“The relationship between single mothers and poverty is not as simple as it seems”

As most people know, there is a common narrative suggesting that single-parent households can be a cause of many problems affecting children — in and out of school.

I’ve previously posted some articles questioning that view (see The Best Articles Questioning The View That Single Parents Are A Problem), and a new article has just been published raising more questions.

Check out The relationship between single mothers and poverty is not as simple as it seems at The Washington Post.

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“Ombudsman” Hired In D.C. To Work With Families

D.C. Board of Education names ombudsman as liaison between families, schools is the headline of a recent article in The Washington Post.

Here’s an excerpt:

D.C. parents have a new place to take their questions and complaints about city education: Joyanna Smith, the independent ombudsman charged with helping families navigate the District’s traditional and charter schools.

Smith is a lawyer and former charter school official who will serve as a clearinghouse for parents’ concerns and as a mediator to help resolve problems. She is only the second person to fill the position, which was created by the same law that established mayoral control of the schools but has been left vacant and unfunded since fiscal 2010.

It sounds like a positive development for families, but a bit odd. I’m not aware that other districts have “ombudsman” and, instead, have staff in some kind of parent involvement office. Ombudsman are usually fairly independent from the organization that hires them.

Are D.C. families so mistrustful of the district that they need to have an independent watchdog help them out? Or is it just a quirk in the law? If it’s the former, it seems to me the District has a lot of family engagement work they better start doing….

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“More than 20% of [British] parents say they have been fined for unauthorised holidays”

More than 20% of parents say they have been fined for unauthorised holidays is the headline of an article in the British newspaper The Guardian.

Here’s how it starts:

More than 20% of parents say they have been fined for taking their children on unauthorised holidays during the school term, while a majority of parents have lied to avoid getting into trouble, a national survey has found.

Wow. I’m not sure what world the British schools live in, but that system sure wouldn’t work in California and, I assume, in many other states with large Latino populations. We always have a sizable number of families (though the numbers seem to be getter smaller) who visit Mexico for extended periods of time.

I’d rather the kids didn’t stay out of school, but I live in the world as it is, not as I’d like it to be. I’d rather students tell me what’s going on so we can arrange for work they can do while they’re gone so that, when they return, they are not as behind as they could be. And I sure don’t think fining parents is going to promote positive school/family partnerships…..

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“Parental Involvement Is Overrated” — Um, No It Isn’t

I’ve previously posted about a new book on parent involvement research that pretty much suggests most previous research on the topic is wrong (see New Book & Research On Parent Involvement, & It’s Potentially Very Unhelpful).

The authors have a guest column in The New York Times with the decidedly unhelpful headline, Parental Involvement Is Overrated.

I have obtained the book, and it’s on my “to-read” stack. I’ll eventually get around to writing a more extensive piece on it. As I said in my previous post, I’m not convinced that everybody else is wrong and these professors are right.

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I Think This School Needs To Rethink How They Relate To Parents: “Parents reprimanded for taking children out of school for family funeral”

Parents reprimanded for taking children out of school for family funeral is the headline of an article in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

Here’s how it begins:

Two parents have received a written warning after their children missed school to attend their grandfather’s funeral.

Andrew and Danielle Overend-Hogg were told that their children, aged nine, five and three, had taken an unauthorised absence.

The letter also threatened that any repeat of the absence could lead to Teagan,nine, Isla, five and Elsie-Mae, three could lose their places at Sheffield’s Handsworth Ballifield Primary School.

I’m adding this to The Worst Parent Engagement Ideas.

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inBloom Is On Its Deathbed & No Tears Are Shed

inBloom, the ill-conceived, Gates-funded effort to collect just about every piece of data on just about every K-12 student in America (and opposed by parents across the United States), lost its only remaining customer last month when New York State withdrew from it.

Here’s an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal:

New York has reversed course to use an Atlanta-based company to store student data for parents and officials to use to track student progress, after the plan triggered privacy concerns and a legal challenge….

