Assets or Liabilities?

If you ask professional educators in a public forum whether they view parents as assets or liabilities, the answers will vary only in decibel level: “Assets,” “Our greatest asset,” “invaluable partners,” and so forth.  But what if you caught them off guard, late at night after a few drinks, say?

Or, better yet, what if you simply examined how most schools treat parents?

In my experience, most administrators and many teachers hold parents in low regard, and their behavior and policies reflect that.

Perhaps that’s an inevitable consequence of attempting to elevate education to a high-status profession.  “After all, you wouldn’t expect a heart surgeon to consult with a child’s parents before replacing a ruptured valve and saving the child’s life,” the thinking goes, as if the work of educating a child were the equivalent of complex surgery.

It seems to me that most schools push parents away in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  There’s the once-a-year “Back to School Night” and perhaps a “Parent Involvement Committee’ or a “Parent Advisory Board” that meets occasionally with the Principal.  Many schools expect parents to hold bake sales, auctions and fundraising drives (which can be a large chunk of a school’s budget these days) but that doesn’t treat parents as partners in their children’s education.

Unfortunately, it’s the rare educator who says “We cannot do a good job of educating your child without you,” actually means it–and then proves it by his or her actions.

Why this negative attitude toward parents?  Some educators feel that low income parents do not have the time or energy to get deeply involved in their children’s schooling.  But even if their dismissal of parents is rooted in empathy or sympathy, it adds up to the same thing: the exclusion of parents.  Unfortunately, however, plenty of administrators and teachers are genuinely disdainful of parents and apt to dismiss them as uncaring, uninvolved or ignorant.  “Just leave the education to us” is how I would characterize their attitude.

As evidence of parental detachment, these administrators and teachers often cite the low turnout at ‘Back to School Night,’ concluding from the large number of no-show parents that they don’t care.  But I suggest we look carefully at how ‘Back to School Night’ is structured: a quick series of show-and-tell presentations by teachers, one-off lectures that make parents feel like visitors or strangers who happened by. The educators will tell the parents to make sure their kids do their homework assignments and don’t watch much TV.  Why would most parents bother to attend more than once?  What’s inviting about being talked down to?

The problem of ‘summer learning loss,’ sometimes called ‘summer slide,’ offers an insight into what might be labeled the professional arrogance of educators.  Summer slide is a real and significant phenomenon that is more pronounced among lower income children whose parents do not take them on big trips or provide a wide range of stimulating experiences in the summer.   When school begins again in the fall, poor kids tend to have regressed, while middle- and upper-income kids have either gained or not lost ground.  The cumulative effect of many summers of sliding is a significant achievement gap.

Cure ‘summer slide,’ and graduation rates would improve, et cetera, et cetera.  But what to do?

Educators, naturally, see ‘more education’ as the solution to ‘summer slide,’ and so they propose to extend the day, extend the year, send kids to summer school–or all of the above.  After all, when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail….

But suppose the achievement gap is the symptom of something else, the result of a different problem?  If educators are misdiagnosing the problem, then their solution (‘more school’) is not likely to be effective in the long term.

We’re editing a story for the PBS NewsHour about a young man, a first grade teacher, who–probably because he’s not a professional educator–looked at summer learning loss very differently.

Perhaps summer slide happens, he hypothesized, because parents (who spend far more time with their children than do teachers) are not involved in the nitty-gritty of their kids’ schooling.  What if parents were taught the skills to help their kids become better readers and treated as partners in the education process?  No lectures, no ‘parent involvement committees,’ no window-dressing, but a genuine partnership that required openness and commitment from everyone?

Suppose the root problem is education’s failure to recognize that parents want their children to succeed but may not know how to contribute?  Suppose the real problem is education’s failure to treat parents as assets?

But could parents be treated as valuable assets?  Would teachers–long accustomed to holding parents at arm’s length–learn humility and acknowledge that parents were essential?  And would parents accept this responsibility (because, after all, many have become accustomed to educators saying ‘leave the education to us.’)?

