“L.A. Unified to spend $20 million on parent centers”

L.A. Unified to spend $20 million on parent centers is the headline of an article in today’s Los Angeles Times.

I generally don’t tend to be a big fan of these kinds of parent centers because they are often well-intentioned efforts to “do to” parents (involvement) instead of “doing with” (engagement). It can have a kind of “if you build it, they will come” perspective. Instead, I’d rather have resources devoted to supporting teachers and other school staff go out and visit with parents, listen to their needs and desires, and then have parents work together — with school support — to figure out what they want.

They might, or might not, want a parent center.

Of course, it’s easier to just build a room….

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One thought on ““L.A. Unified to spend $20 million on parent centers”

  1. I agree with you Larry, Parent Centers are simply a room at a school site. They are not a magic bullet. A Parent Center is only one component of an effective family engagement strategy–not to be confused with being the entire answer. If only it were that simple. Deciding on have a parent center is similar to mandating student uniforms or painting a school building a new color–they are nice ideas–but in and by themselves they do not boost student success and development. They may improve school climate but that is not sufficient.

    Parent Centers may also send an inadvertent message that the only important parent engagement takes place on the school site. Research indicates that the kind of family engagement most related to student success is what families are doing at home–which schools need to acknowledge, celebrate, incorporate, and expand upon.

    Supporting student success requires building deliberate and ongoing relationships among the adults in children’s lives. That requires time, intention, and planning–simply having room will not accomplish anything. Haphazard efforts yield uneven and sometimes negative results. Well planned efforts yield positive results over time.
    To to be really effective they have to be staffed thoughtfully by people who:
    1) understand the difference between random acts of parent involvement and true family engagement–in other words someone with training in the latest research proven strategies
    2) genuinely likes other people–all kids of people: parents, community members, and educators and is willing to extend themselves to others in a sincere and caring way.
    3) avoids forming cliques of any kind. Cliques destroy relationships.
    4) ensure that the room serves as clearinghouse for strategic links to community resources and services needed for that community.
    5) aligns all activities and events on supporting all student achievement, development and building social capital.
    6) understands that the Parent Center is a gateway tool to help families access information and assistance that leads to more dynamic ways of engaging in and supporting their children’s educational lives.

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