“We will not store any student data with inBloom, and we have directed inBloom to securely delete all the non-identifiable data that has been stored,” a statement Wednesday from state Education Department spokesman Dennis Tomkins said.

InBloom was founded in 2013 with $100 million in grant money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corp. The technology drew early interest from several states, but New York was the only one fully involved.

I’m adding this info to The Best Posts On The inBloom Data Fiasco.

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British Schools Plan: “parents should get a ‘checklist’ telling them how to raise their children”

British schools planning to give parents a checklist telling them what skills and knowledge their kids should have before they attend kindergarten.

The article about it in The Telegraph has over seven hundred comments, and they’re worth skimming.

The guidelines seem to make sense, but the tone and rhetoric behind the checklist just seems so patronizing.

What do you think?

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Kellogg Foundation Releases Poll Results & Increases Funding For Parent Involvement Programs

I’ve previously posted about the Kellogg Foundation’s plan to make $5 million in parent involvement grants over three years.

However, they apparently received so many applications for funding they have decided to spend $5 million in the first year alone. I assume that means that they’ll add more funding in the subsequent years, but don’t know that for sure (and a quick look on their website didn’t provide an answer).

The same article that shared info about their expanding funding also announced poll results finding that the lack of parent involvement was the main education problem cited by African-Americans.

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“Principal Connection / Tips for Better Parent-Teacher Conferences”

Principal Connection / Tips for Better Parent-Teacher Conferences is a nice article by Thomas R. Hoerr in ASCD Educational Leadership.

Here’s an excerpt:

Too often, parent-teacher conferences are seen as one-way reports from teacher to parent, but a parent-teacher conference should be a collaboration. Teachers have information to share, but they also need to allocate time for questions and discussion. We all need to work to be good listeners (I sure do), and this can be difficult for people who are used to speaking to students from a position of authority. No matter how valuable our words, if we talk so much that parents can only listen, we’re missing a chance to work together and serve our students better.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Parent/Teacher Conferences.

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“Standing Up to Testing”

Standing Up to Testing is a New York Times article on parents opting their students out of standardized testing in New York City.

Here’s an excerpt:

This movement of refusal does not evolve out of antipathy toward rigor and seriousness, as critics enjoy suggesting, but rather out of advocacy for more comprehensive forms of assessment and a depth of intellectual experience that test-driven pedagogy rarely allows. In the past year, the movement has grown considerably among parents and educators, across political classifications and demographics.

You might also be interested in The Best Posts On Parents “Opting-Out” Of Standardized Tests For Their Children.

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“Trying to Close a Knowledge Gap, Word by Word”

Trying to Close a Knowledge Gap, Word by Word is an article and video from The New York Times that gives a pretty good over of research, concerns and potential strategies related to the “word gap.”

It includes discussion about the Rhode Island that’s inserting recording devices into children’s clothing, which I have previously posted about skeptically (though I’ve tried to maintain an open mind).

You can find those posts, as well as others, at The Best Resources For Learning About The “Word Gap.”

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“Chicago Public Schools had the law on its side, but wisdom was nowhere to be found”

A few days ago, I posted about the inappropriate actions by the Chicago Public Schools in interviewing elementary schoolchildren — without parental permission — about a standardized test boycott (see I Don’t Get A Sense That The Chicago School District Has A Clue About Parent Engagement).

Now the Chicago Sun Times has published an editorial on it, which they’ve titled Terrible idea to interrogate kids.

Here are some excerpts:

It may be legal, but it’s wrong.

Chicago Public Schools investigators on Thursday interviewed children, some as young as 8 years old, without their parent’s consent at Drummond Elementary School about state ISAT testing, undermining trust between the school system and parents and, most damaging, between children and their teachers….

But CPS damaged its credibility with parents, and undermined the trust that is so essential to good schooling, by choosing, foolishly, to interview small children on such a sensitive matter without even informing their parents — the ones who made the final decision on skipping the test.

CPS had the law on its side, but wisdom was nowhere to be found.

