“That’s what happens when I start swimming. I start coming up with ideas” Says Chicago Mayor

The headline for this post comes from a quote by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who just announced with great fanfare a plan to give parents $25 gift certificates for parents who participate in conferences with their child’s teachers.

I’d like to suggest that he might be better served if he tried to empty his mind during his work-outs, considering his absolutely awful history of engaging parents in school.

There are far more substantial efforts he could support to encourage genuine parent engagement….

He might also want to read Why paying parents to attend school events is wrong.

Video On Our School’s Teacher Visiting Program & Parent University

I’ve written a lot about school’s work with the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project and our parent-driven “parent university” program.

Here’s a video Mai Xi Lee, one of our school’s Vice-Principals, made for last weekend’s national Parent Teacher Home Visit Project conference. For what it’s worth, that’s me speaking after the text introduction….

This Week’s #PTchat

Guest post by Joe Mazza

Image credit: http://www.becoming1.org

On a typical Wednesday night, we hold a Parent-Teacher chat on an important and timely home-school topic. This week, we’re providing a special 60-day school year check-in and opening up the conversation to your individual and school needs. Think about the following. What does your class or school struggle with in engaging families? Need to throw an idea out there to the rest of the PTchat community? What would take your home-school efforts to the next level? What are others in a similar situation using to get the job done? 

To make sure your question(s) or challenge is shared, detail your situation in the comments section below or send an email to [email protected] before the chat. 

Looking forward to a differentiated chat based on your home-school needs this Wednesday, 10/31/12 at 9PM EDT / 6 PM PST. 


California PTA Sets Back Parent Engagement Efforts In State

Each day, as a teacher and as a strong proponent of parent engagement in word and deed,  I find myself more amazed by the actions being taken by the California PTA this election season. I don’t think I’m overstating it to suggest that their efforts this year will be used as a case study in political organizing and in political science classes for years to come — in how not to become politically engaged. If you had to make a list of most of the major mistakes a community-based group could make in a political campaign, the California PTA has managed to make a huge percentage of them.

And, by doing so, they have set-back parent engagement efforts in our state dramatically.

I’ve written quite a few posts already about their entanglement with billionaire Molly Munger and their pushing her doomed-to-fail ballot initiative instead of joining forces with Governor Brown and every major education group in the state to support an education initiative much more likely to succeed.

A new poll out this week shows that the Brown initiative still has a chance to pass, while support for the Munger/PTA initiative is dropping like a lead balloon. It would be surprising if it reached 40% “yes” vote on election day.

So what are the mistakes the California PTA has made?

First, allying yourself with a mercurial billionaire’s idea is never a good idea — the power imbalance is inherent in that kind of relationship. Once a group comes up with an idea and a plan, you can certainly take money to support it, but at least you “own it” and can plan a campaign around it so that it builds your organization’s long-term capacity. Once a billionaire comes up with an idea, it’s a pretty safe bet that he/she is always going to believe it’s theirs. Their self-interest is not going to be the long-term health of your organization.

Second, understand that once you get directly involved in any kind of public life, the name of the game is compromise — the “half a loaf,” not “half a baby” kind. When the Governor unveiled his initiative, the leaders of the California Federation of Teachers, who were sponsoring a competing one, cut a deal with the Governor to make changes in his initiative and drop theirs. That was the point of maximum leverage for the PTA — they could have made a deal with the Governor about specific support of parent engagement efforts — whether the initiative passed or not. Even if they could not have brought Munger along with them, at least the withdrawal of their support for her initiative would have removed a veneer of political respectability from it. And, if the Governor’s initiative passed, the PTA could have helped take credit for it. If it didn’t pass, the Governor and the Democratic leadership (in an overwhelming Democratic state) would have still remembered it. But, no, the PTA didn’t make a deal.

Third, the upcoming overwhelming defeat of the Munger/PTA initiative demonstrates how little political power the PTA actually has (if they had joined in with the Governor, that could have been masked) — you never go to the ballot unless you’ve got a very good chance of winning precisely because of this situation.  Remember the old organizing adage, “It’s not how much power you have, it’s how much power they think you have.” One of two things are now going to happen:

* The Governor’s initiative will eke out a win, and the PTA will have zero political leverage for years to come, or….