He’s had some success in Philadelphia over the past couple of summers, and it’s intriguing to speculate about what might happen: could this radical idea—parents matter–spread to regular (September-June) school? What would that look like?  How much change would be required, and by whom?

You may learn more about this young teacher, Alejandro Gac-Artigas, and Springboard, the promising program he established in Philadelphia, at  Or wait a few weeks and watch our report on the NewsHour.  Or weigh in with your insights here…which might help us with our reporting.

40 Responses to “Assets or Liabilities?”

  1. Andrew McLaren 18. Jul, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    John – I once rode in an elevator with you at some conference and told you about Horizons National which sets out to address the achievement gap by attacking summer slide through summer academic programs (plus all sorts of nonacademic activities such as swimming) – gains of two months in reading and math vs, average similar loss for low-income kids who don’t have a chance to attend such programs – and you told me you hated the term “achievement gap” and (if I remember correctly) said you preferred “opportunity gap” and “affection Gap.” Well we’ve come around to your way of thinking, and I see you’ve at least partially come around to ours. Would love to ride down again – and we could continue the conversation – since which our organization has increased from 18 to 38 affiliates on independent school and university campuses, from coast to coast. Kids start in preK or K and come back for an average of 6 years – the cumulative effect of which is a major kick in the teeth to the achievement gap plus considerable gains in self-confidence (that swimming helps) and an unmeasurable discovery of new worlds and a possible place in them. I’m sure you’re aware of us and encourage you to find out more through our website if any of this touches a chord… Andrew McLaren

  2. Elliot Kotler 18. Jul, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    If a teacher works with a parent and the child fails the test. The teacher will say I did consult the parent. The teacher will be told you are using the parent as an excuse for your failure to teach the child. Ether way parents can be a problem if the child still fails. The teacher is the target in our culture. So talking to parents is a tricky matter

  3. Becca 18. Jul, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    Hello, I am a teacher and I wanted to say a few things.
    1. “Summer slide” doesn’t have anything to do with big trips or costly experiences. When we talk about the summer slide we are talking about what happens when children do not read, think about any kind of math, write, or use any of the skills they have worked so hard on during the school year. It isn’t about spending more time in a classroom, it is about a family atmosphere that values academics. Anyone can encourage and expect their child to read every day. I am not expecting an hour, but just reading for 10-20 minutes would be great. Then if someone in the family would talk with the child about what they read, have a real discussion, make connections, and enjoy that time together, that child will grow as a reader. During the summer, tell time, count money, figure out the change at the cash register or in the drive through. These are things that can be done in real life that would greatly help every child during the summer.
    2. I am guilty of seeing parents in a negative light. It is something I am working on. I am timid when it comes to parents because I know I am not an expert, on their child or in education. There is a lot I don’t know, but I am always willing to learn. Sometimes we let the negative interactions overshadow the positive, even when we have more positive ones.
    3. This miscommunication should not be put only on the teachers. The internet is full of resources for parents who want to do more with their children. I would encourage them to ask teachers to work with them.
    Thank you for challenging the way I think about parents. I am going to do some more thinking. I will probably post about this on my blog.

    • john merrow 19. Jul, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope you will cross-post, so readers of this blog (and I) can benefit

  4. Renee @TeachMoore 18. Jul, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    As a parent (raised 11) and a teacher, this is a topic close to my heart, and one I’ve written about myself several times ( Sadly, but not surprisingly, I reached many of the same conclusions you did about how some educators really don’t want parents all that involved in what happens in their classrooms.

    I do take issue with that overgeneralized jab at “professional educators,” since one of the standards required for National Board Certification is the ability of an educator to truly work with parents and community for the benefit of student learning. That’s one of the trademarks of a highly accomplished teacher. I have also written about how I develop significant adult support systems for students who do not have parental support for their education (and this occurs for a wide variety of reasons) []. I’m not the only teacher who uses such practices; more would with proper professional development.

    What you don’t mention that needs to be pointed out is how often attacks or laments on lack of parental involvement (or ignorance of how to help) grow out of stereotypes of race and class. The idea that poor people in general, and poor people of color in particular, care less about their children’s education is a dangerous misreading of our community and its cultural history. In fact, the opposite is more often true, these are the communities that most desire educational opportunities for their children. However, these communities have also often been the recipients of one or more generations of poor schools (in resources and quality). Hence, they tend to be less trusting of the schools. Rebuilding that trust is the responsibility of educators, and I agree that we could do a much better job of it.

