Rather Odd L.A. Times Op-Ed Piece On Parent Involvement Today

The Los Angeles Times ran what seems to me to be a rather odd Op-Ed piece on parent involvement today. It’s written by Dale Russakoff, who is described as a “free-lance writer.”

The first thing that struck me was the paternalistic headline “Schooling low-income parents in helping students.” So much for the concept of partnership and reciprocity, which is a key component of parent engagement.

Russakoff focuses on a 2002 article that appeared in the Review of Educational Research titled Evaluating Evaluations: The Case of Parent Involvement Programs. The article criticizes 41 studies that examined the results of parent involvement in schools, and criticizes them for not being well-done or accurate. I downloaded the article (it’s not available for free, unfortunately), but don’t have the time to compare the studies the authors examined with the larger number of studies examined by SEDL in its landmark study that was published the same year, A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement, and in SEDL’s more recent studies. My initial reaction is that there have been so many studies on this topic that I would think it would be pretty easy to find 41 that have flaws, but I plan on asking Anne Henderson, one of the SEDL study’s authors, for her perspective. I’ll be publishing an interview I’ll doing with her next year.

Russakoff does point out a couple of what he/she considers successful strategies — both which sound good. Joyce Epstein’s work is one that is cited, and I agree that it’s a good example of successful parent involvement and should be shared. The odd thing is that some of Epstein’s studies are ones that are criticized in the Review of Educational Research report.

It seems strange that the writer would use the report to support his/her position, and then use one of the people who’s methods are criticized in the report as an example of what should be done.

All in all, I don’t think the Op Ed piece is very well thought-out or contributes much to public discussion on this obviously important issue.

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