Today, The Los Angeles Times published an article headlined LAUSD parent centers aim to boost involvement at schools. It reports on plans to spend $20 million to “upgrade” parent centers in the District. The article discusses a positive report on parent centers from the LAUSD “Inspector General.”
I’d like to share my thoughts in two part — one, on parent centers in general and, two, on the Inspector General report.
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….
In that previous post, reader Melissa Whipple also left a thoughtful comment:
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.
I’m always interested in hearing different or supporting views from readers, so I hope you’ll leave your comments on this topic.
Now, for the Inspector’s General report, which can be found here.
The report repeatedly says:
Research has shown that Parent Centers are a critical and essential link toward creating an integrated and inclusive school environment.
It goes on to say that they reviewed “various studies” and listed multiple benefits they supposedly showed from parent centers.
However, they only cite “A New Wave Of Evidence” as their source. That is obviously a classic study on parent involvement/engagement, and just about every parent engagement advocate, including me, have cited it extensively.
However, after checking it out again, I found that it actually only cites one fifteen year–old study on parent centers and, in their report on that study, it says:
The parent activities listed were attending the parent resource room, school meetings, and assemblies; going on class trips; working in the classroom; receiving home visits; going to parent-teacher conferences, and transporting children to and from school.
It seems to me that most of those activities, except for the first one, have nothing to do with a “parent center.” It’s odd that they would characterize it as a report on them — at least to me.
So I’m a bit wary of that Inspector General’s report…
But I’m very interested in hearing what people in LA have to say.