What matters is what parents do.
On Friday, March 12, 2010 Bill Maher did one of his signature New Rules bits in the Huffington Post as well as on his weekly show Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. The title of the piece was New Rule: Let’s Not Fire the Teachers When Students Don’t Learn — Let’s Fire the Parents which in my mind really nails the essence of the Public School Debate. Mr. Maher said, “According to all the studies, it doesn’t matter what teachers do. …. What matters is what parents do. The number one predictor of a child’s academic success is parental involvement. It doesn’t even matter if your kid goes to private or public school. So save the twenty grand a year and treat yourself to a nice vacation away from the little bastards.”
So my question why isn’t anyone pushing Parent/Family/Community involvement or engagement in public education? Politicians, left and right are all about “charter Schools, failing schools and blaming teachers”. They say that charter schools are part of the solution, yet according to most studies of charter schools they are on average no more effective overall than traditional public schools. You would not know it by what is being said by the education reform advocates. Why would we want to set up a separate charter system that is no better than what we have when there is something else that has proven conclusively to work…parent engagement? Failing schools is the other big lie, yes we have had failing schools both charter and public and we have successful schools both charter and public but once again what works in all schools, failing or successful, charter, public or private…it is parent engagement. Why aren’t the reformers telling us this?. Why do we only hear about the failing public schools?
And then there is “blame the teachers’. Could this be “a little union busting”? If you have a child in our public schools you know that your child’s classroom teacher is your partner and that partnership is the key to your child’s success. Yet the reformers are saying your child’s teacher is bad. I say as a parent if you are engaged in your child’s education there are no bad teachers, your child will learn more from some than others. If you get involved your child will do better no matter the skill of the teacher.
So what does it mean to engage parents, families and the community?
- Recognize that all parents, regardless of income, education or cultural background, are involved in their children’s learning and want their children to do well.
- Design programs that will support families to guide their children’s learning, from preschool through high school.
- Develop the capacity of school staff and families to work together.
- Link activities and programs for families to improving student learning.
- Focus on developing trusting and respectful relationships among staff and families.
- Build families’ social and political connections.
- Embrace a philosophy of partnership and be willing to share power.
- Make sure that parents, school staff, and community members understand that the responsibility for children’s educational development is a collaborative enterprise.
- Build strong connections between schools and community organizations.
- Include families in all strategies to reduce the achievement gap between white, middle-class students and low-income students and students of color.
So why aren’t more parents involved? In one survey parents over 1/3 of the parents said no one asked them. So consider yourself asked. Get involved. It is time to quit all the posturing about charter school, failed schools and blaming teachers. Once more “What matters is what parents do. The number one predictor of a child’s academic success is parental involvement. It doesn’t even matter if your kid goes to private or public school. So save the twenty grand a year and treat yourself to a nice vacation away from the little bastards.”