Want To Organize A “Parent Camp” At Your School?

I’ve previously posted about the idea of a “parent camp,” and now have learned that there is a site full of resources to help people organize their own.

The site is called #PARENTCAMP: An Unconference For Parents & Educators, and here’s how it describes itself:

The ParentCamp experience, by design, is a hybrid “un-conference” opportunity for parents and teachers to come together and model the four core beliefs highlighted in Beyond the Bakesale. The experience levels the playing field, putting all stakeholders in a circle for actual, face-to-face discussion about what is best for kids. It’s important to understand the difference between a traditional conference and the un-conference feel we worked to bring to ParentCamp.

On Saturday, April 27, 2013, @KnappElementary hosted the first Parent Camp “unconference” for parents and educators. It’s called an unconference because the event relies upon the expertise and perspective of the entire room, not just the main presenter like the typical stand and deliver conference. Every adult within the session brings an important and unique perspective to contribute to sharing strategies and ideas to benefit student learning, teaching and parenting.

There are “discussion leaders” in each session who set the tone for collaborative dialogue led by teachers, parents, school and community leaders. Sessions are geared toward elementary, middle and/or high school parents.

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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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A Parent-Teacher Conference Without Numbers

Two recent posts by parents at other blogs both made the point that they are tired of having the focus of their conversations on measuring their children by numbers.

In What parents don’t want to hear at parent-teacher conferences, Journo Adviser says:

When my wife and I sat down at our daughter’s 5th grade parent-teacher conference last week, we hoped to get a sense that the teacher understood our daughter and her strengths and weaknesses. But we didn’t.

Instead, the teacher provided us with a litany of numbers and test results the school and the education-testing industry use to define our daughter and her education.

And, in EduSanity: The No Number Parent-Teacher Conference Challenge, Jason Endacott begins this way:

I met with my sons’ teachers yesterday for parent teacher conferences. Both of their teachers are amazing in their own unique ways, but they share a common love for young people that long ago convinced me that my boys were in good hands.

I started with Cooper’s second grade teacher and after exchanging the usual pleasantries, we sat down at the little table where my adult knees didn’t quite fit and I told her I wanted to issue a friendly challenge.

“Let’s discuss Cooper’s progress in your class without using a single number that you did not generate.”

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

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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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“A Recipe for Home Visits: 1 Afternoon, 2 Neighborhoods, 4 Families & Frijoles”

A Recipe for Home Visits: 1 Afternoon, 2 Neighborhoods, 4 Families & Frijoles is a nice post by Jessica Cuthbertson.

Here’s an excerpt:

With the help of a multilingual colleague, a teacher workday, and a few phone calls, we visited four families in two different neighborhoods over the course of an afternoon. We intentionally selected families who were unable to make the last round of parent/teacher conferences; families we don’t see at school functions, not because they don’t care, but because of complicated work schedules or graveyard shifts, transportation issues, language barriers, or a combination of obstacles.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits.

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“Schools central to Promise Zone anti-poverty strategy”

Schools central to Promise Zone anti-poverty strategy is a good overview written up at Ed Source.

It also reflects the questions I have about how seriously the role of parent – and community — engagement has played — both at the original Harlem Children’s Zone and in the expansion program. As I’ve written before (you can see those posts in My Best Posts On The Harlem Children’s Zone & Other “Promise Zones”) they seem to often view families as “clients,” and not “partners.”

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Philadelphia Inquirer’s Editorial On “Opting-Out”

Here’s an excerpt from Valerie Strauss’ piece at The Washington Post:

The editorial board of a big-city newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, has gone on record as not only supporting the right of parents to have their children opt out of high-stakes standardized tests but also saying they are “right to protest” in this manner.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Parents “Opting-Out” Of Standardized Tests For Their Children.

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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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New Game: “Start the Talk: A Parent Learning Tool”

Here’s a new well-done online Choose Your Own Adventure game that is being nominated for an award at the Games For Change Festival:

Start the Talk: A Parent Learning Tool. It’s designed as a role-playing exercise for parents so they can practice speaking with their children about under-age drinking. Surprisingly — at least to me — it seems to offer some very good advice, and I can see it being useful to both parents and 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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“Questioning Parental Involvement”

Questioning Parental Involvement is an excellent short post by Walt Gardner at Education Week.

He provides some very good critiques of a new book and research about parent involvement that I posted about a few days ago — New Book & Research On Parent Involvement, & It’s Potentially Very Unhelpful.

Here’s an excerpt from his post:

Yet I wonder if using test scores as the primary basis for the study’s counterintuitive conclusion is misleading. Test scores certainly matter, but they do not allow valid inferences to be made about non-cognitive outcomes, which are every bit as important in the final analysis. For example, students may not perform well on standardized tests for a particular subject and yet still retain a lifelong love of the subject because of the attitude instilled in them by their parents. Conversely, students can post impressive test scores for a particular subject and hate the subject because of the excessive meddling by their parents.

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“8 Tips for Reaching Out to Parents”

8 Tips for Reaching Out to Parents is a very good list of suggestions by educator David Cutler that has been published by Edutopia.

Here is one of his suggestions:

6. Call Home to Report Good News

Parents rarely receive a positive call home. Twice a semester, I make a point to call and tell them how impressed I am with something their student did or said. It surprises me when parents nervously answer the phone, as if a student did something wrong. They are all the more relieved and proud when I have just good news to report. These calls let parents know that I care as much about recognizing success and improvement as I do about spotting struggle and weakness. These calls also reassure parents that I’m not out to make life more difficult for their child, that I’m fair in my assessments and feedback, and that I genuinely want to see students succeed.

I’m adding the entire post to The Best Sources Of Parent Engagement Advice For Teachers.

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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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New Book & Research On Parent Involvement, & It’s Potentially Very Unhelpful

Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework is the title of an article in The Atlantic by Dana Goldstein.

It describes research shared in a new book, The Broken Compass:Parental Involvement With Children’s Education by two professors which, at least according to Dana Goldstein, questions most the effectiveness of what most of us would typically consider parent involvement/engagement. Based on what The Atlantic article says, this new research apparently disproves most of what you’ll find at “The Best Research Available On Parent Engagement.”

I’m not convinced that everybody else is wrong and these professors are right, but I’ve just ordered the book to see for myself what they have found. I also recognized that a short article does not always provide the best summary of a full-length book. I’ll write a future post about my conclusions.

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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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