthorised holidays”

More than 20% of parents say they have been fined for unauthorised holidays is the headline of an article in the British newspaper The Guardian.

Here’s how it starts:

More than 20% of parents say they have been fined for taking their children on unauthorised holidays during the school term, while a majority of parents have lied to avoid getting into trouble, a national survey has found.

Wow. I’m not sure what world the British schools live in, but that system sure wouldn’t work in California and, I assume, in many other states with large Latino populations. We always have a sizable number of families (though the numbers seem to be getter smaller) who visit Mexico for extended periods of time.

I’d rather the kids didn’t stay out of school, but I live in the world as it is, not as I’d like it to be. I’d rather students tell me what’s going on so we can arrange for work they can do while they’re gone so that, when they return, they are not as behind as they could be. And I sure don’t think fining parents is going to promote positive school/family partnerships…..

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Parent Coordinators and Parent Engagement

I’ve written a lot about Elisa Gonzalez, our school’s extraordinary parent coordinator. Her work is invaluable to our school’s overall success.

As part of New York City Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s often-stated goal to increase parent engagement there, a New York City parent coordinator has some suggestions for her:

As part of her pledge to boost parent involvement, I hope Fariña considers reinforcing the role of the parent coordinator. The way things stand now, she might be tempted to scrap them: the D.O.E. would save upwards of $39,000 per school per year—the figure at which parent coordinator salaries have been capped since 2003 (many make less).

But for this modest investment—a sliver of the D.O.E.’s $25 billion annual budget—I would argue that students and families are getting a bargain.

A more fruitful strategy would be to elevate the authority of parent coordinators and leverage their capacity to get adults engaged in the school. Train them in working with families and kids in crisis, with students with serious behavioral problems—in managing the daily realities of our system. And make the job worth sticking to, by creating channels for advancement and raising salaries.

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“Parental Involvement Is Overrated” — Um, No It Isn’t

I’ve previously posted about a new book on parent involvement research that pretty much suggests most previous research on the topic is wrong (see New Book & Research On Parent Involvement, & It’s Potentially Very Unhelpful).

The authors have a guest column in The New York Times with the decidedly unhelpful headline, Parental Involvement Is Overrated.

I have obtained the book, and it’s on my “to-read” stack. I’ll eventually get around to writing a more extensive piece on it. As I said in my previous post, I’m not convinced that everybody else is wrong and these professors are right.

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Not Very Useful Report On Community Schools Released

Education Week reports on a paper just released from UCLA’s UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools that’s fairly critical of how many community schools operate.

I’ve got to say that I was less-than-impressed by the report.

I certainly have been critical (see The Best Resources For Learning About Community Schools) of a number of community schools’ efforts, particularly what is often a lack of parent engagement (many tend to look at families as “clients” instead of “partners”), but the report doesn’t even mention that problem.

Despite that criticism, though, I’m convinced that pretty much any kind of “Community School” that offers additional services is an asset, but it doesn’t appear that the report’s authors necessarily agree. I’ve got to wonder how many, if any, community schools the authors actually visited. Their critiques tend to be a bit polemic rather than practically useful.

It does say a Community Schools effort should be schools-led, which is good, but I don’t think there’s much of a question about that point, anyway.

I’m very open to hearing other opinions, including ones that suggest I’m being too harsh in my assessment.

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I Think This School Needs To Rethink How They Relate To Parents: “Parents reprimanded for taking children out of school for family funeral”

Parents reprimanded for taking children out of school for family funeral is the headline of an article in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

Here’s how it begins:

Two parents have received a written warning after their children missed school to attend their grandfather’s funeral.

Andrew and Danielle Overend-Hogg were told that their children, aged nine, five and three, had taken an unauthorised absence.

The letter also threatened that any repeat of the absence could lead to Teagan,nine, Isla, five and Elsie-Mae, three could lose their places at Sheffield’s Handsworth Ballifield Primary School.