    • john merrow 20. Jul, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

      You are correct about the tendency and willingness to blame poor people. Perhaps if the education profession weren’t under attack, educators would feel more secure and thus able to acknowledge the shared responsibility/opportunity/obligation.

  5. Frank Gould 18. Jul, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    As a retired teacher I would say there are several issues with parental involvement with their child’s education. First, and this applies not just to parents, but to administrators, school boards and legislators, most of them have not been involved in the classroom since they were in school. They have little or no concept of what it is like to teach 20 to 30 students every day. Many enter parent nights with pre-conceived ideas of what their student’s education should look like. This can lead to conflict between the parent and the teacher.
    Second, it is unfortunate and needs to be addressed, in my experience, often the parent who doesn’t attend a parent night or parent conference is avoiding the memory of the personal experience they had with school. They want their child to succeed, but their own school experience was so painful they don’t want to return to that environment, especially if all they are going to hear is how their own child is not meeting expectations. All of us learn to avoid unpleasantness.
    Third, I believe that teachers should not be expecting parents, during the summer, to do what they were unable to do during the school year. If the expectation is that the child will read regularly during the summer, then the enjoyment of reading must be there with the child, not forced by the parent. One summer I had a parent stop me in the super market. She said, “What have you done to my daughter.” Oh, oh, I thought. I had been worried about her reading. Then Mom said, “I can’t get her out of a book,” and she smiled. It wasn’t the parent making the child read. It was the child’s desire. That’s when Summer Slide ends.
    Fourth, there comes a time when parents get tired of hearing about all the things their child is not able to do in the classroom. Again, in my experience, I had a young lady who was coded with an IEP in my third grade. I managed to find 75 words in her daily writing that she knew how to spell correctly. When I presented the list to the mother, she cried. “No one has ever told me my daughter can do anything before.” How much longer could that mother attend school meetings before she became totally frustrated, angry, or discouraged.
    Fifth, when I had parent night, besides explaining to the parents what the curriculum looked like, I invited them to come in on a regular basis to work with the students during the day. They could choose the time or the subject. Every year I had several parents who took me up on it. It was very successful as each one gained knowledge of what went on in the classroom and how their child fit in and was learning.
    I will admit that to reach the stage of the above examples it took me a number of years of experience and growth, but watching and living it was wonderful. As you suggest parents should not be shut out of their child’ education, but each student and each parent must be treated as an individual, on as a member of a pack. One more example: one year I had a parent show up for a parent conference in leathers on a motorcycle. I immediately made some assumptions, until I began talking to him and realized he was more than I expected. I changed the whole conference. And helped me prepare for all future conferences.

    • Jorfer88 19. Jul, 2014 at 1:03 am #

      I will agree with a lot of Frank’s assessment and add some of my own. Teachers don’t like dealing with parents because while the vast majority of them are supportive, there are a minority that are accusatory and will blame teachers and threaten teachers. Today, teachers are seemingly attacked all day by politicians, the media, and administration for what they are unable to do (Consult the recent Huffington Post article “The Hard Part”), the last thing they want to do at the end of the day is call a parent at the end of the day and be chewed out (maybe even for some anger that might be the result of an argument teacher in another class or a long-term sub in the building) even when they highlight both positive and negative aspects of students performance in their class. On top of that, the lack of transparency in many districts (see reports of Indianapolis Public Schools that they did not even report an accurate budget until recent inquiries by the new superintendent) means that teachers do not feel able to address parents or administrators on real issues going on in their schools without sugarcoating it. The local PTSA rarely seems to be brought into important matters like discipline policy, grading policy, and class offerings. In inner-city schools, it is hard to get a hold of parents even if you try. In classes with high poverty as many as half the phone line will be disconnected or the wrong number either because of poor district record keeping, parents that are tired of getting negative calls and give the wrong phone number (even when those are automated calls like those often sent out about truancy), or legitimate transience. It is not uncommon for a parents to even give the wrong address to get into a certain school in the first place. For one reason or another many parents are unaware of how events like parent-teacher conferences can help them to help their children (which you do seem to get at in this piece. Many high poverty parents work two or more jobs, which leaves little room to attend parent participation events or for teachers to contact them (especially during contract hours).

