Last week I posted about a new research article titled “Beyond the Bake Sale: A Community-Based Relational Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools.” You can read more about it on that post, but, at the time, the article was only available if you paid for it.
It describes an Oklahoma newspaper article about how wonderful it is that a local school is using a Spanish-speaking fifth-grader to translate to parents. Mary Ann asks for reactions.
Here’s the comment I left:
This is terrible! Not only is the school using a student to get out of putting the appropriate resources into having the ability to communicate with parents, it’s putting both the child and the parents in an embarrassing and potentially damaging situation. It forces children to act much older than they actually are. The New York Times ran a story on this issue:
I could understand it if there were just one or two parents who spoke a particular language (for example, one year we had a student and family who only spoke Swahili). But SPANISH? In a state that has over eleven percent of its students being Latino?
I like education writer Richard Rothstein a lot, as you can see from some previous posts in my other blog.
I just learned that an excerpt from his excellent book, Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform To Close The Black-White Achievement Gap. is available online.
I also included several quotes from his book in my own, Building Parent Engagement In Schools. I use his research to help reinforce why schools need to work with parents to respond to the major impediments to student achievement outside the schoolhouse walls.
The first thing that struck me was the paternalistic headline “Schooling low-income parents in helping students.” So much for the concept of partnership and reciprocity, which is a key component of parent engagement.
Russakoff focuses on a 2002 article that appeared in the Review of Educational Research titled Evaluating Evaluations: The Case of Parent Involvement Programs. The article criticizes 41 studies that examined the results of parent involvement in schools, and criticizes them for not being well-done or accurate. I downloaded the article (it’s not available for free, unfortunately), but don’t have the time to compare the studies the authors examined with the larger number of studies examined by SEDL in its landmark study that was published the same year, A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement, and in SEDL’s more recent studies. My initial reaction is that there have been so many studies on this topic that I would think it would be pretty easy to find 41 that have flaws, but I plan on asking Anne Henderson, one of the SEDL study’s authors, for her perspective. I’ll be publishing an interview I’ll doing with her next year.
Russakoff does point out a couple of what he/she considers successful strategies — both which sound good. Joyce Epstein’s work is one that is cited, and I agree that it’s a good example of successful parent involvement and should be shared. The odd thing is that some of Epstein’s studies are ones that are criticized in the Review of Educational Research report.
It seems strange that the writer would use the report to support his/her position, and then use one of the people who’s methods are criticized in the report as an example of what should be done.
All in all, I don’t think the Op Ed piece is very well thought-out or contributes much to public discussion on this obviously important issue.
Using the strategy of “compare and contrast” are often good ways to help learn concepts.
In the context of schools developing better ways to connect with parents, I obviously prefer looking at through the involvement versus engagement “lens.” I think it’s simple, clearly understood, and accurate. It was developed by the Industrial Area Foundation and written about by Dennis Shirley.
Others may prefer a more nuanced approach. The University of Minnesota Extensive developed a document from S. M. Swap’s work titled Four Models of Parent Involvement that looks pretty good to me.
It’s continuing. You can read about it from the perspective of one charter school operator (Green Dot) who wrote an Op Ed piece for the LA Times.
I continue to believe that you don’t build long term and genuine parent engagement by just getting parents to sign a petition. And you don’t build it by just providing one tool (the legislation being discussed in California would just give 51% of parents the right to convert a school into a charter or another drastic change) — remember the old saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer then everything is going to look like a nail. And you certainly don’t build it by trying to rush some state legislation through in order to get a few more bucks from the feds.
I think you build genuine parent engagement by creating incentives for schools to make it a higher priority, as I mentioned in that previous post. You build it by helping teachers and administrators see that it’s in their self interest to help cultivate it — not by holding a gun to their head and making them fear it.
Impassioned parents demanded jail time for educators and district officials Saturday following the release of test scores that showed fourth- and eighth-graders had the worst math scores in the nation.
I know very little about what’s going on in Detroit — only what I read in the papers.
But, it seems safe to say that general relations between schools and parents aren’t looking too good.
The Detroit News article also says the schools are hoping to get 100,000 volunteer hours to help children with reading. That’s obviously important, though I wonder if the District is also considering helping parents be engaged more with the district as “leaders” with power and not just “volunteers.”
I haven’t been wildly impressed with the couple of I’ve taken time to look at, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be a few gems in the group. If you look the “Related Videos” on the right of the screen after you click the link, you’ll see quite a long list.
If you see any particularly useful ones, please let me know.
It provides families and advocates with information on family engagement provisions within state education laws so that they can better advocate for their children’s education on the school and district levels.
It guides policymakers’ and advocates’ development of their legislative reform initiatives as well as their efforts to monitor the implementation of laws already in place.
The reference guide provides key facts, background, analysis, noteworthy statutes, and policy recommendations for crafting successful family engagement legislation at the state level. Finally, the reference guide contains a survey of laws including legal citations pertaining to family engagement in education in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.
I haven’t gotten a chance to look at it yet, so can say how useful it might. I’ll probably check it out further over the holidays. It’s certainly worth a look.
The Los Angeles Times reports today that State Senator Gloria Romero has just amended her unfortunate legislation to supposedly help California get more federal funds for education to include yet another amendment that I’m not thrilled with — it parents new power to trigger change at a school.
The number of parents required to trigger this change would be 51% of the school — but not really “of the school.” Pretty much a parent of any child living in the attendance boundary of the school — whether they attend it or not — can sign.
I don’t think holding a gun to the head of schools and giving parents of students (who might not even parents of students) the right to make one change and one change only is the best way to promote parent engagement. If the state (and federal government) was really serious about promoting parent engagement, they might work with teachers, administrators, and parents to figure out a way to develop incentives for schools to encourage making parent engagement a higher priority — perhaps giving “credit” on state rankings to those schools who are trying innovative ways to do so, or excusing them from doing some onerous required bureaucratic task or, best of all, providing some extra money.
Nothing I saw lessened my concerns or answered my questions about the HCZ’s viewing parents more as clients than partners, or about their lack of partnership with other neighborhood institutions like religious congregations, but it’s certainly doing a lot of good for a lot of children.
Press Conference On Parent Engagement shares a video of a press conference called by our district’s Superintendent that includes both Elisa Gonzalez, our school’s staffperson for parent engagement, and me speaking about our home computer project and our parent university.
Parents, Students & College includes links to what we’re doing at our school to promote college discussion and planning with parents, and a new book highlighting research around that issue.
I thought it was pretty good, though I was surprised its article on home visits didn’t highlight the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project more.
The paper’s editorial today on the topic, though, left a lot to be desired. In discussing what school’s should do, it appeared to put the entire responsibility on teachers. Granted, teachers can play a key role in developing parent engagement. But, come on, districts and schools can also provide resources to hire parent engagement staff (one reason why our school has one of the most successful “parent universities” around is because of Elisa Gonzalez, our parent engagement staffperson) and can free up administrator time to make it more of a priority. Schools and districts need to also accept that more parent engagement will result in sustainable long-term gain in student achievement, but perhaps not as big of a bump in test scores than a useless several week focus on test prep in the classroom — and that this is okay.