Is Developing Race-Specific Parent Groups Really The Way To Go?

According to a recent article in the Madison, Wisconsin newspaper titled In Madison, an effort to get minority parents involved in their kids’ schools, one school has increased parent involvement by starting separate Hmong, Latino, and African-American groups.

I applaud the school for recognizing the problem, and for putting time, energy, and resources into trying to solve it.

However, I wonder if this kind of strategy is really the way to go (I also recognize that the article might not tell the full story).

I can understand the importance of occasionally having a specific day or even recognizing the efforts of a particular group, but I wonder if this kind of on-going organizational separation by ethnicity can backfire in the long run. During my community organizing career, we always found that the greatest opportunities were created by connecting people together around common self-interests, instead of separating them by race. We used rudimentary technology to have simultaneous translation, and I know that our school’s parent groups (including parent university) uses far more advanced tech now to do the same.

Getting parents to be engaged with schools, and with each other, around their common stories, hopes, and dreams — including the ones they have for their children — are worth the added logistical and organizational challenges, I think.

I also have to add that I have been instrumental in pushing for specific African-American, Latino, and Hmong student clubs/classes at our school. However, one difference — at least with the design of those classes/clubs — is that they specifically spend a lot of time looking at history and how some of the biggest successes in an individual ethnic group’s history is when they develop allies with others. The groups/classes are also encouraged to work together. Finally, I think these kinds of groups have a different purpose, and certainly a different constituency, than a school parent or community organizing group

What are your thoughts?

Parents In Detroit

Last month, I posted about an organization called the Detroit Parent Network, and how they were likely to get a major contract from the Detroit Public Schools to coordinate parent involvement for the district.

That contract has indeed come to pass, and they’re opening seven “parent centers.”

From what I read, the Parent Network sounds like they do good work, but I haven’t heard from anybody on the ground there. I’d love to hear from people in Detroit about their experiences.

My Most Popular Posts On Parent Engagement (Over The Past Six Months)

I began this blog seven months ago — it was timed with the publication of my book, Building Parent Engagement In Schools.

I thought it might be useful to share — in order of popularity — which posts have been “clicked-on” most over the past six months.

Here are My Most Popular Posts On Parent Engagement (Over The Past Six Months):

1) Worst Idea To Promote Parent Involvement Ever: If You’re Poor, You Get Government Benefits Cut-Off Unless You Go To PTA Meetings

2) School Secretary Fired For Translating For Parents

3) Boy, Did Ruben Navarrete Get Up On The Wrong Side Of The Bed This Morning!

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

5) How NOT To Communicate With Parents

6) October Is “Parent Involvement Month”

7) “Harlem Program Singled Out as Model”

8. Will Somebody Tell Secretary Duncan’s Staff That There Are “Regular” Public Schools Engaging Parents, Too?

9) Some Of These “Parent Academies” Just Don’t Get It….

10) Conditional Cash Transfers, Parents, And Schools

I hope you find the list helpful.

NEA Funds Expansion Of Teacher Home Visits

I’ve written extensively about the Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project in our book, and actively worked with them. In fact, I’ll be helping with a training they’re doing later this month, and I’ll also be interviewing Carrie Rose, its Executive Director, next month for a piece that will appear in this blog.

So I was thrilled to learn that the the foundation of the National Education Association just provided sizable grants to the Columbus, Ohio and Springfield, Massachusetts school districts — in large part to expand their local home visit programs. People in those districts were trained by the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, and leaders of efforts in those cities are quoted in my book.

Congratulations to them!

Nice Radio Interview On Parent Involvement/Engagement

The local NPR affiliate in Kansas City has just run a ten minute segment (that’s available online) titled “Parental Involvement in Urban School Districts.”

It’s an interview with Valerie Blackwell, an assistant teaching professor at the UMKC School of Education. I think she does a very good job at distinguishing the concept of engagement from involvement, though she doesn’t actually use those terms.

More On “Community Schools”

I’ve written before about Community Schools, and how they can help engage families.

Typically, community schools are ones that host multiple social services, as well as regular school classes.

Two articles about them have recently come-out.

One is titled Community Schools: Reform’s Lesser-Known Frontier and appeared in Education Week.

The other is A Community School Makes the Grade: Principal Eileen Santiago Tells Us How, and is from one of my favorite blogs, Public School Insights.

Both are worth reading.

The Growing Popularity Of A Bad Idea: The “Parent Trigger” Comes To Connecticut

I’ve written several times why I think the so-called “parent trigger” (which, here in California, lets fifty-one percent of parents of school-age children in a schooI’ve written several times about l’s attendance area sign a petition to trigger a school overhaul or takeover by a charter.

Now, Alexander Russo reports that an effort is underway to do the same thing in Connecticut. Read his post, Parent “Trigger” Moving East, to learn more.

School Secretary Fired For Translating For Parents

In a “Hall of Fame” worthy example of how NOT to encourage parent involvement/engagement, the Charlotte Observer reports that a school secretary was fired for continuing to translate for parents who couldn’t speak English after a new principal banned her from doing so.

The school in question is 42% Latino, and its motto is “Academy of Cultural and Academic Diversity.”

The secretary, Ana Ligia Mateo, complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ruled in June that there is “reasonable cause” to believe her civil rights were violated.

She is now suing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

President’s Budget Eliminates Parent Information & Resource Centers

Parent Information and Resource Centers are federally funded organizations in every state and territory in the United States. They are designed to promote parent involvement/engagement in schools. According to the PTA, the Obama administration is proposing their elimination and “consolidation” so they focus their efforts on charter schools.

From what I can see, the caliber of work by PIRC’s around the country is pretty mixed. But, nevertheless, they are an important resource that should be continued.

Parent Involvement In New Zealand

I make a point of writing posts about how parent engagement/involvement is looked at and implemented in countries other than the United States. You can see previous posts in the “Countries Other Than the U.S.” category here.

An extensive paper titled Parent Involvement in Inclusive Primary Schools in New Zealand: Implications for Improving Practice and for Teacher Education was just published. I don’t necessarily think it’s particularly insightful, but it is interesting to see what’s going on there.

Another Thoughtful Response To South Carolina Lt. Governor’s Comments

Last week, the South Carolina Lt. Governor made some ridiculous comments about denying low-income parents government aid if they don’t attend PTA meetings. He went on to compare poor people to “stray animals” that will breed if they are fed.

Here’s a thoughtful response to those comments that appeared in a South Carolina newspaper yesterday. It’s titled Bauer’s comments reflect our own misconceptions.