Ed Secretary Duncan’s View Of Parents?

Every year a Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll is done on “Public Attitudes Toward The Public Schools.” You can read a summary of the results over at my other blog.

In the poll, local schools were given a grade of an A or B by well over two-thirds of people participating in the poll, but only 19% would give a similar rating to the nation’s public schools.

Well-known education researcher Stephen Krashen has a guest post in the Washington Post blog “The Answer Sheet” and comments on those results, as well as highlighting a quote from Education Secretary Duncan that I missed:

“In a column accompanying the poll, [educational psychologist] Gerald Bracey (“Experience outweighs rhetoric”) gives a logical explanation for this phenomenon: “Americans never hear anything positive about the nation’s schools,” noting that “negative information flows almost daily from media, politicians, and ideologues.”

Bracey’s many columns in the Kappan and his books provide overwhelming evidence that this perception of the quality of the nation’s schools is undeserved.

In an interview in the same issue of the Kappan (“Quality education is our moon shot“) Education Secretary [Arne] Duncan gives his opinion of why people think local schools are better than schools in general: “Too many people don’t understand how bad their own schools are.”

Duncan thinks that parents need to be ‘woken up’ to see that their own children are being short-changed. In other words, they are not to be trusted on evaluating the quality of their own child’s education, despite the fact that they are daily witnesses to the results of their child’s schooling.”

Instead of viewing parents as needing to be “woken-up” and be made to think that their local schools are bad, perhaps it is schools (and leaders like the Secretary) that could use some waking-up to recognize the challenges and stresses in the lives of their student’s families and in the life of the community where they are located.  Maybe then schools (and Secretary Duncan) can also wake-up to considering a possible role in connecting to families and other local institutions (and helping them to connect to each other) and playing a significant role in attacking some of the major problems that affect student achievement that lay outside the schoolhouse doors.

ATT Announces $2 Million Donation To “Parent Engagement” Effort

AT & T has just announced a partnership with United Way designed to support parent “engagement” in high schools.  They’re contributing $2 million.

Their press release says:

In November 2009, 20 awards to local or state United Ways will be granted through this initiative to identify best practices for family engagement to boost high school graduation. The 20 sites will use funds to increase family-community-school partnerships to build successful learning in high school, and will explore texting tools as part of that work.

“Building Partnerships With Immigrant Parents”

“Building Partnerships With Immigrant Parents” is an excellent article that appeared in ASCD’s Educational Leadership two years ago. It’s a neat story of how one Washington, D.C. school reached-out to parents.

For more information, you can can contact one of the authors of the article, and initiators of the project, Eileen Kugler, at EKugler@EmbraceDiverseSchools.com.

Conditional Cash Transfers, Parents, And Schools

We’re all going to be hearing a lot more about “Conditional Cash Transfers” (CCT’s) as a “poverty-fighting” tool. In fact, this past week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a big conference in New York about them. If you don’t know what they are, I’ll share more about them in a moment. I personally think there are probably better ways to combat poverty, but, for the most part, I can’t be that opposed to getting a few more bucks into the hands of low-income people — in most circumstances.

Unfortunately, however, we’re also going to hear more about them as a tool to push parents to be more involved in schools, and as a way to push students to get better grades and do better on tests. This is where I really have a problem with CCT’s.

First, let’s start with an overview of what these Conditional Cash Transfers actually are.  Here’s a recent newspaper article that gives a short summary — Latin America makes a dent in poverty with ‘conditional cash’ programs. Basically, families are provided incentive payments for behavior the program views as beneficial to families and to society — such as getting health exams, vaccinations, regular school attendance, higher test scores, grades, attending parent/teacher conferences. They’ve been used extensively in Mexico and Central and South America, and programs have been started in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area.

These kinds of programs appear to have had positive impacts on some aspects low-income families’ lives.  However, research has shown that their success with anything related to schools has been negligible — both in New York and in other countries.

I’ve written in my other blog about my objections to paying students for increased test scores. I’m all for applying financial resources to encourage parent engagement in schools, including with the academic lives of their children. But instead of using them to support a program that doesn’t work, let’s use them for efforts that do, like supporting teacher home visits to listen and build relationships, and connect parents with others who have similar concerns so they can act together on them; like supporting family literacy projects initiated and led by parents; by supporting the development of parent/school community gardens; and by supporting parent and school participation in community-wide organizing efforts to improve neighborhoods.

Let’s not use CCT’s as a “red herring” that sounds “sexy” and can be used to divert attention from real solutions to a problem.

