Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The New York Times ran an article on April 6, 2009, called "The Sudden Charm of Public School." The article details the panic of Manhattan families who have suddenly decided, given the economic times, that they may send their kids to public schools. For families who planned on private school and didn't consider public school zones when they bought homes, they suddenly care very much which public school their kids might attend. Stating that it used to be a taboo in certain circles to even suggest you're interested in sending your kids to public schools, the article quotes one parent as saying, "Now it's actually kind of cool and in vogue." Oh, my ... what a difference a dollar and a day make. It reminds me of Barbara Mandrell's hit song years ago: "I was country ... when country wasn't cool."
The reality is that public schools have been cool for many people in the United States ever since our nation instituted the noble experiment of educating everyone. Public schools educate approximately 90% of the kids in this country, so I would welcome these newly found converts and tell them that it never was necessary or even desirable to spend $33,000 a year on private school tuition. Save the money instead for college -you'll need it there, to be sure.
Read the complete article The New Vogue Public Schools from Parents for Public Schools new director.
Middle class families ( who might have otherwise selected a private school) are sending their children to public schools because of current economic woes. The greater number of blue-collar and poor families have always had public schools as their realistic option. Having the vast majority of our children co-existing, co-learning and collaborating in our wonderful, far-from-perfect-but-central-to-democracy neighborhood public schools is the (get ready for a barrage of mixed-metaphors) caldron, salad-bowl, floral hot-house, global arena, market square, agora, amphitheater and community commons where democracy will flourish and future economic wellbeing, equitable and inclusive, can be possible.
Phew... and all in one breath.
Family leadership for public education can make it so. We're Everywhere. Engaging and empowering parents to create excellence in every public school.(PPS)
Schools that work for all children.(IDRA)
Every child: one voice.(PTA)
Sunday, April 5, 2009
TO: Community Organizations & Schools Drafting Plans & Proposals for soon-to-arrive Stimulus (ARRA) Resources.
RE: Parents-Students-Teachers and Technology
Dear Proposal Writers: Please consider these recommendations requiring inter-agency collaboration and cooperation.
VISTA-CHIPS (Volunteers in Service to America’s Children in Public Schools) Considering how weak the schools of education are in teaching prospective teachers about the importance of meaningful parent engagement, this could give new energy to schools, teaching and their connections with families. These new VISTA-CHIPS will work with schools and also support student leadership & parent leadership in education -- campus based but also community-organization connected.
PIE-ChIPS Parents-in-Education for Children in Public Schools These are outreach Workers who are also Tech-savvy promotoras (community outreach workers) with a dual school and community organizational base. Their main tasks would be: to conduct home-visits; identify and nurture emerging parent leaders &and to identify & mobilize neighborhood and school feeder-pattern assets in support of the academic achievement of all students.
CTC/ ChIPS Community Technology Centers for Children in Public Schools These technology access projects will partner with existing public school computer labs and also provide new community center labs to facilitate and increase computer & internet use by the communities that have limited access to computers and the internet. Community-based organizations, public schools, and businesses form partnerships to support excellent neighborhood public schools for all children. These new CTC/ChIPS would be staffed by the Parent-Leadership in Education (PIE/ChiPS) outreach workers listed above.
BIT-ChIPS Barrios in Technology for Children in Public Schools This tech-bridging Parent Leadership Project will provide computers and internet access for homes lacking those services. The BIT effort is managed and monitored out of new & improved Community Technology Centers. The main tasks are to identify computer presence in Title 1-school feeding- pattern neighborhoods, provide computers and fast internet access in those homes, not just based on lack of technology but as a reciprocal offering to documented family leadership in education and support of student academic success in the home (possibly through a TimeBank process.)
Though the acronyms might seem cute & clever, these ideas are actually extensions of projects already on the ground: United Way in San Antonio has conducted an excellent project for school parent Liaisons, that could connect with an Americorps Public ALLIES project funded through the American Sunrise Foundation, and the Edgewood Family Network, originally encouraged by the Annie Casey local project, has now been managing promotoras for several years. A small TimeBank project periodically asks us to conduct the Family Leadership in Education series. IDRA has conducted training for several of these projects and with some new resources we could see some dynamic parent leadership and school partnerships emerge.