    • john merrow 19. Jul, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

      This is inspiring…I hope others are doing their best to imitate your practices. Thanks for writing.

  6. Joe Nathan 18. Jul, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    John, for more than 20 years, Prof Joyce Epstein at Johns Hopkins has been encouraging educators to help families understand what they can do to help youngsters learn. Epstein has considerable evidence about the positive impact of educators doing this. You might want to check with her before you finish the show.

  7. Don Wheeler 19. Jul, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Our daughter will be entering 6th Grade this fall. In the two schools she’s attended so far I have seen parents treated with nothing less than respect. In both schools there has been only a small core of highly involved parents. Your opening premise feels like a bit of a straw man to me. If the majority of parents don’t involve themselves with school personnel and operations, there wouldn’t seem to be much opportunity for interaction that is either positive or negative.

    In fact, we receive constant outreach via phone messaging, facebook pages, and flyers sent home with our daughter’s work. I’m really not sure what more the school could do to empasize our value and importance in the whole thing.

    I also think you miss the point about the so-called summer slide. I never hear people I think have expertise in education insist that year-round school is a solution. Typically, you’ll hear that from people who either look for simple solutions to complicated problems, or people who can materially gain from the approach. What I hear from people I consider experts is that it is important to keep kids intellectualy engaged over the summer. It’s my belief that the extended break is very important for our children. I gives them a chance to relax, explore, and gain experiences not available in our test-centric classrooms of today. This is relatively easy to manage for parents who are not poor.

    Happily, our community of South Bend, Indiana, has worked very hard to make things easier for poor families. Many community parters, The Parks Department, The University of Notre Dame, and School Corporation itself, offer low cost daycamps and/or meal programs – many with an educational component. Getting families connected with these opportunities is one of the challenges.

    So you and I differ a bit about this. Still, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to express my respect and appreciation for all your good work on an issue that is dear to my heart.

    With respect.

    • john merrow 19. Jul, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      Don, Thanks for the encouraging news about your daughter’s school, for your thoughtful comments, and for the compliment. I probably should have expanded on what I mean by meaningful involvement. If I had the authority, I would do my best to make sure that in every elementary grade, at least one assignment per week required the active participation of the parents, guardians or grandparents. For example, in K show and tell, the child might report on his/her mother’s favorite movie as a child, or favorite food, et cetera. When the kids are writing (no later than second grade), they could write paragraphs that were based on their ‘interview’ with a parent (the subjects are limitless). Math could involve comparison shopping with a parent and reporting on price differences, percentages, and so on.
      To go back to the writing for a minute: the parent is going to want to see what the child has written and, even more, what the teacher writes about what the child wrote. The teacher is going to get to know the family in small but intimate ways.
      I would make certain teachers have business cards to give to parents when they come by, because they need the status that cards convey.
      There are lots of other small steps that would weave a web of connections, with the child’s learning and growth at the center.

      • Don Wheeler 19. Jul, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

        John. Thanks for your thoughtful response. There is nothing you propose I disagree with.

        One detail I omitted is that the State of Indiana rates South Bend schools as lousy. The middle school our daughter attends now is an exception, but the primary school that so successfully prepared her for The Academy is not. So they say.

        Our Board of Trustees in agreement with the local NEA Chapter continually come up with creative solutions to the paucity of support by state government. I’m thinking specifically about class size. In the K-8 realm at least, classes tend to range in 20-28 student range. That’s why teachers are able to do at least some of what you recommend.

        While groups of that size can make great progress if the members are all “ready to learn” (a popular euphemism here), if enough classmates come from more challenged backgrounds, things can fall apart.

