Guest Post From The Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project: “What School Reform Can Learn from Business: It’s not what you think”

As regular readers know, I’m a big supporter of the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project (see The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits).

Here’s a guest post written by Carrie Rose and Elaine Smith from the Project:

What School Reform Can Learn from Business: It’s not what you think

Change Won’t Work Without Relationships

SACRAMENTO: The world of education policy has been abuzz with a backlash against reformers inspired by the profit-driven environment of corporations. The New York Times recently ran an Opinion by Professor David L. Kirp of the University of California, Berkeley, titled “Teaching Is Not a Business” (August 17, 2014). Kirp says reformers bank on business concepts such as competition and innovation, but treating teachers like factory workers “might sound plausible in a think tank, but in practice it has been a flop.”

In the blogosphere, author Mike Klonskey and others question how billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s latest $120 million “gift” to San Francisco area schools will be used. Klonskey, in a recent blog, stated “What we know for sure is that all over the country, power-philanthropists are making “gifts” to resource-starved school systems. In return, the donors reserve the right to set education policy and funnel money to politically connected consultants and for-profit programs.” This follows an in-depth critique of Zuckerberg’s previous donation: a hundred million dollars to turn around schools in Newark, NJ in a 2010 ill-fated collaboration with Newark Mayor at the time (and now senator) Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (The New Yorker, May 19, 2014).

Educators say that corporate tactics are a disaster, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Reformers who look to business models weren’t all wrong to take pointers from what works in capitalism. However, in a toxic atmosphere of politics and finger pointing, their vision got cloudy. Here’s what they missed: high-stakes testing and a competitive rewards system isn’t what makes a company’s products innovative, its markets expand, or its service excellent. Any veteran manager will tell you that relationships, up and down the org chart and in every link of the supply chain, will make or break the corporate bottom line. This is also, and especially, true in education.

As Professor Kirp states in the NY Times, “Every successful educational initiative of which I’m aware aims at strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in the schools…The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers not markets can hope to replicate.”

The power of relationships in school reform is familiar to the growing number of educators across the country that use home visits to build trust between schools and their communities. With a methodology that leads participants to question their assumptions and look for strengths, trained teachers and other school staff visit their students’ families at home, and then continue the relationship formed there to support the student. The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, which started the model in Sacramento, CA, serves as a training and policy advocate for a national network of affiliates using this method. Each affiliate is a partnership between the local school district, teachers’ unions, and community groups.

This collaborative approach builds both trust and expertise within families, communities and educators, making the system more responsive, accountable and effective for students in public schools. This model was featured in a best practice case study in the U.S. Department of Education’s report “Partners in Education: Dual Capacity Framework for Family Engagement,” and is considered an example of “high-impact” family engagement.

Studies have documented the many benefits of our model of home visits. The collaborative partnerships between families and schools:

  • Increase parental involvement
  • Develop trust and understanding among parents and teachers
  • Identify common goals for students
  • Help parents learn how to better help their children
  • Help teachers make meaningful connections and avoid burnout
  • Question previous assumptions, and reduce cultural and racial bias
  • Build trust on all sides


Parent/Teacher Home Visits improve school climate, because they:

  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Reduce suspensions and expulsions
  • Improve communication between home and school
  • Share accountability


Home Visits increase student achievement, such as:

  • Improved test scores
  • Higher school-wide API scores
  • Improved accountability for students, parents, and teachers
  • Differentiated instruction for academic and developmental success
  • Increased preparation for college and career

Schools and districts across the US, from inner-cities to rural reservations, have adopted and adapted our model. Home visits work for families. They work for educators. And, most importantly, they work for students.

As Walt Gardner put it bluntly in his recent blog: “When historians look back at the reform movement presently sweeping the country, they’ll conclude that it failed to deliver on its promises because it gave too little importance to the relationship between teachers and students.”

For more information about PTHVP contact:

Carrie Rose, Executive Director, The Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project                  916/448-5290

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