Parent Involvement & Middle School

I’ve gotten a chance to read more carefully a report on parent involvement and middle school that I’ve previously posted about.

You can read the study here, though I suspect you won’t learn anything new from it.

It suggests that schools should focus on building relationships with parents through programs like home visits. Sounds good to me! Of course, it doesn’t suggest where schools might get the resources to do or expand those efforts, but that might very well not have been within the scope of the paper.

It also suggests that schools tell parents about the importance of:

speaking effectively with their children about the importance of education and helping them think about their futures. Indeed, middle school students, who are both seeking independence and at risk of disengaging from school, might be in particular need of academic socialization. Parents can help their children to think about what education means to them, to set their own goals for schooling, and to decide how best to reach them.

I agree that many parents and their kids could benefit from this kind of assistance. However, it can also easily come off as very paternalistic. A recommendation like this particular one requires an accompanying guide to schools and teachers about what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and how to frame it. Without it, this kind of strategy can blow up in a teacher’s and a school’s face….

Summer Issue Of “School Community Journal” Now Available Online

The summer issue of “School Community Journal” is now available online for free.

It includes many articles, including:

Six Years Later: Effect of Family Involvement Training on the Language Skills of Children From Migrant Families – Lisa St. Clair, Barbara Jackson, and Rose Zweiback

Family–School Connections in Rural Educational Settings: A Systematic Review of the Empirical Literature – Carrie A. Semke and Susan M. Sheridan

A Community Partnership to Facilitate Urban Elementary Students’ Access to the Outdoors – Maria M. Ferreira, David Grueber, and Sandra Yarema

“White House Seeks PTA Members for ‘Champions of Change’ Honor”

White House Seeks PTA Members for ‘Champions of Change’ Honor is a new post over at Education Week.

Here’s the beginning, and I’d encourage you to go over there to read the rest:

If you had a few minutes with the President of the United States, what would you say to him about education?

Twelve PTA members working to improve the lives of children through involvement in PTA and education will soon have that privilege.

They will be honored as White House Champions of Change at a special event and policy briefing with PTA leaders from across the country at the White House in August—but first they must be nominated and chosen.

You have until July 10th to nominate exemplary PTA members, or to be nominated as one. The White House and the National PTA are looking for volunteers who have dedicated time, talent and a powerful voice to improving educational equity and opportunity for every child. To nominate someone, visit

You can read about Myrdin Thompson, an parent engagement leader who was named a “Champion of Change” earlier this year and met with The President, here.

“Parent Involvement One of the Most Enduring Benefits of the Head Start Program”

Parent Involvement One of the Most Enduring Benefits of the Head Start Program is the headline of a post that begins:

Recent research released by Alexander Gelber and Adam Isen at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania suggests that increased parent involvement in a child’s life is one of the most enduring benefits of the Head Start Program.

The article also contains a link to what seems to be a relatively useful guide for parent involvement in Head Start programs.

This Week’s Parent Teacher Chat On Twitter

Guest Post by Joe Mazza

#PTchat 6/27/12 – Will the Karen Klein Bus Ride Fuel the Changes Needed on Today’s School Buses

A few days ago, the world didn’t know much about who Karen Klein was. As I draft his post, the horrific video embedded below has almost a million views. The vulgar, disrespectful and inhumane behavior on display by several student bus riders in the Greece Central School District in NY raises more than a few questions that need to be flushed out by parents and educators to promote solutions for all school bus riders. One of my first thoughts was, “I wonder how bad the kids at school get it if that’s how they treat an adult.” During this week’s parent-teacher chat (#ptchat on Twitter), we’ll discuss the following questions and others:
  1. What kind of behavior is expected of students on the bus (and at bus stop) toward other students and adults? Do we have the right measures in place to meet these expectations?
  2. What training should be in place for both students and staff who ride/drive school buses?
  3. How can schools, the transportation department and famlies work together to keep students and staff safe on a daily basis? Where do we fall short?

I’ve asked #ptchat’s bus expert and past guest, Jim Dillon former principal and author of Hazeldon’s Peaceful Bus Program to join us for this conversation. The program he designed (we implement in NPSD) supports the four rules of bullying see in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Please join us on Wednesday, June 27th at 9PM EDT for this important conversation as we commit to making school buses and neighborhood bus stops a safer place for all.