        One of the hats I wear is that of a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children (CASA). I’ve seen things from both sides: What the teacher faces, and what the child needs. Often, the child has little support from a parent, or foster parent. Or she may have a lot. He may have been reassigned a foster home this week. Or she got to move home, but then her older brother molested her. You get the idea.

        In many cases a teacher won’t have a clue who he/she should try to connect with for a given child. Yet most of them still try to figure it out.

        In my experience, our school corporation does pretty well with kids from advantaged backgrounds. Where we are less successful is with the other kids. Frankly, its a matter of investment. If we’re serious that we want success for all our children, it is a fact that a lot more money will be needed, because of lot of our young citizens require significant individual attention.


        • john merrow 19. Jul, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

          That phrase, ‘Ready to Learn,’ really pushes one of my buttons because it perfectly captures the arrogance of some (many?) educators. Member of our species are born ‘ready to learn.’ We are learning creatures. Maybe a lot of kids do not begin school ‘ready for school,’ but they are and always have been ‘ready to learn.’ Who are these people who will judge whether some child is or is not ‘ready to learn’?
          This is a medical model, not a health model. I look for and listen for people who ask of or about a child, “How is she intelligent?’ and NOT “How intelligent is she?”

          • Don Wheeler 19. Jul, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

            John. I’m not sure what you mean when you use the term “educators”. “Ready to learn” is not a phrase coined (nor is it embraced) by teachers. It is one they have to cope with.

            From what I can tell, it allows the district to create something like an honors track. And in their defense, if they didn’t offer that route they would likely lose a critical mass of advantaged children. And there are those who want that to happen.

            It’s a really hard problem.

          • john merrow 20. Jul, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

            Responding to Don’s comment below (as our system apparently doesn’t anticipate a long dialogue).
            I know ‘ready to learn’ is in some documents–it ought to be struck because of the assumption it is based on.
            Honors tracks are one thing. They should be based on accomplishment, attitude and potential. But no one should categorize kids as ‘ready to learn’ and ‘unready to learn.’ Maybe they aren’t ready for school, but that’s another thing entirely. Educators confuse the two, to their own benefit…

  8. Christine Langhoff 19. Jul, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    John –

    Do you believe that “serial entrepreneurs” (description from Springboard’s website) actually know how to “train” real teachers how to group kids by reading level? This has been a common practice since I learned to read during Eisenhower’s administration.

    “In my experience, most administrators and many teachers hold parents in low regard, and their behavior and policies reflect that.” Perhaps your experience is limited – in my 36 years in the classroom, and my 16 years as a parent in the same urban, public school system, I would say that these folks are outliers.

    “Educators, naturally, see ‘more education’ as the solution to ‘summer slide,’ and so they propose to extend the day, extend the year, send kids to summer school–or all of the above.” Well, what do you mean by educators? Teachers on the front line aren’t advocating for these changes because experience demonstrates that they’re not effective or sustainable for either the kids or the adults.

    And finally, the idea that Springboard has set up in Philly and Camden is really disturbing. These school systems are being systemically dismantled and defunded to ripen them up for privatization by a host of actors.

    • john merrow 19. Jul, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

      What I am endorsing is the ‘small steps’ approach to making parents part of the solution. Not lectures or other off-putting stuff.
      See my comment above in response to Don regarding things that I believe ought to happen in the regular school year

  9. Diana Senechal 19. Jul, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    This issue is not monolithic. It makes a great difference how old, mature, and academically advanced the student is. A high school teacher (and parents of high school students) must find a mean between recognizing the student’s growing independence and providing the instruction, structure, and help that he or she needs. There is no fixed ideal here–but basic communication, sensitivity, and goodwill go a long way.

    I tend to feel awed by the parents–not being one myself and recognizing that it is a round-the-clock commitment that changes in nature and intensity over time but does not end. I have difficulty picking up the phone (to call anyone, not just parents) after teaching 170 students in a single day; I am far from perfect in that regard. I do make phone calls when necessary, and I keep parents updated by email. I know I could potentially do more.

