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)
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
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Several readers responded to the blog post "A Community That Wraps its Arms Around its Schools" as it seemed to strike a common chord. I'm publishing two today.
Cathy Puett Miller, President of TLA, Inc., an independent literacy consulting firm email@example.com sent this note:
Aurelio, As usual I agree with you totally. Have you see the details in Joyce Epstein's research about parent leadership? She's right on target too. On a personal note, I learned early on to be an advocate because my gifted child was so "outside the box". It was a rough road and I did not always find that the schools were open to my "leadership". I found an outlet in volunteering for leadership in PTA but, instead of just doing bake sales, I saw a real need, developed a model volunteer based tutoring program for at risk readers and made a difference, not only in my own child's life, but hundreds (and now thousands of others with my consulting firm created as an extension of that experiment.
Did I have special training? No. Did I have a mentor? No. I just saw a need and stepped in to solve it. I was fortunate enough to have a principal who listened to my ideas and say "go for it!"
Several years ago I heard the chairman of the Motorola Corporation talk to a group of educators. He said "If you just treated your students and parents as customers, you'd be much more successful." One teacher timidly raised her hand and said, "But we're not taught to do that in education school." I lead the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which connects leaders and volunteers and youth who participate in volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs with each other, and with on-line communities of information and people, such as this one. In many ways, this is the "village". It just needs to be expanded and strengthened. If enough people are working to help kids learn and grow up to be self-sufficient, and contributing adults, we'll change the way we define what we mean by "educators".
Daniel’s blog at http://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Ftutormentor%2Eblogspot%2Ecom&urlhash=um8q&_t=mbox_grop expands upon these ideas and works to make them a reality in Chicago. If people in other cities take on a similar role, they can have similar impact. If we connect strategically, we each have greater impact.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Third: Understand that citizens must organize and make leaders lead. A lot of people are waiting for Dr. King to return or for a hew charismatic leader to emerge and save us. But he's not coming back and no single leader can save us. We're it. A statement attributed to Gandhi says: "There go my people; I must run to catch up with them for I am their leader," makes the point. In David Garrow's book, Bearing the Cross, Ella Baker, a crucial role model for me and hundreds of young people in the sit-in movement -- who helped form SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, in Raleigh, North Carolina, at her alma mater Shaw University in April 1960 -- said, "The central fact of Martin Luther King's life which he realized from December 5 in Montgomery until April 4 in Memphis was that: 'The movement made Martin rather than Martin making the movement.'" Diane Nash, the Nashville, Tennessee, student sit-in leader, told Garrow: "If people think it was Martin Luther King's movement, then today they -- young people -- are more likely to say, 'gosh, I wish we had a Martin Luther King here today to lead us.'...If people knew how the movement started, then the question they would ask themselves is, 'what can I do?'"
Thats the question every woman, man, and child in America mus ask ourselves today. Movements make leaders; leaders don't make movements. The people of Montgomery, Alabama, had been seething for years about their unjust treatment on the city's public buses. Mrs. Rosa Parks was the eventual trigger for a community-wide response, which propelled Dr. King, a reluctant prophet, into leadership. But many Montgomery citizens, including Jo Anne Robinson of the Women's Political Caucus and E. B. Nixon, head of the NAACP, were creating the community infrastructure and awaiting the right spark to create a great conflagration. When it came, it ignited the movement, which changed not only Montgomery but all of America.
When I refer to Parent Leadership in Education, I'm not looking for one or a few charismatic, vocal individuals. Those sought are the families that are connected within a neighborhood, across neighborhoods and cities, all seeking the best possible neighborhood public schools for all children. Marian Wright Edelman is electrifying: her voice and her stance is a laser beam that cuts through to your heart. I'm nevertheless not looking for a duplicate: the search is for the many, many families that care deeply for the education of their children and want to bring other families to the cause, to the meeting that informs, compels and speeds up the movement toward excellent and equitable schools for all children.
Practitioners of the Saul Alinsky/Ernie Cortez model of leadership tell us a leader is one who can bring two or more people to an event. I recall that over 40 years ago the most effective organizers in south Texas were those who brought along others to a meeting, a march and even a celebration. I want to connect, selectively and strategically, with those parents who can bring two or more other families to the meeting. I furthermore would like for them to invite others who will also bring two or more to the cause.
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?
