President Obama On Parent Engagement

I’ve just written a post at my other blog about today’s Univision Town Hall Meeting on Education with President Obama. Here’s is an excerpt from his comments:

What we’re trying to do as the government is to make sure that we’re providing more incentives for schools to improve their parental involvement programs. We’re trying to make sure that schools are open and understand that it is up to them to provide a welcoming environment to parents so that they can be involved in their child’s education.

And specifically with respect to young people who are coming to school and English may not be their native language, we’ve got to make sure that we continue to fund strong programs, both bilingual education programs but also immersion programs that ensure that young people are learning English but they’re not falling behind in their subjects even as they are learning English.

And there’s a way to do that that is effective. We have schools that do it very well; there are some schools that don’t do it as well. We want to lift up those models that do it well. And parents should be demanding and insisting that even if your child is not a native English speaker, there is no reason why they can’t succeed in school, and schools have an obligation to make sure that those children are provided for. They have rights just like everybody else.

Is The National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement Up-And-Running?

Last June, I wrote a post about The United States Department of Health and Human Services accepting proposals to form a National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement.

The Center appears to be up-and-running or, at least, its website is.

Here is how the website describes its purpose:

The National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement will identify, develop and disseminate evidence-based best practices associated with the development of young children and the strengthening of families and communities. The Center will create culturally and linguistically relevant training and tools for implementing comprehensive, systemic, and integrated approaches to parent, family and community engagement in Head Start and Early Head Start.

New National Parent Group Launches

A new national parents group launched this week. Here’s an excerpt from an article about it:

Parent advocates from across the country converged on New York City on Monday, February 7 for the first national forum of Parents Across America, a parent-led movement to make parent voices heard in the national debate over education reform – and to promote positive, common-sense solutions that will improve public schools nationwide.

The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools

As regular readers know, I have very serious concerns about the so-called “parent trigger.” This California law (which may be spreading to other states) allows 51% of parents whose children attend a “low-performing” school ( or parents who will have children attending that school in the future), to sign a petition and have major changes made — closing it down completely, replacing the principal and extending the school plus other changes, replacing the principal and firing 50% of the teachers, or converting it into a charter school.

I thought I’d put together a “The Best…” list of related resources today, especially since the California State Board of Education is reviewing potential regulations this week on how to implement the law.

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools (not in order of preference):

I’m going to start off with my Washington Post piece titled “The ‘Parent Trigger’ doesn’t help schools or parents.”

What’s really wrong with ‘parent trigger’ laws is the title of my newest piece in The Washington Post.

And I’m going to follow it up with another post I wrote headlined If It Quacks Like A Duck — Thoughts On The “Parent Trigger”

Seeking Something Better Than the Trigger by David B. Cohen may be the best piece written so far on the topic.

Amina writes on California’s Trigger law: is a thoughtful piece from Justice Matters.

Strengthen and straighten out state’s parent empowerment process is from the President of the California State PTA.

The Los Angeles Times has a surprisingly good editorial titled A better ‘parent trigger’

State faces a moving target in implementing ‘parent trigger’ law is the title of an article in today’s Los Angeles Times. It offers good information and analysis.

Parent Empowerment or Parent Manipulation? by Martha Infante is a blog post at InterACT, the blog of Accomplished California Teachers.

Emily Alpert, a San Diego reporter on education issues (whose articles I like a lot), has written a good, short article on the parent trigger.

Parent Trigger Supporters Attack PTA, Compare Schools To Batterers is the title of another post I’ve written.

Parent ‘Trigger’ Law Draws Attention, Controversy is the headline of a new article in Education Week. It provides a good overview of what’s going on in California, as well as describing which other states are considering implementing similar laws.

Schwarzenegger’s misleading account of ‘parent trigger’ is the title of a Valerie Strauss piece in The Washington Post. The comments are pretty interesting, too.

I Think These Critiques Of Parent Trigger Laws Are Missing The Point…

Trigger Laws: Does Signing a Petition Give Parents a Voice? is an excellent article in the most recent issue of Rethinking Schools.

The Trouble With the Parent Trigger is by Diane Ravitch.

Parent Trigger R.I.P is a post I wrote about its lack of success.

Additional suggestions are welcome.