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“School funding reforms spark push to get parent input”

School funding reforms spark push to get parent input is a new article at Ed Source describing what districts are doing to hear from parents about funding priorities (it’s a requirement of California’s new funding formula).

It sounds like most districts are doing a fair amount of work. However, I’ve got to wonder how many of them — if any — are doing it with a long-term parent engagement strategy in mind. If they’re just doing what they’re doing to get as many bodies at meetings as they can for one-shot input, then it will be a missed opportunity (at least, it will be a missed opportunity for those who really care about parent engagement).

Using these meetings as an excuse to begin a conversation, listen to parents concerns beyond how to spend school monies, and identify potential parent leaders — that’s an effective parent engagement strategy.

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I Don’t Get A Sense That The Chicago School District Has A Clue About Parent Engagement

Following the backlash from closing huge numbers of neighborhood schools and making it difficult for parents to opt-out of standardized testing, you’d think that the Chicago school district would have learned something about the importance parent engagement.

No such luck.

This week they “yanked-out” elementary students for interviews to see if their teachers influenced them to opt-out of a test that is being discontinued. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Chicago Sun-Times:

“The truth is, her teacher did not opt my daughter out of the exam. I opted her out. If they wanted to question someone, they should talk to me.”

Other parents shared the sentiment and the outrage.

“It doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t sound fair. It sounds intimidating and scary for our kids,” said Sabrina Craig, the parent of a Drummond sixth-grader.

Several of the children told teachers after the interrogations that several questions were followed up by: “Are you sure? Are you lying?” according to Tricia Black, a teacher at Drummond who took part in the boycott of the test, which is being phased out next year and which many parents and teachers see as gratuitous.

As with their previous missteps, I suspect the result will be the kind of increased parent engagement the School District does not want — parents organizing against them.

You might also be interested in The Best Posts On Parents “Opting-Out” Of Standardized Tests For Their Children.

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Secretary Duncan Visits Los Angeles Family Center

U.S. Education secretary praises L.A. program is the headline of a Los Angeles Times article on a visit Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently made to a center designed to provide support to both parents and students.

It sounds like an interesting program, and is part of the Promise Zone initiative.

You might also be interested in My Best Posts On The Harlem Children’s Zone & Other “Promise Zones.’

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REALLY Interesting Story About New York City Public School Begun By Parents

At a new school started by parents, uncertainty about how to include them is the headline of an article over at Chalkbeat that is one of the more interesting pieces on parent engagement I’ve read in awhile.

Here’s an introductory excerpt:

Over the course of nearly a decade, the parents recruited local clergy and elected officials to join a coalition, met with Department of Education officials, and found a space for the school. As the planning process moved into the construction stage, parents continued to advocate for their vision of the school, raising money to outfit the newly constructed building with a green roof where students can garden as part of their classes.

The Highbridge Green School opened in September with 142 sixth-graders, including Gonzalez’s younger son Allan.

Now, midway through the school’s first year, parents and educators are grappling with what parent involvement will look like going forward. How much say should parents have in the school’s daily operations and long-term vision, now that teachers and administrators have been hired to run the show?

The article, written by Emma Sokoloff-Rubin, only gets more interesting from there…

I also want to share what I think is a particularly striking paragraph, which is another way of looking at the parent involvement/parent engagement comparison I write about a lot:

“With Bloomberg and the various chancellors he had, parents were really kind of an afterthought,” said Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University. He said the Bloomberg administration treated parents as “consumers” who deserved information but could leave a school if they didn’t like it, rather than as “partners” who were also invested in their school’s success.

I’d strongly recommend you read the entire article….

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“Efforts To Close The Achievement Gap In Kids Start At Home”

I’ve been a little skeptical about the effort in Providence to have children wear clothes with built-in audio recorders to county the number of words heard at home (you can see those pieces at The Best Resources For Learning About The “Word Gap”).

NPR just ran a piece on it titled Efforts To Close The Achievement Gap In Kids Start At Home.

I’m still skeptical, but would be happy to be proven wrong.

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