I’m adding this to The Worst Parent Engagement Ideas.

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Department of Education Releases New Parent and Community Engagement Framework

Today, the Department of Education released what they call a new “Parent and Community Engagement Framework.”

To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure what that means, but it can’t hurt for them to place a more public emphasis on parent engagement.

You can read about it at the Department’s blog post; get a good overview of it at Education Week; and actually access it here.

Of the documents they’re sharing, I think most people will find the Partners In Education report the most useful. It shares some good case studies.

People should keep in mind what Karen Mapp, one of the primary authors of the document (and one of the people I most respect in the parent engagement field) says as related in this tweet:

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National Family Engagement Conference Began Today

Five hundred people are attending the National Family Engagement Conference in Cincinnati, which began today.

You can read a pretty good overview of it at Education Week.

Here are a few selected tweets that came out of the conference this afternoon:

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inBloom Is On Its Deathbed & No Tears Are Shed

inBloom, the ill-conceived, Gates-funded effort to collect just about every piece of data on just about every K-12 student in America (and opposed by parents across the United States), lost its only remaining customer last month when New York State withdrew from it.

Here’s an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal:

New York has reversed course to use an Atlanta-based company to store student data for parents and officials to use to track student progress, after the plan triggered privacy concerns and a legal challenge….

“We will not store any student data with inBloom, and we have directed inBloom to securely delete all the non-identifiable data that has been stored,” a statement Wednesday from state Education Department spokesman Dennis Tomkins said.

InBloom was founded in 2013 with $100 million in grant money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corp. The technology drew early interest from several states, but New York was the only one fully involved.

I’m adding this info to The Best Posts On The inBloom Data Fiasco.

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British Schools Plan: “parents should get a ‘checklist’ telling them how to raise their children”

British schools planning to give parents a checklist telling them what skills and knowledge their kids should have before they attend kindergarten.

The article about it in The Telegraph has over seven hundred comments, and they’re worth skimming.

The guidelines seem to make sense, but the tone and rhetoric behind the checklist just seems so patronizing.

What do you think?

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Secretary Duncan To Be Guest On Next #PTchat

As I’ve previously posted, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be participating in April 8th’s #PTchat on Twitter.

Here’s the announcement on the DOE’s blog:

On April 8, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be taking to Twitter to gain additional feedback from parents and educators on community and parent engagement best practices during the weekly #PTchat. The chat will coincide with the National Family Engagement Conference in Cincinnati, which aims to bring together educators and community activists to raise awareness of community involvement in schools.

Duncan will moderate the Twitter chat and share information about recently released family and community engagement resources from the Department of Education.

  • What: #PTchat with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
  • When: 9pm EDT, Tuesday, April 8.
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Want To Organize A “Parent Camp” At Your School?

I’ve previously posted about the idea of a “parent camp,” and now have learned that there is a site full of resources to help people organize their own.

The site is called #PARENTCAMP: An Unconference For Parents & Educators, and here’s how it describes itself:

The ParentCamp experience, by design, is a hybrid “un-conference” opportunity for parents and teachers to come together and model the four core beliefs highlighted in Beyond the Bakesale. The experience levels the playing field, putting all stakeholders in a circle for actual, face-to-face discussion about what is best for kids. It’s important to understand the difference between a traditional conference and the un-conference feel we worked to bring to ParentCamp.

On Saturday, April 27, 2013, @KnappElementary hosted the first Parent Camp “unconference” for parents and educators. It’s called an unconference because the event relies upon the expertise and perspective of the entire room, not just the main presenter like the typical stand and deliver conference. Every adult within the session brings an important and unique perspective to contribute to sharing strategies and ideas to benefit student learning, teaching and parenting.

There are “discussion leaders” in each session who set the tone for collaborative dialogue led by teachers, parents, school and community leaders. Sessions are geared toward elementary, middle and/or high school parents.

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