    I have dreamed of bringing parents, students, and teachers together for intellectual discussion, and this has started to happen. Two years ago, I started holding philosophy roundtables for parents–where they would discuss texts and ideas from the students’ philosophy classes. These events caught on and expanded to include students, staff, and outside guests. In June 2013, fifteen students led a roundtable attended by over thirty people; people were amazed by the quality, dignity, and liveniness of the discussion. We continue to hold roundtables every few months and to have a crowning student-led event at the end of the year. The parents’ participation throughout the year has been wonderful.

    • john merrow 19. Jul, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

      Where is this happening? Sounds like a good story to me…

      • Diana Senechal 19. Jul, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

        Thank you. The school is Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering.

      • Diana Senechal 19. Jul, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

        I should add that my school has robust parental involvement. The parents go out of their way to support our work. In no way do I claim to have increased parent participation! But it’s great to see what can happen when parents, students, teachers, staff, and others come together to discuss texts and ideas.

  10. michael 20. Jul, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    The problem is systemic…..the public school is set up specifically designed to cut parents out of the process. Consider how hard public schools and teachers work to prevent school choice. When parents are considered inept at making a fundamental decision such as which school is best for their child, it then become relatively easy to push them out of the rest of the process.

    The simple answer to the ‘summer slide’ is year round schooling….but guess which profession will employ all their political might to keep that from happening.

    • john merrow 20. Jul, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

      I disagree. The answer is acknowledging that parents are a child’s principal educator (but often need to learn specific skills as well as responsibility).
      School needs rethinking. I address this in by book, The Influence of Teachers, and hope you will take a look

      • James 27. Jul, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

        I agree that parents are the principal educators of their children. I am a parent and a public school educator and I have genrally found teachers to be responsive. I let them do their work in the classroom, and I make sure that I do everything to support my children’s learning at home.

        But I find that administrators are not at all supportive. We have been in a low-income district and a very high income district and found that administrators had no interest in what we had to say about our children, especially if disabilities are involved. They provide lip-service and move on. In general, administrators know that most parents don’t know how to navigate the system and that legal action is not probable since it is expensive. It is a “us” again “them” mentality.


  11. The Collegeologist 20. Jul, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    I agree with Michael, and in part with many of the opinions here. The problem in education today is systemic and we should also should paint this problem with a broad brush. Depending on the area in which you live, the district itself and the administration and level of politics (either on a state or town level) the level of parental involvement and summer slide are inevitably affected. I put forth my opinion as a parent and one who has been in education for the past twenty + years and have seen a great degree of change over time as well as what I perceive what works and what does not. The school district my own children attended (in another state) was extremely parent pro-active. If you wanted to be involved…as a father or mother or both…your voice and involvement was not only encouraged but appreciated. With a mixed demographic, the mission of the district was to have the involvement of all parents and students. Of course, some educators were more receptive to this than others, but that is another topic. The culture of the district was not one where parents were kept at arms length or were expected to be the “bakers,” a bone to be thrown that made one feel “involved.” The same faces and/or parents were not the only involved parents…year after year either. A parent’s “term” of involvement was limited in scope to two years in a position to encourage other parents to be involved. Administration reached out and knew every stakeholder and yes…parents were stakeholders, whether your child was low achieving or top of the class. On district level, the monthly board meetings again..encouraged parents to freely speak their minds without fear of repercussions. The meetings had a ceiling or time limit but if they went over, then so be it. If the topic was controversial…that was okay too…everyone was entitled to their opinions and they were not dismissed. In short…the main focus of each school and the district as a whole was “student centered,” a well-oiled machine and hub of learning for all. When we re-located…and given my rigorous involvement for years and having a great deal to give, I naively thought that if a parent wanted to be involved, regardless of the school system… they too would have opportunities and would be embraced (as I had been for years). Unfortunately, this was a fallacy. It was wrong to believe that as an educator…embracing of parental connections is looked at in a positive light “everywhere.” Let us not forget an important part of this discussion…teachers must act according to the principles (not prinicpals) of their district, and as such…the culture is formed. If parental involvement is discouraged…you must adhere to the policies set forth (despite what you know is wrong). You may wish (with every fiber of your being) for their to be more involvement, you may have a vision to create wonderful enrichment or summer slide programs (or bury your head in the sand and say…no one slides). Why? Because as an educator, you are answering to a much higher authority and yes, that politics trickles down. As a parent you may wish for support or desire to be involved to be shut out. We have discussed the business of education before “Waiting for Superman, The Ivory Tower, White Chalk Crime (NAPTA) and other resources…but we are as selective with our viewing habits as we are with our hearing. This problem is only escalating and we continue to put a band aid on a pathology. Will Common Core Standards improve or decimate an already volatile divide? If we are educators and truly vested in giving back we can do that. We can stop talking about the skewed ratio’s of teachers:students or school counselors:students and become part of the solution by giving what we can…whenever we can and use our voices to do whatever we can to not allow students to fall through the cracks. We can’t fix a broken system but we can DO something, no matter how small.