There are many parallel projects in many urban and rural areas. We have the opportunity to collaborate in new ways and to bring about greater change.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The hook from the blog: ….Thats it: no charisma, no lengthy training, no book-learning: passion & compassion and the trustworthiness that causes others to take collective action. Families must connect and organize around their vision and dream for our schools. It's also at the core of the definition of a leader in our IDRA Family Leadership in Education model. The locus of this action is so far away from the bake sale, the parent convention and convention exhibitors you can't even see the marquee. Any questions?http://parentleadershipined.blogspot.com/2009/03/citizens-must-organize-and-make-leaders.html
Researchers: How do you connect the dots: parent leadership in education = children's academic success?
Two Responses: Ricardo Lopez President at Hispanic Research Inc.
I am extremely passionate about this subject. I am a huge believer in parent leadership when it comes to education and know very well that there is a direct correlation between parent involvement and student success- but then again, I am a big fan of the National PTA and know its roots and its mission. I was president of a NJ elementary school PTA unit for almost six years and have been an active participant at the town's board of education meetings. I have also attended several NJPTA conventions and have been a PTA member for over 25 years. And what does that all mean? It means that I am very odd! Seriously, it is odd enough to find men that are active in parent leadership roles; but to find a Latino father that involved? Extremely rare! And here lies the root of the problem.
Connecting the dots, as you say, is very difficult because most Latinos are completely unaware of the fact that parental involvement is directly related to student success. If Latino parents understood the reality of this simple correlation you would see an immediate boost in the number of Hispanic leaders in education. I am convinced because I have spoken to thousands of Latinos across the country and know that our people always place the children as the top priority; in fact, in a recent study I asked Latina mothers across the country what their own *personal* goal was in life and the almost unanimous answer was “for my children to succeed.” Now, I also know that telling Latino parents about the importance of parental involvement is not enough. They need to understand that parents can actually be a catalyst for change and that their involvement is welcomed. This is a very tough sale!
Why is it difficult for U.S. Latino parents to believe in parental involvement? Because many of the “uninvolved” Latinos are new immigrants that do not understand how the American public school system works. In talking to parents I've learned that Hispanics often see the schools as institutions that are to be trusted with the education of the children- never to be questioned. That attitude is even more profound among Latino parents with low levels of education because they do not feel confident enough to participate in the academic process. In addition, many Hispanics who grew up in Latin America do not trust advocacy because in the experience from their country of origin, advocacy efforts are often thwarted by inefficacy, bureaucracy, and corruption. They are also unaware that in this country the public actually controls the public schools through the electoral process and everyone has the right to address the public school leadership. The whole system is extremely foreign to new immigrants who are busy enough trying to make ends meet and adapt to their new American life. Besides, many Latinos are very happy with the schools because they see them as ten times better than what was available to them in their home country... “why get involved when the schools are good already?”
There is no doubt that parents will follow the actions of others; and I do believe that one leader can create a wide ripple effect. I experienced this first hand with my PTA involvement. I was not the first father who was president of this particular PTA unit. I got interested because I saw other fathers involved. Don't get me wrong, the mothers were still the majority (and probably better PTA leaders); but everyone appreciated the male involvement and it changed the way our PTA was viewed by the Board of Education. We were not seen as a fundraising unit for the school; we were a true (and very effective) advocacy group.
How can research help? I think information is key. We need to better understand why Latinos are not more involved. We need to learn how to drive the message of the importance of parental involvement in the success of our children. After all, most Latino mothers see the success of their children as their own goal in life.
Second Response: Rose Marie Garcia Fontana Sole proprietor of Garcia Fontana Research
Aurelio and Ricardo, I couldn't agree more with you. As an educator for over 20 years, I worked closely with parents, especially Latino parents. For four of those years I helped the California Migrant Education division with parent empowerment efforts. Many Migrant Education programs have strong models of developing parent leadership in very real, meaningful ways- not "window dressing".