You might also want to explore the over 600 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

Parent Trigger Updates

Here are some links to useful new pieces on the Parent Trigger:

Amina writes on the California’s Trigger law at Justice Matters

Powerful “Parent” Trigger operators target vulnerable school; attack misfires by Caroline Grannan

The San Jose Mercury News has an editorial in support of the parent trigger. More importantly, there are several good critical comments that follow it, especially from David Cohen.

If It Quacks Like A Duck — Thoughts On The “Parent Trigger”

The California State Board Of Education will be considering new rules for the so-called “parent trigger” law this week.  This law allows 51% of parents whose children attend a “low-performing” school ( or parents who will have children attending that school in the future),  to sign a petition and have major changes made — closing it down completely, replacing the principal and extending the school plus other changes, replacing the principal and firing 50% of the teachers, or converting it into a charter school.

In light of these pending new rules, it’s worth considering some background.

Low-income people have many stresses in their lives — working multiple jobs or trying to find work, high-crime, health problems, etc.  Partially because of those stresses, often whatever time they might have for community improvement efforts can be geared more towards “mutual aid” groups — religious congregations, block clubs, and, for immigrant communities, groups organized around their native states, villages, or countries.  These mutual aid organizations can provide immediate help  for immediate problems — today!  These could be funeral expenses, babysitting, getting appliances fixed, as well as vehicles for the relationships and social capital that we all need.

This dynamic, known by anyone who has either lived or worked closely in low-income communities, tends to make any successful efforts to organize for social change — including the desire for healthy and effective neighborhood schools — rooted in those mutual aid institutions — those congregations, block clubs, and ethnic associations.  The social capital within them can provide the energy, leadership, and support to initiate those efforts —  with either the groups working on their own or inviting others (like the organization I worked for as an organizer for many years — the Industrial Areas Foundation) to assist them. You seldom will find major projects initiated by individuals.  Typically, with all the challenges most low-income people face, the energy is seldom there.  But, connected to others,  the energy can be found.

This is in contrast to communities that are more financially comfortable, where you often will find individuals initiating major community projects.  Partially, this is because they tend to have fewer dramatic challenges in their lives, and therefore have more energy and confidence to move on issues on their own.

One exception to this perspective is what community organizers call a “slash and burn” strategy, which is being used by Parent Revolution in support of the parent trigger.  Using this methodology, a group (generally one that has recently received a large amount of grant money to work in low-income neighborhoods) hires plenty of staff and throws “time” at a community. Often, the group  has few connections, if any, to the community that is chosen.   By going  door-to-door, talking  to and  visiting with people often enough, the staff can provide the glue to bring individuals  together for a short time to get something accomplished on a single issue (and get headlines for the organization).  After that initial success is completed, however, the group will generally dissipate and the staff will move on to another neighborhood.   The  neighborhood social capital, largely built up with outside staff, seldom sustains itself.  It is different from the kind of social capital built by people themselves in organizations that they themselves have built — congregations, block clubs, ethnic associations, etc.

Many editorial writers throughout California and in other states are waxing rhapsodically about how the parent trigger is “fundamentally democratic” and about “the rights of parents.”. I wonder how many of those writers have actually ever worked with low-income people to make change? I haven’t seen a single editorial wondering why no local institution was involved in developing the parent trigger effort going on in Compton.  What these editorial writers don’t seem to understand  is that  Parent Revolution, the group behind the parent trigger, was founded,  funded and led by leaders in the charter school movement.   They parachuted in and did “slash and burn” organizing.   Is it a surprise that parents whom they brought together chose the charter school option?

It is not about  “democracy” or “the rights of parents.”  If that was their concern, the Parent Revolution would be in dialogue with local long-standing community institutions, and only come into neighborhoods where they were invited by several of them.  The parent trigger is being used, and will continue to be used, as a stalking horse for people who want to convert existing neighborhood schools into charters — plain and simple.

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is, indeed, a duck.

PTA Calls For Changes In “Parent Trigger”

The President of the California PTA has written a piece calling for major changes on how the “parent trigger” law is implemented. Here’s an excerpt from Jo A.S. Loss’ column, Strengthen and straighten out state’s parent empowerment process:

Here’s the bottom line: Parents must have access to as much information as possible about all options before they are asked to sign a document that could fundamentally affect the education their children receive.