“Families In Schools”

Families In Schools has a lot of useful resources on its website, as well as writing the Education Advocacy Blog. Here’s how they describe themselves:

Families In Schools (FIS) was created in 2000 by the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project (LAAMP) to continue the promising work initiated by the Annenberg Challenge in Los Angeles. The research by LAAMP and others on this subject confirms that when parents are engaged in the education of their children, performance on a variety of academic indicators significantly improves. In shaping the work of the organization, FIS was guided by Dr. Joyce Espstein and by Dr. Anne Henderson, two renowned experts in the field of parent involvement.

As the research bears out, there is a strong case for seeking parental involvement and engagement in the education process. Yet most educators need assistance and support in planning and implementing effective strategies and programs. To help them, FIS has created a “pathway to parent empowerment” that addresses the needs of parents from pre-k through 12th grade and provides programs, curriculum, and technical assistance at each level. Our programs and technical assistance are aimed at strengthening the capacity of schools, districts, and agencies who work with parents, as well as the capacity of parents by providing direct services to them through a variety of training opportunities.

Home Computer Project Expansion & Assessment Results

Some readers of this blog are familiar with our school’s Family Literacy Project where we provide computers and home Internet access to immigrant families. This effort has been recognized by the International Reading Association. Students with home computers (who use our website for one hour each day), typically have a three-to-four times greater gain in our cloze and fluency assessments over control group members.

The Sacramento Mutual Housing Association
(SMHA), one of the most respected affordable housing organizations in California (if not in the United States), began piloting a similar project in one of their developments.

They hired the bilingual aides — Xee Vang and Kou Vang — who help in our school’s project so that they could work with SMHA immigrant residents to lead an on-site computer and English literacy program at the development’s computer lab.   Families attended a three-month,  twice-weekly,  two hour class to learn English and develop computer skills.   The twelve families who graduated from the program are receiving their own computer and will be able to continue to use the wireless network at the site, with similar “homework” expectations.

In our project at Burbank High School, we never really followed-up on parent English language assessments — it was hard enough to find the time to regularly do ones with students.  And we have never really looked at assessing computer skill development, either.  In the SMHA project, however, both were done — in fact, the primary emphasis of the course was on adults, though younger family members also periodically attended, and the results were pretty darn impressive.

Almost all of the participants in the program were Beginning English Language Learner adults — half  of them were Vietnamese and half were Hmong.  The average initial English assessment scores were 69.7% and by the end of three months they stood at 98.8%.    And in the computer skills assessment, the first scores averaged 14.2%, while the final average was 95.6%.

Here are links to some of the projects created by participants:

Group Projects

Individual Projects

SMHA begins a second class later this month at about the same time we’ll be starting-up another year of our school-based effort.  Wish us both luck!

Harlem Children’s Zone Conference

The Harlem Children’s Zone has announced that they’re hosting a national conference with a “with a focus on how to transform their communities by replicating the innovative HCZ model.” It will be taking place in November.

I’ve posted in the past about how much I like the HCZ, and also shared some questions/concerns about their work.

I won’t be able to attend the conference, but I’ll be interested in seeing what comes out of it.

Thanks to Alexander Russo for the tip.

Parents As Partners Interview

I had the pleasure and honor of being interviewed by Lorna Costantini, Matt Montagne, and Cindy Seibel on Parents as Partners last night.

These monthly Ed Tech Talk webcasts are very informative, and I’ve certainly listened to them in the past.

You can read Lorna’s post about the conversation, which she titled Irritate or agitate – what’s your parent engagement like?

You can listen to the webcast on her blog, or directly at the EdTechTalk site.

“Parents involved in curriculum, policy discussions”

Parents involved in curriculum, policy discussions is the title of a Des Moines Register article about what is happening at two elementary schools in Madison, Illinois.

“We’re not just having the parents come along to support the fundraiser,” [the principal] said. “We want them part of everything we do every day…This includes academic programs and curriculum changes, and the creation of discipline and homework policies and procedures.”

Not a bad attitude to have…though it would be nice if the school wanted to try to be part of what was happening in the parents’ lives, too.

Academic Development Institute

The Academic Institute administers (at least, that’s what I think is the correct term to describe it) a number of parent/school activities and projects, including two which I’ve already posted about in this blog — Families-Schools.org and the School Community Journal.

The Des Moines Register just published an article about their work in East St. Louis titled Involvement plans pay off in test scores.

I can’t speak to the substance of what they’ve done, but I was impressed that, at least based on the what the article says, they definitely began by listening to what parents wanted.

Connecting Parents And Schools In The UK Using Technology

BECTA, the government agency in the United Kingdom whose job it is to help schools use educational technology effectively, also looks for ways to use technology to connect schools and parents.