  12. Sally Wade 21. Jul, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    Thank you so much for giving voice to the frustration that many of us find in the field of family engagement. Often there is a lot of positive rhetoric about family engagement but little action. There is research that supports the positive impact of family engagement on student outcomes and also common sense- do you honestly believe that families don’t have an impact on their children?! There are many strategies and programs that provide good examples in family engagement, but engaging families is not implemented as part of our US system of education. I’m confident that the first grade teacher you mentioned is great and doing wonderful things. He is not alone, but it is telling that family engagement is unique enough to warrant a PBS report.
    Teachers sometimes seem to view themselves as standing in the gap for families- helping the child in spite of rather than in collaboration with the student’s family. Educator statements such as, “I’m here for the children,” can easily transition into an assumption of, “in spite of the family.” I am also appalled by the use of, “not ready to learn.” How can a child not be ready to learn?
    Oh well, I could go on forever, so I’ll stop here.
    Look for the announcement of a newly formed professional organization- National Association for Family School and Community Engagement. This will give a home to educators dedicated to family engagement and hopefully add to the credibility of the field.
    Keep up the good work!!

    • John Merrow 21. Jul, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

      Great addition to the dialogue. I hope the new organization is a big success AND that it includes teachers.
      Even better would be pages and pages of tips for teachers with ways to build the partnership. I am copying below what I wrote above, some specific ways to make the connection genuine
      “If I had the authority, I would do my best to make sure that in every elementary grade, at least one assignment per week required the active participation of the parents, guardians or grandparents. For example, in K show and tell, the child might report on his/her mother’s favorite movie as a child, or favorite food, et cetera. When the kids are writing (no later than second grade), they could write paragraphs that were based on their ‘interview’ with a parent (the subjects are limitless). Math could involve comparison shopping with a parent and reporting on price differences, percentages, and so on.
      To go back to the writing for a minute: the parent is going to want to see what the child has written and, even more, what the teacher writes about what the child wrote. The teacher is going to get to know the family in small but intimate ways.
      I would make certain teachers have business cards to give to parents when they come by, because they need the status that cards convey.
      There are lots of other small steps that would weave a web of connections, with the child’s learning and growth at the center.”

  13. ECE Professional 23. Jul, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Apparently, your non-educator friend does not know that, due to the critical role of families in children’s development, for decades, across states, at least one course in Child, Family and Community has been typically required of teachers in Early Childhood Education (ECE), which serves children from birth through 3rd Grade. Additional information regarding building partnerships with parents is infused in other ECE courses as well. I have always wondered why this requirement is not usually included in K-12 teacher preparation programs, too.

  14. Education Realist 24. Jul, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    I wrote a response here: Parents and Schools

    I did suggest, gently, that your reporting is far more valuable than your opinions. But I think you are an excellent education reporter, and we need more

  15. Karen Sebben 30. Jul, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Canadian professor Dr. Pushor prepared a research paper “Parent Engagement: Creating a Shared Wold” wherein a clear differentiation is made between parent “involvement” and parent “engagement”. Dr. Pushor goes on to state “With parent involvement, the scripted story of school as protectorate does not change. Because the school is still setting the agenda and determining what roles parents are to play within that agenda, the hierarchical structure of educators as experts, acting in the best interests of the less-knowing parents, is maintained.” From my own personal experience I would tend to agree.

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