* The Governor’s initiative will lose, the PTA will become a scapegoat for its defeat, and it will have zero political leverage for even longer. I happen to believe that, even though having the PTA/Munger initiative around didn’t help, if the Governor’s initiative loses it will be due more to some mistakes made in its political campaign. However, just as people remember Al Gore’s defeat as more due to Ralph Nader than his inability to win his own native state of Tennessee, the PTA and Molly Munger will be thought of and remembered as the reasons for Prop. 30′s defeat.

If I were the California PTA”s leadership, I’d fall on my swords (figuratively, of course) immediately and use this fiasco as an opportunity for new leadership to make apologies, rebuild bridges, and radically reshape the organization.

Perhaps those actions could hasten parent engagement efforts being supported — by policy and funding — in our state capitol.  At least by a few years……

This Week’s #PTchat On Twitter

Guest post by Joe Mazza

Image credit: http://www.educationfuture.info

This Wednesday night at 9PM EDT/6PM PST, we’ll be talking politics and the future of U.S. Education on #PTchat (Parent-Teacher Chat). Nikhil Goyal (@nikhilgoya_l), a 17 year-old student and author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School will answer questions and offer ideas during our chat according to his lens as a student attending today’s schools. 

During the chat, we’ll discuss current local and national education policies in place, as well as any future plans and ideas our Presidential candidates plan to implement. Greg Toppo (@gtoppo) of USA Today recently wrote an article on the differing views on education our candidate possess. 

With the final Presidential debate in the books, Wednesday’s timely chat promises to be lively and full of perspectives from all areas of education. We encourage you to send sample questions for Nikhil to [email protected] by Tuesday, 10/23/12 5PM. 

New to Twitterchats?
After logging on to Twitter, visit Tweetchat and simply enter “ptchat” in the box at the top. Follow along, just watch and/or participate as you as much as you like to join others around the world in this weekly chat. We look forward to engaging your unique and important parent and/or educator perspective.






Alabama Hides Data About Attack On Immigrant Families

I’ve previously written a lot about the state of Alabama’s efforts to identify undocumented families and their children attending schools (which has thankfully been temporarily stopped by courts).

The Southern Poverty Law Center is now suing the state
over the constitutionality of the law, and is seeking data on its negative impact on immigrant children. The state gave the information to the federal government, but has refused to make it public (though it’s not clear from the articles, I’m assuming that feds are restricted in providing the details to other parties).

A summary of the data that was released by the federal government indicates a very large number of immigrant families in Alabama pulled their children out of school when the law when into effect.

I might suggest that laws like the one in Alabama are unlikely to generate increased parent engagement….

Munger Comes To Her Senses

It appears like the California PTA and others were able to bring Molly Munger to her senses and, as the Sacramento Bee reports, Molly Munger pulling ad critical of Jerry Brown’s Prop. 30.

Her spokesperson says:

“We made our point, and now we’re moving on,” said Proposition 38 spokesman Nathan Ballard. “This isn’t the No on 30 campaign. It’s the Yes on 38 campaign. We listened to our allies, and we will continue to listen to our allies.”

I’m not quite sure what point he’s talking about. Perhaps that a billionaire can easily put her ego ahead of the interests of California’s schoolchildren?

This Week’s #PTchat on Twitter

Guest post by Joe Mazza

Image credit: youngactorscamp.com

After attending an EdCamp & EdCamp Leadership, it’s easy to envision how those conference structures might work from the parent lens. After our staff completed “KnappCamp” in early September, the large and messy un-conference schedule was left on display for the Home & School Meeting to allow parents to see what we did on our In-Service Day. 

The topics were more geared toward the teaching staff and how we could support local and state objectives, but parents also have skills they are learning and need to grasp to provide the best home support for their children. On Saturday’s drive up to EdScape, I carpooled with Glenn Yetter (@coachyetter), Brett Baker (@bakerbg)& Gwen Pescatore (@gpescatore25) – all consistent #PTchat contributors. We began talking about the idea of a conference or “ParentCamp” for parents…

During this week’s #PTchat, we’ll discuss ideas on how to provide parents with training both in traditional and un-conference like offerings. We’ll discuss the role of teachers, parents, leaders and students, and potentially plan an actual “ParentCamp.” Would any topics discussed here on #PTchat would make for good sessions?

Join us this Wednesday, 10/17 at 9PM EDT / 6 PM PST for Parent-Teacher Chat on Twitter. 

