I was a community organizer for nineteen years prior to becoming a teacher, and one of the lessons we learned from the work of Saul Alinsky (the father of modern-day community organizing) was that “the price of criticism is a constructive alternative.” I think I’ve provided plenty of examples of effective parent engagement/involvement — both in this blog and in my book.
I guess, though, in addition to making lists of how to do it, I will need to make a list of how NOT to do it. In the past few months, I’ve shared how badly Newark and New York City is doing on parent engagement. Now, it’s Hartford’s turn for the limelight.
NPR reports about it in a story titled In Hartford, Parents Don’t Always Pick Best Schools. School District officials just can’t believe that parents might use a different standard to judge their schools other than the arbitrary method of standardized test scores (maybe they need to read The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven”).
Because parents don’t “understand” that test scores are the only true basis on which they should judge a school, the district believe that they need to initiate a campaign “to get more information out to parents because, the theory goes, good information makes for better school choices.” They’ve even hired an advertising consultant to help them do it.
After all, what do parents like Myesha Simpson know:
“I love the school because I love the teachers, I love the way they teach, I love they way they solve their problems, I love the way they handle things,” Simpson says…She says that more information from the district might change the choices some parents make, but it won’t change hers.
No, instead of trying to learn from parents, hubris and a condescending attitude is the way to really connect with families….