They have a website titled Inspire Parental Engagement, and a YouTube video titled Engaging Parents: An Overview.

It’s interesting to see how the concept of parent engagement is viewed in countries other than the United States.

“School Staff Perceptions Of Parental Involvement”

A summary of a research report titled “School Staff Perceptions Of Parental Involvement” was recently published in Data Trends. The Research and Training Center at Portland State University collaborates with the Research and Training Center at the University of South Florida to produce Data Trends, ” a series of briefs addressing current themes, summarizing recent literature, or presenting new developments in the field of children’s mental health.”

The report, focused on a rural county in North Carolina, shared school staff’s surprisingly (at least to me) negative attitude towards parents: ” [staff]ultimately placed the blame of student underachievement…. “squarely on the shoulders of parents.”

The researchers nailed it when they wrote:

“To truly partner with families in planning for youth, schools must change practices so that information can be shared with a socially just approach. Schools must…meet families where they are, rather than embracing misperceptions and stereotypes that perpetuate ambiguity.”

How To Get A Discount When Ordering My Book


That’s the cover of my new book, Building Parent Engagement In Schools. It will be available on September 30th, but you can pre-order it now if you want.

You can buy it through all the usual ways, including on Amazon. Since the list price is $35, Amazon lets you buy it without charging for postage and handling — if you choose that method (it just means you get a few days later). You can pre-order it at Amazon.

You can also order it directly from Linworth Publishing. They will give blog readers a twenty percent discount. The only catch is that you can’t order it from their website if you want the discount.

To get that discount, after September 30th (there doesn’t seem to a way to pre-order it from the publisher) you’ll be able to go here, print-out an order form and fax it to (888) 873-7017. Important — you have to put this special code on your order — 093BLA4 — and say it’s “Larry Ferlazzo’s blog discount.”

You can also call-in your order to (805) 880-6834.

The twenty percent discount also applies to ordering multiple copies.

Here’s a preview of the book.

Let me know if you have any difficulties with the ordering process.

Parent Engagement In South Africa — “Engaging Families in School by Valuing Their Dreams”

Engaging Families In School By Valuing Their Dreams is a neat story of parents in a South African school working together to create a quilt.

Here’s a quote from the story:

“How many families in our schools have dreams no one is asking about? How many are eager to help their children reach those dreams, but they don’t know what to do? We need family engagement outreach strategies that respect their personal experiences, their culture, their knowledge. Then we can build true partnerships with families that help out students be successful and our schools thrive.”

You can also read more about it in this South African newspaper article.

Reminder That I’ll Be On Ed Week Chat This Tuesday

Just a reminder that I’ll be a guest on Ed Week’s September 15th “Chat” on parent engagement at 2:00 PM Eastern time.

You can get more information at their site. This is how they describe it:

Engaging Schools, Engaging Parents: The School-Community Partnership

About This Chat:

At President Barack Obama’s urging, and in response to research showing a connection between parental involvement and student achievement, districts nationwide have launched initiatives to increase community engagement with schools. Yet many schools find it difficult to sustain parent involvement beyond the parent-teacher conference. Join two experts, Joyce L. Epstein and Larry Ferlazzo, for an in-depth discussion on the subject. Ms. Epstein is the main author of “School, Family, and Community Partnerships.” Mr. Ferlazzo co-authored the forthcoming book “Building Parent Engagement In Schools.”

Joyce L. Epstein, director, Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University
Larry Ferlazzo, English and social studies teacher, Luther Burbank High School, Sacramento, Calif.
Mary-Ellen Deily, editorial director, Education Week Press

“A Toolkit for Title I Parental Involvement”

SEDL (formerly Southwest Educational Development Laboratory) is a well-respected nonprofit “think-tank” on education issues. Their research on parent engagement/involvement in schools is highlighted in our soon-to-be published book, “Building Parent Engagement In Schools.”

The SEDL National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools recently published a free Toolkit for Title I Parental Involvement.

This is their description of the resource:

“In this toolkit, SEDL provides detailed explanations of the Title I, Part A parental involvement provisions as well as thirty-three tools to assist state departments of education, districts, and schools in meeting these requirements. Both the explanations and the tools are designed to help educators increase parental involvement and provide opportunities for parents to engage in and support their children’s academic achievement. The toolkit includes information on the following topics:

* Policy, Planning, and Building Capacity
* Communication, Notification, Reporting, and Information Sharing
* Parent Rights and Options
* Meaningful Involvement and Decision Making
* Fund Allocation”