My Best Posts On Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2012 (So Far)

I usually just do a year-end list on parent engagement posts and many other topics, but it gets a little crazy having to review all of my zillion posts at once. So, to make it easier for me — and perhaps, to make it a little more useful to readers — I’m going to start publishing mid-year lists, too. These won’t be ranked, unlike my year-end “The Best…” lists, and just because a post appears on a mid-year list doesn’t guarantee it will be included in an end-of-the-year one. But, at least, I won’t have to review all my year’s posts in December…

You might also be interested in a listing of all my parent engagement-related “The Best…” lists.

Here are my choices for My Best Posts On Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2012 (So Far):


“What is the most effective way for a school to communicate with parents about potentially sensitive topics?”

ASCD SmartBrief, a great way to get daily education news, just announced poll results to the question:

What is the most effective way for a school to communicate with parents about potentially sensitive topics?

As one would expect, the number one option was “communication from students’ teachers.”

The very close number response, though, seems bizarre to me. It was:

“Emails from the principal”

I wonder how parent engagement is going at the schools where the people who voted for that one work?

“Parent Cortical Mass” Is A Worthwhile Blog

Parent Cortical Mass seems like a good blog that’s worth recommending to parents.

Here’s how it describes itself:

The Parent Cortical Mass Blog is for parents striving to get more knowledgeable and skillful at managing kids’ learning and education.

We focus on four questions:

What does research in learning science have to say to parents?
What controversies drive American educational policy?
Who influences education policy? What do they have to say?
What are the top technologies, books, games, and toys that strengthen kids learning?

PCM does not promote a specific political or child-rearing ideology. We provide information and resources, not advice. Parents apply their knowledge on these topics in ways consistent with their beliefs and judgments.

Take a look….

The Best Resources For Learning About Parent Fundraising & Equity Issues

As public financing for schools goes down, the issue of parent fundraising for schools — and equity issues connected to it — is getting more and more attention.

I thought I’d at least get a start on bringing together a few resources on the topic. Additional suggestions are welcome:

I’ve written a post titled The Nuances Of Parent Fundraising For Schools that is worth a look.

The New York Times wrote about how “At Two City Schools, Parents’ Money Leads to Two Very Different Experiences.”

And The Times has also published Fund-Raising Fairness Is Being Tested in Oregon, With Mixed Results. Here’s an excerpt:

So a compromise was struck.

Efforts to split Santa Monica-Malibu district gain new traction is an article in The New York Times about a controversy around wealthy parent fundraising in Malibu being with Santa Monica.

Parents could have private foundations for their children’s schools. But 30 cents of every dollar raised after the first $10,000 must be passed on to the citywide foundation.

Rob Reich (not Robert Reich, the former Clinton Cabinet member) has written a useful article in The New York Times titled Not Very Giving.

It’s about the issue of parents in wealthy communities raising private funds for public schools, while high-poverty schools are in the same situation.

Here are his suggestions for how to respond to problem:

There is still a lot we can do to improve upside-down system of charity. First, wealthy school foundations like Hillsborough’s should honor the equality-promoting standards released by the National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education (on which I served). At a minimum, would require private giving to be aggregated across schools and equally with the entire school district. More ambitiously, it would channel private giving to support poor districts.

Second, because the root cause of inadequate school financing is ultimately political, not philanthropic, donors and school foundations should support political reforms. A movement is afoot in California to amend the property-tax slashing Proposition 13 to require fair market value taxation of commercial real estate, which would raise tax revenues. In effect, by asking parents to donate, the Hillsborough Schools Foundation encourages them to work around the obstacle of Prop 13 rather than confronting the problems it creates directly. It would be better if the foundation organized parents in support of amending Prop 13.

Finally, Congress should differentiate or eliminate charitable status for local education foundations. If a foundation raises money for a district with a high percentage of children eligible for free lunch, it could offer a double deduction; for a district below the average in per-pupil spending, the standard deduction; for a district with few poor children and higher than average per-pupil spending, no deduction. If private giving to public schools exacerbates inequalities, then at the very least we should stop subsidizing such behavior with tax dollars.

How Budget Cuts and PTA Fundraising Undermined Equity in San Francisco Public Schools is a very interesting article in the San Francisco Public Press that deals with issues of funding inequity far beyond the confines of San Francisco.

In fact, it may be the best piece I’ve seen on role of parent fundraising in this problem and ways to deal successfully with the challenge.