 New to Twitterchats?

After logging on to Twitter, visit Tweetchat and simply enter “ptchat” in the box at the top. Follow along, just watch and/or participate as you as much as you like to join others around the world in this weekly chat. We look forward to engaging your unique and important parent and/or educator perspective.




All Of My “Best” Lists On Parent Engagement

I thought readers might find it helpful for me to again post links to all my “The Best” lists related to parent engagement:

The Best Ideas On How Parents Can Help Their Kids Succeed Academically

“The Best Research Available On Parent Engagement”

The Best Reasons Why Parents Should Be Looked At As Allies & Not Targets Of Blame

The Best Overviews Of Parent Engagement

My Best Posts, Articles & Interviews On Parent Engagement

The Best Resources On Parent Engagement In Countries Other Than The U.S.

The Worst Parent Engagement Ideas

“The Best Examples Of Parent Engagement Through Community Organizing” — October, 2011

The Best Sources Of Parent Engagement Advice For Teachers

The Best Posts & Articles For Learning About Newark’s $100 Million From Facebook

The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits

The Best Resources On Parent/Teacher Conferences

My Best Posts On Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2011 (So Far) — July, 2011

My Best Posts On Parent Engagement Over The Past Six Months — April, 2011

The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools

The Best Resources For Learning About Parent Fundraising & Equity Issues

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

“First Year Highlights: Parent Engagement In Schools” brings together all my Ed Week columns on parent engagement.

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

Boy, It’s Gotta Be Getting Clear To The CA PTA That They Picked The Wrong Horse To Ride

Billionaire Molly Munger continues to escalate her effort to cause damage and destruction to California’s public education system. One’s gotta think that leaders in the California PTA must be regretting their decision to tie their fortunes to hers. One can only hope that they decide to salvage some of their credibility by withdrawing from their partnership now.

Here are two articles that appeared yesterday:

Will the Munger Kids Kill California’s Schools? is from The American Prospect.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plans threatened by a determined Molly Munger

“Schools Falter at Keeping ELL Families in the Loop”

Schools Falter at Keeping ELL Families in the Loop is a new Education Week article. Here’s an excerpt:

One of the biggest challenges, educators and advocates said, is communicating effectively with parents who don’t speak English—an issue that, in part, has brought recent complaints of discrimination against Latino students and their families to two large districts in North Carolina and one in Louisiana.

“The parent piece is so, so important for the success of these students, but it’s also one of the most difficult things we’ve had to tackle,” said Jim D. Rollins, the superintendent in Springdale, Ark., where the 19,000-student school system has gone from having no English-learners 15 years ago to more than 8,500 now. “You have to make it a priority and work on it, work on it, and work on it.”

Sacramento Bee Calls On CA PTA To Contain Molly Munger

The campaign to fund or, in Molly Munger’s case, de-fund public education in California continues.

Here are some excerpts from today’s Sacramento Bee’s editorial:

The California PTA and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson are the most prominent supporters of Munger’s Proposition 38. On Wednesday, Torlakson called on Munger to cease the attack. The PTA ought to do the same. If she continues, they ought to consider dropping their support for Proposition 38…

This murder-suicide will help no one, least of all the kids both sides claim to want to help.

What was Munger’s response this afternoon?

Tax proponent Molly Munger said Thursday she plans to fund her Proposition 38 efforts up to Election Day and has no reason to back away from an ad critical of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax campaign.

For what it’s worth, and it probably isn’t worth very much, I’m no longer supporting both Proposition 38 and 30. I will only vote for Proposition 30.

Molly Munger Initiates “Murder-Suicide” Pact To Devastate CA Schools

Here in California, billionaire Molly Munger began running ads, apparently with the California PTA’s support, supporting her doomed-to-fail initiative and attacking the Governor and teacher-supported initiative that actually has a chance to win and providing monies to public schools.

You can read all about it at today’s post at Ed Source, Munger-funded “compare and contrast” ad criticizes Prop. 30.

I’ve written a lot about this issue, and how it’s like a murder-suicide pact.

I’ve also written about how I had come around to encouraging a “yes” vote on both initiatives.

I’ve got to say I’m now having second thoughts about that position. And, as a big advocate of teachers and parents working together to support education, I’m doubly disappointed that the California PTA will emerge from this campaign as a much-weakened organization with little political credibility