“Having gone to school doesn’t mean we all can run a school”

Having gone to school doesn’t mean we all can run a school is a useful post written by the President of the San Carlos School Board. He offers a perspective on some of the challenges of parent engagement. Here’s an excerpt:

in modern public education, parents are placed in the odd position of being simultaneously the customer, the shareholder (as taxpayer), and the part-time (unpaid) employee of the school district. And this relationship happens on a daily basis – very few services are consumed with the frequency of public education. There is no relationship on earth, with either public or private institutions, that rivals this intimacy.

And here’s another one:

Parents and all community members can believe multiple truths that are not in contradiction: that it is absolutely our job to demand great schools and to hold people accountable, but at the same time have a level of humility to recognize the fact that we are not experts, that schools only succeed as a partnership between the school the community, and that there is a fundamental difference between being a foodie and running a restaurant.

“Weingarten: ‘Won’t Back Down’ union stereotypes worse than ‘Waiting for Superman’”

American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten has just published a critique of the new “Won’t Back Down” movie, ‘Won’t Back Down’ union stereotypes worse than ‘Waiting for Superman.’

Here’s an excerpt:

I don’t recognize the teachers portrayed in this movie, and I don’t recognize that union. The teachers I know are women and men who have devoted their lives to helping children learn and grow and reach their full potential. These women and men come in early, stay late to mentor and tutor students, coach sports teams, advise the student council, work through lunch breaks, purchase school supplies using money from their own pockets, and spend their evenings planning lessons, grading papers and talking to parents. Yet their efforts, and the care with which they approach their work, are nowhere to be seen in this film.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On Parent Trigger Movie “Won’t Back Down.”

National PTA Changes Stance On Charter Schools, & It’s A Disappointing One…

The National PTA now supports letting other bodies besides local school boards authorize charter schools. That’s a big disappointment, since charter school operators are now often making “end-runs” around local school boards who won’t approve them by going to county boards of education or other bodies.

For example, here in Sacramento a charter chain couldn’t get any local school district to approve their schools, so they got the county board to do so. So, the county board of education, which is responsible by state law for monitoring and enforcing fiscal accountability in local school districts, is now taking an active role in worsening the financial situations of those same districts by encouraging groups to take monies away from them.

I’m not sure why the PTA would want to support that…..

Here’s the beginning of the Education Week piece on the PTA’s change:

The National Parent Teacher Association has revamped its policy to make it clear that it supports giving entities other than local school boards the right to approve charter schools, a new position the group argues will increase its ability to shape policy within the diverse and growing sector of independent public schools.

Planning Your Best Back to School Night Yet!

Guest post by Joe Mazza

(image by xavierhs.org)

The new school year is here. It’s time to meet your new families and begin developing that strong home-school partnership to lean on throughout the school year. Back to School Night is oftentimes your first impression to set the tone for a fantastic school year.

During this week’s Parent-Teacher chat on Twitter, we’ll share ideas on maximizing these Open House type evenings. Participants should bring past agendas, presentations and resources to share out. Find out what parents feel is the biggest takeaway from this night. Learn how teachers and school leaders make the most of the time allotted while focusing in on building these important relationships. Are students invited or omitted? How do we ensure the focus and tone of the school and/or class is embedded in every minute of this special evening?

Join us this Wednesday, August 29th at 9EDT/6PST for #PTchat’s lively and timely discussion. For more information on all past parent-teacher chats, visit our archive page here. 

“Students, parents should have a voice in teacher evaluations”

Students, parents should have a voice in teacher evaluations is a thoughtful column about AB 5, a good bill in the California Legislature about teacher evaluations that has a good chance of passing and being signed by the Governor. The bill, and the column, also include realistic perspectives on the use of standardized test scores.

Here’s an excerpt on the community involvement part:

AB 5 will require school boards to conduct two public hearings for students, parents and the community: one before collective bargaining occurs to inform the development of the new teacher evaluation systems, and one after the bargaining takes place, to force each board to present its system publicly and be held accountable for it.

“Home Visits Help New Families; Support School Readiness”

I post a lot about home visits, but not often about a practice that seems to be growing in popularity — early childhood home visits by non-school staff.

Education Week recently posted a useful article on the practice, Home Visits Help New Families; Support School Readiness.

Here’s how it begins:

Kindergartners across the country are kicking off their official schooling careers over the next several weeks (some are already underway), but up to 45 percent of them won’t be “ready to learn,” under a definition that includes certain cognitive skills, but also physical and mental health, emotional well-being, and the ability to relate to others.

