“Parent Academies” appear to be “in” this week…
TIME Magazine has just published an article titled Parent Academies: Helping Mom and Dad Face School Too. This follows on the heels of several other recent media articles on this topic (you can see the last few posts on this blog).
Unfortunately, at least as far as the article describes the programs in various school districts (and I understand that they might not be entirely accurate), it appears that they are missing huge opportunities. They all seem to be bringing parents in to train them on what the districts want to train them on and talk about the topics they want them to talk about it. There is no indication that they are asking what the parents want to do or learn.
The TIME article itself has a particularly condescending comment:
“Of course, there’s no guarantee that the people who need these programs the most will actually take advantage of them — you can’t force parents to care, no matter how many free classes you offer.”
Come on, just because parents who might be facing huge time, economic, family, and health challenges don’t want to come to a meeting to talk about what the district wants them to talk about doesn’t mean they don’t care!
Plus, the final sentence from a Harvard researcher demonstrates what a huge disconnect there is between “parent involvement” (which I would use to describe these types of academies) and “parent engagement” (which I would use to describe what Elisa Gonzalez has done at our high school’s Parent University by asking parents what they wanted to learn about and building the curriculum with them):
“Family engagement is a shared, reciprocal partnership between educators and parents,” she says. “It’s a two-way conversation between home and school.”
Yes, exactly, a conversation. Often, these types of parent academies tend to be more a one-way “communication” to parents as opposed to a two-way “conversation.” That doesn’t make them bad — any kind of further parent connection can help students.
So much more could be possible, though. And that makes them lost opportunities, too.