“A Community-Based Relational Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools” Article Available Free Now

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.

Now, however, you can read it for free.

It’s 45 pages, and I’ve only had a chance to glance through it, but it looks pretty good.

How NOT To Communicate With Parents

Mary Ann Zehr at Education Week has just written a post titled A 5th Grader Is a Translator at School. Is That a Good Thing?

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:

Mary Ann,

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:

URBAN TACTICS; Translating for Parents Means Growing Up Fast


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?

Why Schools Need To Respond To Problems In The Community

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.

Thanks to Susan Ohanian for the tip.

Rather Odd L.A. Times Op-Ed Piece On Parent Involvement Today

The Los Angeles Times ran what seems to me to be a rather odd Op-Ed piece on parent involvement today. It’s written by Dale Russakoff, who is described as a “free-lance writer.”

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.

“A Community-Based Relational Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools”

Beyond the Bake Sale: A Community-Based Relational Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools is a new research report issued by Harvard researchers exploring several ways schools can relate more to parents as partners (it does seem a little strange to me, though, that they’d use the same name of the popular book on parent involvement, Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family/School Partnerships.

You have to pay $15 for the report, but at the link you can see a short, and free, video interviewing one of the authors of the study.

Parent Involvement “Models”

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.

And, of course, there’s the more well-known framework of Six Types of Parent Involvement from Joyce Epstein.

Different situations might call for different tools….x

California’s “Race To The Top” & Parents

A few days ago I wrote about how I believe the issue of parent involvement/parent engagement is being used as a pawn in an attempt to pass legislation to qualify for federal “Race To The Top” funds.

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.

“Detroit parents want DPS teachers, officials jailed over low test scores”

“Detroit parents want DPS teachers, officials jailed over low test scores” is the headline of a Detroit News article this week. It goes on to say:

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.”

Parent Involvement Videos

Youtube has a bunch of videos related to parent involvement/engagement.

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.

“State Laws on Family Engagement in Education”

State Laws on Family Engagement in Education is the title of a study just released by the PTA.

Here’s how they describe it:

The purpose of this reference guide is two-fold:

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.

California “Race To The Top” Legislation Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

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.

You might think this to be a strange position from an advocate of parent engagement. However, as I wrote earlier this fall about this act’s precursor in Los Angeles, it seems to me that this may be a veiled attempt to give charter school operators a “leg-up” at privatizing schools.

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.

60 Minutes Segment On Harlem Children’s Zone

You can see the full 60 Minutes segment on the Harlem Children’s Zone that appeared tonight here.

60 Minutes has a lot of extra features on the HCZ here.

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.

My Best Posts & Articles About Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2009

I’ve been doing a lot of work this year on building parent engagement in schools, including having a book published (Building Parent Engagement In Schools) and starting a new blog called Engaging Parents In School. Plus, I continuing to do the usual work at our school of actually engaging parents, too!

I thought readers of both of my blogs might find it useful for me to develop a “The Best…” list of resources on this topic.

Here are my choices for My Best Posts About Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2009 (not in any order of preference):

Parent Involvement or Parent Engagement? is a piece I wrote for Public School Insights, and gives a nice preview of our book.

Family Literacy, English Language Learners, and Parent Engagement is an article I wrote for Library Media Connection.

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.

What Americans Believe Is “The Number One Factor In Keeping Schools Moving On The Right Track” — Read it and find-out!

What Might Aesop’s Fables Say About Glitzy Media Parent Involvement Campaigns? is the title of a critical post I recently wrote.

More On Parent’s Unemployment Effect On Children and “The Critical Connection Between Student Health and Academic Achievement”
both share major studies highlighting the affect that poverty has on students. The results emphasize the importance of schools engaging parents to combat these problems.

Education World published a short article by me titled A Parent Engagement Model That Works.

Info From Anne Henderson includes a link that this well-known research into the parent connection with schools gave to Congress.

Engaging With Your Child’s School: Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo is an interview I did with “Smart Bean,” a parent portal on the Internet.

Parents & Schools In Los Angeles is my “take” on what the District there might be doing with parents and charter schools.

Some Of These “Parent Academies” Just Don’t Get It…. shares my perspective on the recent media infatuation with “parent academies.”

In September, Joyce Epstein and I were guests at Education Week’s “edchat” on engaging parents. If you’re interested, you can read the chat transcript.

I was interviewed on the Parents as Partners webcast a few weeks ago, and you can read about about the conversation at Irritate or agitate – what’s your parent engagement like? You can also listen to the webcast at the EdTechTalk site.

Conditional Cash Transfers, Parents, And Schools offers my critical perspective on a growing way on how schools and cities are trying to connect with parents.

Home Computer Project Expansion & Assessment Results provides an update to our internationally-recognized Family Literacy Project.

Teacher Magazine published an article I wroteabout teachers making home visits to parents. You have to register (for free) to read the entire article, but it’s a quick process.

“Harlem Program Singled Out as Model” is a post I wrote about Harlem Children’s Zone, including some questions I have about it.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists — there are over 350 of them!

Good Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Series Ends With A Bad Editorial

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has finished their ambitious series of articles on parent/school connections.

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.