Most of the children who fall short of that definition of school readiness come from low-income communities in households often headed by a single mother.

That sobering reminder about the gaps that exist even as children are just embarking on their schooling comes from the Pew Center on the States and its campaign for state governments to invest more resources into voluntary home visiting programs for expectant and new families. There are scores of home visiting programs designed to address a slew of health, social, and educational challenges that manifest in the earliest stages of a child’s life (even in utero). These programs pair professionals such as nurses or social workers with parents who volunteer to receive support and information about good parenting that can start as early as pregnancy and reach into a child’s fifth year of life.

The Best Posts & Articles On Parent Trigger Movie “Won’t Back Down”

“Won’t Back Down” is the upcoming theatrical movie made by the producers who brought us “Waiting For Superman.” It’s about a fictitious version of the parent trigger idea (see The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools.

Here are my choices for the best posts and articles about it:

FAQ on the Controversial Film Won’t Back Down: What Parents Need to Know is by Leonie Haimson at the Huffington Post.

Walmart is sponsoring a concert to “salute teachers” and benefit Teach For America, where they’ll also show scenes from the film. Here’s the trailer:

There is an excellent In These Times article about the controversy, Walmart, Right-Wing Media Company Hold Star-Studded Benefit Promoting Education Reform Film.

My Center For Teaching Quality colleague Jose Luis Vilson is the star of that article, including quotes like this:

“It’s another Waiting for Superman,” says Jose Vilson, a New York City math teacher and board member of the Center for Teacher Quality. “You have these popular actors, who as well-intentioned as they may be, they may not know all the facts, but they’re willing to back up a couple of corporate friends or people maybe they’ve become familiar with” in “trying to promote this sort of vision.”

And this one, where Viola Davis doesn’t shine (though, admittedly, she may have said much more that wasn’t quoted by the reporter:

Vilson says he was particularly disappointed by Viola Davis’ participation, given The Help star’s past comments about wanting to elevate the voices of often-ignored domestic workers.

“You should also see the alignment between that and what’s going on with teachers,” says Vilson, “and the bad tone that’s being sent throughout the country.”

“I’m sorry,” Davis told the New York Times, “I just know if you don’t have a strong advocate for a child, they’re not going to make it.”

It was particularly disappointing to learn from the article that CBS is planning on airing a special on Walmart’s event….

“Parent Trigger And Why We Need To Talk [Let's Be A Solution] is a great post by Jose Luis Vilson that’s a follow-up to the article.

Check out a review by someone who has seen it, Rita Solnet, which appeared in The Washington Post.

I also wrote a commentary on the film in reaction to a New York Times column about it.

Education Week also published a very thoughtful review.

American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten has just published a critique of the new “Won’t Back Down” movie, ‘Won’t Back Down’ union stereotypes worse than ‘Waiting for Superman.’

Here’s an excerpt:

I don’t recognize the teachers portrayed in this movie, and I don’t recognize that union. The teachers I know are women and men who have devoted their lives to helping children learn and grow and reach their full potential. These women and men come in early, stay late to mentor and tutor students, coach sports teams, advise the student council, work through lunch breaks, purchase school supplies using money from their own pockets, and spend their evenings planning lessons, grading papers and talking to parents. Yet their efforts, and the care with which they approach their work, are nowhere to be seen in this film.

“Won’t Back Down” Film Pushes ALEC Parent Trigger Proposal is a very thorough article from The Center For Media and Democracy bout the film and the policy.

‘Won’t Back Down’: Film critics pan parent-trigger movie — update is from Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.

Reaction to “Won’t Back Down” Shows Critics Have Learned Something is by Anthony Cody at Education Week Teacher.

‘Won’t Back Down’ gets a D+ for a public school polemic is from The Chicago Tribune.

Bad Lessons From ‘Won’t Back Down’ is by Dana Goldstein.

A Political Football in the Classroom: ‘Won’t Back Down,’ With Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis
is by The New York Times.


Director of “Won’t Back Down” Tries to Explain, but Questions Remain
is by Anthony Cody at Education Week.

Hollywood propaganda is from The Washington Post.

Diane Ravitch reports that “Won’t Back Down,” the parent trigger-pushing film, is now officially a box office flop. Read the details at “Won’t Back Down” Continues to Plummet.

Public education’s new quick fix is a good piece at Salon about the parent trigger and the recent “Won’t Back Down” film.