The key problem is exactly what Ricardo says: Latinos do not understand the American public education system. They don't realize how fractured and complex education policy and practices are. For example, in California alone there are approximately 1000 school districts, each one doing it's own thing, supposedly guided by the Education Code, but in reality, each district is its own universe. Teachers' unions, school board politics, harsh economic realities, lobbyists in Washington, state politics, all impact what happens in schools, and most parents are clueless.
I once conducted a parent seminar for a group of Migrant Education parents, and I drew a "mind map" of all of the entities that impact children in schools. When I finished the drawing, after eliciting comments from the parents, one mother commented, "Señora Fontana, parece una telaraña". That's a pefect metaphor- the U.S. public education system IS a tangled web and parents and children, especially immigrants, do not understand its complexity nor that they have rights.
All too often, schools are not education agencies, they are employment agencies- kids don't come first, jobs do. There are wonderful schools and educators out there, but parental involvement is rarely a priority.
I personally prefer the term "parental empowerment"- "involvement" is too vague a term. Driving home the message of how important it is for both parents to be actively connected to their child's school is a challenge. Currently I am not in Education, as I am a freelance qualitative researcher, but I have very vivid memories of my work in the trenches.
Arriba y adelante....
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
My involvement with PTA is driven by mutual goals and the possibility of a partnership that furthers our goals, where they overlap. With PTA, I do see some light on the horizon because on-the-ground projects are showing possibilities :
A new Community PTA might be started by ARISE, an independent community organization in South Texas, conducting its business in Spanish, located in a poor unincorporated community (Colonia) and very importantly, using ARISE’s principles and processes to organize and carry out this ‘new kind of PTA’. We’re setting up a process for documenting this effort as a means to inform the larger organization about a viable alternative way to organize new PTAs.
Possibilities Through Partnership An IDRA dynamite partnership would bring together two different but laudable movements : Time Bank and PTA could join us in a powerful institutional base for parent leadership in education. This is tantalizing for several critical reasons: IDRA Parent leadership for education, when persistent and nurtured, can accelerate the transformation of our schools. Time Banks, a system of reciprocal local exchange of assets and resources can build an internal base of economic and social support from within the neighborhoods that are labeled as ‘the neediest’. PTA brings an established on-campus presence, and would benefit greatly at a time it is attempting to gain new membership and is not a strong presence in the 'poor' Title 1 schools. PTA is combatting myths and stereotypic ideas of being a cheap labor pool for the local schools and renewing its local, state and national presence as a pro-active and premier voice for the families whose children attend public schools. Time Bank is exploding as a global presence and contineus to exist in many USA communities and would benefit from a strong PTA partnership. Time Banks in turn can give the local PTA, especially in urban and poverty neighborhoods, a means of identifying, documenting and managing the exchange of services centered at school and benefiting school and families. The only money needed by these new PTA/Time Banks projects would be the annual dues: the rest would be Time Bank exchanges. The IDRA Parent Leadership in Education process would be the engine to support emerging parent/family leadership, keep a focus on the neighborhood public schools and catalyze taking action in support of the academic success of the children.
Although the IDRA circle is my central & fundamental arena, I also share in the PTA & Time Banks circles.
Monday, March 16, 2009
“When we received the letter with the sample copy of the textbook Society for Fifth Grade from Santillana and we saw that in our hands was the proof that the Time Bank project for Chile had a future which we couldn't yet measure, we were truly moved as a team." (my translation)
This wonderful announcement reminded me of some experiences and connections that relate to my education advocacy and the dilemmas I face in building partnerships to further the action.
Keeping the faith & the focus I've been an activist in education for over 40 years. I didn’t start out as that: I was a naïve, peppy high school English teacher who was amazed at the acceptance and wonderful connections I was making with students and families. Isolated and socially disconnected in college and previously even more alone in high school, I was basking in the Del Rio, Texas San Felipe community. Over my first four years as a public school teacher & faithful evening Catholic Church bible teacher I began to experience the inequities of schools for poor children and the intransigence of the church in addressing social needs. I acted on my righteous indignation but I was mostly angry at how blind and naive I had been.