“Legislation: Teachers should grade parents”

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post weighed in today on the crazy proposal in Florida to have teachers grade parents of their students.

Here’s a great excerpt from her piece, titled Legislation: Teachers should grade parents:

Requiring teachers to grade parents is a nutty idea. Some parents work two or three jobs and can’t be as involved as they would like to be, and, besides, teachers have enough to do already.

Even if it were possible to set up a reasonable parent evaluation system, there could be no real enforcement mechanism, at least not in traditional public schools. Private schools, and even public charter schools, quietly counsel kids out for bad academic performance; traditional public schools can’t.

Now that Stargel has shown that she accepts the fact that home life has a major impact on academic performance, she and her colleagues should now ask themselves just how hypocritical it would be to keep pushing “value-added” assessment of teachers.

Rahm Emanuel’s “Transactional” Perspective On Parent Involvement/Engagement

As most readers know, Rahm Emanuel is favored to become the next Mayor of Chicago, where there is mayoral control of public schools.

In his response to the question “Please explain how you would encourage more parental involvement in the public schools. Do you support tying parental involvement to school funding or what schools should remain open?” he said he wanted a parent “trigger,” parents should sign contracts with teachers saying what they are going to do to support their children’s learning, and give parents report cards on individual schools.

It’s all “transactional,” looking at punishment, rewards, demands (see Being ‘Transactional’ Versus Being ‘Transformational’ in Schools). None of it is “transformational.”

How about finding resources to support teachers making home visits to parents of their students to get to know them? How about directing city resources so that schools could provide supportive social services to families, like they do in the Harlem Children’s Zone? How about encouraging schools to connect with other local neighborhood institutions to identify and respond to broader community problems (safety, affordable housing, etc.) that affect family’s lives and student learning?

Why am I not holding my breath?

Parent Involvement & The State Of The Union Speech

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post makes an important point in her analysis of President Obama’s State of the Union address. Here’s an excerpt from her column, titled Obama’s faulty education logic: What he said and failed to say:

Obama rightly said that a child’s education starts at home:

“It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.”

Then why is his administration insisting in pushing policies that evaluate and pay teachers based solely on how well they raise the test scores of their children? How can teachers be solely responsible for what happens to a child outside of school?

Obama spoke about the $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition launched by his Education Department.

“Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning.“

Well, not actually.

For one thing, if parent involvement were so important to the administration, you would think it would have been part of “the most meaningful reform” in a generation. It wasn’t.

I Don’t Think Having Police Fine Elementary Students For Leaving Class Early Is Going To Enhance Parent/School Relationships

I initially heard about this on Richard Byrne’s blog, but was so incredulous I had to do a little more investigating.

It’s true — Texas school districts are having misdemeanor tickets with fines up to $500 being issued to students as young as…six years old. Offenses including leaving class early and using profanity. See a news video about it here, and read more here.

Listen, I understand that some severe student offenses require law enforcement action. But this seems to be going over the line…to say the least. And I don’t think this kind of practice is going to do anything to enhance the parent/school relationship….

What Is With All These Proposed Punitive Measures Against Parents?

Yesterday, I posted about a Florida legislator’s proposal to have teachers grade parents. Late last year, I wrote about a Michigan prosecutors plan to jail parents who didn’t attend parent-teacher conferences.

Now, an Indiana legislator wants parents to perform community service if their child misbehaves in school, apparently targeting instances of bullying.

I’ll admit that punishment can sometimes be effective for some people in some circumstances. But, as most teachers know. punishment generally just teaches the perpetrator to be more careful about being caught the next time. On top of that piece of common sense, punishing parents is just a simplistic approach to a complex problem.

How about if, instead of lashing out at parents, we encourage schools, and provide them the resources they need, to put more energy into genuine parent engagement, including providing supportive family services?

Historian and author Diane Ravitch sent two tweets in response to this post that carried a lot of wisdom. “This is in the context of let’s just punish someone: Punish teacher, fire principals, close schools, punish parents. Nuts” she wrote, “To the corporate reform movement, accountability = punishment. Now they turn to parents. But teachers are still at risk.”