Here’s how it ends:

The quest for easy fixes is seductive. But the more we look for Hollywood-style magic bullets, the less we focus on what makes public schools work.

“Won’t Back Down” revived as centerpiece of corporate lobbying campaign is the headline of a Washington Monthly article. Here’s how it begins:

The cringe-inducing anti-teachers’ unions movie may have had the backing of wealthy corporate education reformers, but the magnates couldn’t seem to use their entrepreneurial spirit to cobble together a decent flick. The astroturfers dream, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, completely flopped at the box office when it was released last fall. In fact, if movie-goers’ taste is the sole metric, “Won’t Back Down” was the worst major film in the history of cinema. The Huffington Post reported that the $2.6 million it took in on its debut weekend set “the record for worst opening of a film that released in over 2,500 theaters.”

If the billionaire backers of this film — Philip Anschutz, through Walden Media, and Rupert Murdoch through 20th Century Fox — held their production to the same standards that they want to impose on public schools, every last copy of “Won’t Back Down” would be sealed in a series of wet cement laden oil drums and eventually heaved into Lake Superior. Yet they won’t let it die. They just (sorry) won’t back down. According to the AP, they’ve stripped the movie of its flimsy pseudo-artistic pretensions, and have placed it at the center a new lobbying effort.

USA Today has a similar article.

Feedback is welcome.

You might also be interested in all my “The Best…” lists related to parent engagement.

Adelanto Parent Trigger Saga Continues

I’ve written a lot about the saga of the parent trigger campaign in Adelanto, California. Here’s the latest from Education Week (it has plenty of details beyond these two first paragraphs):

A California school board has approved a plan to restructure a school at the center of a closely watched “parent-trigger” dispute, but it’s not the plan that a group of parents wanted—and it’s not the plan they say a judge ordered put in place.

The Adelanto, Calif., school board voted Friday to accept a petition circulated by a group of parents seeking to become the first in the country to use a parent-trigger law to overhaul an academically struggling school. But the panel rejected the parents’ preferred option, which was to convert Desert Trails Elementary into a charter school, the board’s president, Carlos Mendoza, told Education Week in an e-mail. The board instead decided to move forward with a form of “alternate governance,” he said, which would result in a longer school day, improved technology and other changes to the school.

This Week’s Parent/Teacher Chat On Twitter

Guest Post By Joe Mazza



This week’s chat brings the most
important lens to the table – our students. Students from StuVoice.org
will join us as “experts” to talk about the ways family engagement
impacted their own education growing up.

Student Voice is a grassroots
effort that is comprised of caring students and individuals that believe that
the students should feel empowered and have a stronger voice. You can find them
on Twitter at @Stu_Voice and follow their hashtag at #StuVoice.

As we begin the year looking for
deeper ways to include the voice of the students, here’s a
recent article
to get you thinking by Christopher Thinnes, Director
of the Center for the Future of Elementary Education entitled How Can
We Invite the Voice of Young Students into the Design of Their Learning?
 Also
check out 5 Thoughts on Maximizing Student Voice. 

Join us this Wednesday night, 8/23 at 9EDT/6PST as students
share what family engagement means to them, and also teach us how we can hone our practice to include them early and often. 



“Boosting Parent Engagement Before School Starts”

Boosting Parent Engagement Before School Starts is a good post over at Education Week by Michele Molnar.

It’s about a project in New Haven, Connecticut. It’s:

Jump starting parent engagement before the first day of school involves a get-out-the-volunteer effort that will put up to 100 two-person teams in neighborhoods to raise awareness—and excitement—about starting school.

The California PTA, Tax Initiatives & A Mess

I’ve previously written about how I think the California PTA has made a big miscalculation by throwing its lot in with billionaire Molly Munger and her ill-fated tax initiative coming up this fall.

Her campaign has been criticizing the other initiative on the ballot, supported by Governor Brown and many other education groups, and which actually has a chance of passing.

Yesterday, as the Sacramento Bee reports:

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, said in a letter to the California State PTA that the Proposition 38 campaign has “become increasingly negative” and “engaged in personal attacks against Governor Jerry Brown and Prop. 30.”

The letter asked for a “ceasefire.” (here’s another article on the letter)

It’s clear that Munger is on an ego-trip. But I just don’t understand what the PTA is thinking….

However, I have invited the PTA to respond to a few questions about what they’re doing, and have said I’d publish their unedited answers.