Along the education activist way, I’ve met and connected with many social events and projects that merit support and whose fundamental principles I value. I’ve had to learn, the hard way, that keeping a clear direction and focus is very important: many a good group/organization has lost its way through dispersal (being all things to all people). In my 33+ years with IDRA I’ve learned tough lessons about advocacy & staying on track. Our founder, Dr. Jose Cardenas, regularly guided us with some pithy lessons i.e., Never Promote a Promoter. Part of our history has been as much the fending off projects that would distract us from the public school advocacy at our core as reaching out and collaborating with efforts which have something in common. I'm regularly reminded by my boss, IDRA President & CEO Dr. Maria Robledo Montecel, about straying from our path to other clearly virtuous but different directions. Our yellow brick road goes directly to the excellent neighborhood public schools that work for all children.
Possible Partners I’m going to highlight (in two posts) two examples of worthy movements that might eventually be a partnership for the specific goals of IDRA: Time Bank and PTA.
Time Bank In the spirit of learning about & giving assistance to a possible partner I connected with Edgar Cahn and a movement then titled Time Dollar Time Bank . Edgar is a brilliant man with a marvelous, intelligent and courageous history in social justice efforts, from founding such programs as federally funded Legal Aid, to helping students in Washington D.C. become legal advocates and mediators. I met him several years ago through a mutual friend who was helping Time Dollar firm up a national training program, now wisely renamed Time Bank. I offered my pro-bono services with the reciprocity expectation to apply the concept to parent leadership in education. I invited them to come to Texas and facilitated some planning and also invited selected key Time Bank trainers to participate in the WOW Workshop on Workshops bilingual training of trainers that I developed and provide to emerging parent leaders and school family liaisons. Eventually Edgar invited me to the annual Time Bank conference in Canada. I really appreciate the gift and the honor from a sister non-profit group with budget challenges, but was not able to move any single local project in the direction of directly championing and nurturing parent leadership in education: two good ideas whose real partnership time has not yet come.
As befits any valuable effort, Time Bank proponents spent most of their communication time with me attempting to
1) Convince me in the power & efficacy of their project (unnecessary because I quickly saw the depth & breadth of a movement that validated the rich resources present within the most economically disadvantaged of communities
Time Banks Weave Community One Hour at a Time -- For every hour you spend doing something for someone in your community, you earn one Time Dollar. Then you have a Time Dollar to pend on having someone do something for you. It's that simple. Yet it also has profound effects. Time Banks change neighborhoods and whole communities. Time Banking is a social change movement in 22 countries and six continents
2) Recruit me to their effort. That would happen just after Edgar Cahn was convinced to move to San Antonio, join IDRA’s education advocacy effort, and lead our effort to create a public will to support equitable, excellent and fully funded public education. :)~ I’m focused on, committed to and live for creating schools that work for all children. My and my organization’s coattails are no longer than those of any other effort with focus, integrity and elegance of action. Many, many important, necessary and laudable efforts exist to meet the many critical social needs of our society. Effective movements make choices: we make transparent, tactical and strategic connections, but only where the VENN diagrams of our goals, objectives and activities overlap. None of us have survived and had critical impact by taking on other’s broader or distant goals.
My hope/expectation was to pilot a Time Bank project within an existing community organization with Parent Leadership in Education as it’s strongest if not singular direction. My dream has yet to materialize. Sad fact: I would be hard pressed to find in any TB literature specific mention of, or support for IDRA and our work: why would they even think of giving reciprocal ink -- even for this free plug in my blog!
I will persist in support of parent leadership in education because they are the inherently prime defenders of their children’s education --directly supporting excellent neighborhood public schools. I will support the organizations and the tools that will promote & maintain Parent Leadership in Education.
Bottom line for Time Bank and IDRA: We are neither mutually overdrawn nor bankrupt but friends with balanced accounts, investing -- at a distance.
Next Blog: PTA & Time Bank connection for Parent Leadership? Maybe