Here’s how it ends:

The most effective solutions may be political, not charitable.

Reich counsels parents troubled by growing public-school inequities to turn their energies from giving to advocating for reform. He said they should work to raise tax rates for the wealthy, decouple school budgets from property taxes and target state and local resources to the poorest schools.

In a Sept. 4 op-ed for The New York Times, Stanford political science professor Rob Reich (no relation to the coincidentally named Robert Reich) went a step further, proposing that the federal government create a special charitable status for school-based PTAs, so that those who give to poor schools get double deductions and those who give to affluent schools get none.

Norton said the changes in state funding have sparked other possible reform ideas specific to San Francisco.

“We desperately need to reweight the student formula,” she said. This may be the most decisive battle to be waged in the next year on behalf of poor and immigrant schools such as Junipero Serra.

“A well-educated populace is the key to a healthy democracy,” said David, the Alvarado parent, who turned to full-time education activism after a successful Wall Street career. “Public education is an investment, not an expenditure. My grandparents were immigrants. They came to the United States, they got a public education, they lived the American dream. Education is the one way we know that can help each person rise, generation after generation. If you care about the future of America, education for all kids is in all our interests.”

Scoreboards and butterfly gardens: Is parent fundraising equitable in Montgomery? is an article that appeared in The Washington Post.

Here’s an excerpt:

Parent fundraising and private donations have produced enviable results at some Montgomery County schools: athletic scoreboards, artificial turf, a nearly $250,000 elementary school improvement project.

Other schools have seen little of such largesse.

Now Montgomery school leaders are asking: Should more be done to spread the wealth?

Such questions have become increasingly pointed in Montgomery, a high-performing school district where both prosperity and poverty exist and where gaps in student achievement are a continuing challenge. To that end, school officials have launched a review of the district’s policy on contributions made to improve facilities.

“If it’s good enough for any kid in Chevy Chase, it’s good enough for my kid, too,” said Melinda Anderson, a parent in Aspen Hill who argued at a community meeting last week that all school upgrades are important and that equity needs to be paramount.

Donation inequality felt among Santa Rosa schools is the headline of an article appearing in the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat.

It’s fairly lengthy, and highlights an ongoing issue in many schools in the inequity of private fundraising. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seriously discuss potential solutions.

Nation’s Wealthy Places Pour Private Money Into Public Schools, Study Finds is the headline of a New York Times article on parent fundraising for schools.

Here’s an excerpt:

The inequities in local philanthropic fund-raising, which is unregulated and tax-deductible for donors, mirror the growth in wealth among the richest 1 percent over all, said Rob Reich, an associate professor of political philosophy at Stanford University. The energy that parents expend raising money for their own children’s school, he said, “comes at the potential expense of their political engagement on a broader basis to actually get public dollars to be enough for all kids.”

The New York Times “Room For Debate” has a variety of commentaries on Bake Sales and Inequality” Fund-raising is useful for public schools, but does is it give better-off families an advantage?

I’m adding post to a list of other “The Best…” lists I’ve published related to parent engagement.

This Week’s Parent Teacher Chat On Twitter

Upcoming #PTchat: Awards Assemblies – Good for Kids?

Wed., 6/20/12 at 9PM EDT

During this week’s Parent-Teacher Chat (#PTchat), we’ll discuss the “Awards Assembly,” as for many of us, this event is fresh in our minds.

Our school has done an End of Year Awards Assembly for many years, but in recent years, my staff and I have noticed some commonalities that we need to hold more parent and teacher conversation on.

After reading some of the resources shared by elementary principal Christopher Wejr (@MrWejr) on his “Rethinking Awards Assemblies” page, in particular “Death of An Awards Assembly,” it might be time for more parents and educators to talk about the pros and cons of this event. Depending on the school, this event occurs between 1-8x per year. What are the benefits? What are the downfalls? Elementary versus secondary? Now’s the time to begin thinking/planning/fine-tuning in preparation of the 12-13 school year.

Join us this Wednesday, June 20th at 9PM EDT / 6PM CST for #PTchat, where we’ll discuss Awards Assemblies in great detail. All #PTchats are archived here for your easy review.

“Are Schools Meeting The Needs Of Parents?”

“Are Schools Meeting The Needs Of Parents?” is the title of a new post by Peter DeWitt at Education Week.

Here’s an excerpt:

Schools need to communicate with parents about events, curriculum, student progress, and budgetary issues, but is that communication one sided? There are principals who do not return phone calls to parents or teachers that take a long time to call parents back. On the other side there are parents who have disconnected phones or do not return phone calls.

The first step for schools is to reflect on the methods they use to communicate. They need to be able to put messages out there and be open to parents who will tell them when they do not. For full disclosure, I do not always communicate well. As hard as I may try, I do not put out messages as quickly as some would like. I often ask myself the following questions.

Do we only communicate when they need something?
Do principals and teachers know what parents really want out of their schools?
Do they care what parents want?
Do we come off as the experts who only tell and never listen?
Do parents know what they want out of their public school system?

“A Parent’s Advice To The Chicago Teachers Union”

A Parent’s Advice to the Chicago Teachers Union was written by Diane Ravitch. She shares a comment left by a parent on her blog. Here’s part of the parent’s statement:

For every irate, blustering, nasty parent you’ve encountered, I guarantee you there are 2 or 3 or even 9 who feel differently. And a lot of them will have your back, stand with you, speak out for you, support you fully: but you have to approach them, one on one. You have to make the first move, reach out, and ASK their help.

I’m adding it to The Best Reasons Why Parents Should Be Looked At As Allies & Not Targets Of Blame.

“College Bound” Videos Look Like They Could Be Useful

College Bound is a series of videos — both in English and Spanish — designed to help parents get ideas on how they can support their children academically. Parent have to register at the site in order to watch them, but it only takes a few seconds to do so.

The videos are very accessible, and a few of them seem useful enough for teachers to use them in the classroom with students.

I liked two in particular — one was on the physical effect that learning has on the brain, and the other was on failure (you might be interested in The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning and in The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures).

You can read more about the site at How Can Schools Best Communicate with Immigrant Parents?

I’m adding the resource to The Best Ideas On How Parents Can Help Their Kids Succeed Academically.

“Four Ways to Increase Parental Efficacy”

“Four Ways to Increase Parental Efficacy” is from The Family Linkages Project.

It’s short, to the point, and helpful. It’s suggestions include:

Promote successful personal experiences for family members.

Help family members learn from others and each other.

Always offer encouragement,

Focus on emotional well-being and stress reduction.

I’m adding it to The Best Sources Of Parent Engagement Advice For Teachers.

Thanks to Steve Constantino for the tip.

Parent Trigger Proposal In Michigan

Though the idea of a parent trigger is clearly dying out, a similar proposal is under consideration in Michigan.

The Michigan Association of School Boards, however, does not help the case to oppose the measure when their spokesperson makes comments like this in an email:

“I would rather have the education professionals decide the plan, not just parents who mean well but may not have the background to know what model makes the most sense for a building.”

Statements made with a bit of arrogance do not promote the spirit of cooperation we need to have with parents.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools.

“At Two City Schools, Parents’ Money Leads to Two Very Different Experiences”

At Two City Schools, Parents’ Money Leads to Two Very Different Experiences is a new article at The New York Times’ Schoolbook that certainly speaks to a post I wrote last week, The Nuances Of Parent Fundraising For Schools.

Here’s how it begins:

In February, when Ronnie Najjar, the principal of Public School 89 The Liberty School in Battery Park City, decided to buy several $600 iPads for lower-grade classrooms, enroll teachers in a Common Core curriculum training program and hire part-time office and recess staff members, she turned to her PTA.

Within days, the parent group cut her a check for $18,000.

For parents at P.S. 89, who tend to know a lot about QuickBooks, budget balancing and the intricate workings of burgeoning nonprofits, it was a prime example of how things work at their school.

“We’re here to support Ronnie,” said the PTA treasurer, Gabrielle Steinfels, 46, who has a child there in third grade and in recent years helped the PTA raise over $200,000 each year, putting it at the mid- to high end of parent organizations in fund-raising. “That’s our job.”

At Public School 305 Dr. Peter Ray in Bedford Stuyvesant, where the PTA raises less than $5,000 a year, things work differently. There, more often than not, the administrators find themselves helping parents by doing things like collecting money for winter coats for homeless students, and this year, raising money for a family that lost all of its belongings in a fire.

“People make sacrifices when they can,” said the assistant principal, Bruce Copeland, about donations from parents. “But everybody here is struggling.”