Thursday, March 5, 2009
“Show me a successful school district, and I'll show you a community that wraps its arms around its schools, partnering with them for the success of all students.” - Anne Foster, national Executive Director of Parents for Public Schools, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, February 9, 2009.
Mississippi Model. Parents for Public Schools (PPS), which recently selected Anne W. Foster as its new Executive Director, is developing a statewide network in Mississippi that it hopes can become a model for parent engagement in other states. According to the Southern Education Foundation, per-pupil spending in Mississippi, as in other southern states, lags behind national averages, and it remains the only Southern state without state-supported pre-kindergarten. Research compiled by Multicultural Education, Training & Advocacy in partnership with IDRA shows that in Mississippi just one in two African American and Latino students graduate on time with a diploma. Through the Schoolhouse to Statehouse initiative, PPS provides training and tools to help parents become more powerful advocates for their children. Its aim is to “mobilize parents and their supporters to work to achieve equitable distribution of resources to support public education and access to opportunities for all students.” To learn more about PPS’ emerging model, visit “We’re Everywhere” or visit Parent Press. Aurelio Montemayor, M.Ed., director of the IDRA Texas PIRC (Parent Information and Resource Center), serves on the national board of Parents for Public Schools--visit "Toolbox" (below) for a link to a podcast conversation with him on “The Power of Parent Leadership.” Looking to learn more about community organizing to improve public education in Mississippi? Visit Southern Echo, a leadership development, education and training organization, strengthening grassroots leadership in the African-American community in rural Mississippi and the region.
Learn more about the Power of Parent Leadership. Almost everyone agrees that parent involvement in schools is key. But what does "involvement" mean? Isn't it time to go beyond the idea of mere involvement to a model of parent and family leadership? To learn more, listen in to The Power of IDRA’s Parent Leadership Model, a Classnotes conversation with Aurelio Montemayor, M.Ed...
Now me, not Laurie, speaking: It might be self-serving in my blog to quote someone mentioning me, but I really do want to invite my readers to listen to the podcast on the kind of parent engagement that most interests me. I have little interest in improving parenting skills...there are quite a few offerings online and in print to help parents be better parents. Parent leadership in public education is much less promulgated, researched and supported. Even the well-researched, well-written & currently popular "Beyond the Bake Sale" gives limited focus to this issue, gives a tiny reference to IDRA & totally omits my name, so, then, ergo, this blog & related items. After over 30 years of teaching, training, supporting and writing about this issue, it might ultimately get some legs, some traction and families, with or without good parenting skills, will get the public schools their children need and merit.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
(Doug Wells is a fellow national board member for Parents for Public Schools. He just wrote this great OpEd piece for the Oregonian)
by Doug Wells, guest opinion
Friday February 20, 2009, 9:55 AM
It is with great sadness that I read "Facing the failures of public education" by Leslie Spencer. Spencer's rhetoric makes it appear that our public schools are on the brink of failure, that we are failing our children, and that the only reasonable solution is to offer vouchers. She supports her arguments with survey data that she claims is unbiased and balanced.
But upon closer inspection, it becomes painfully apparent that the research was entirely funded by like-minded, pro-voucher institutions, the most prominent of which is the Friedman Foundation for Educational Excellence (founded by conservative economist Milton Friedman, the self-proclaimed founder of the voucher movement).
In sharp contrast to the numbers cited by Spencer, the research firm of Davis, Hibbitts, & Midghall recently conducted a survey of Portlanders about the state of our public schools. Their findings show that we strongly support our public schools and the direction they are taking.
As is true in most cities, a high majority of the survey participants were taxpayers without children in schools -- mirroring our population -- yet they showed a commitment to our kids and schools and do in fact see funding as one of the major obstacles facing our public education system.
I'm sure an opinion survey can be found to support almost every point ofview, so I won't continue to dwell on the statistics. But here is the bottom line: In our country, high-quality public education is not a privilege, but an expectation, and our community has an obligation to provide high-quality education for every child. Vouchers are a quick fix for some, but they are inherently inadequate because we need long-term solutions for all children.
Community & Parents for Public Schools of Portland, a chapter of Parents for Public Schools, is not naive about the state of our schools. We are in the deteriorating buildings and overcrowded classrooms every single day.
The incredible schools, of which there are many, fuel our optimism; the bad schools fuel our tenacity and persistence.
We believe that as parents, citizens and owners of our public schools, we must take responsibility for addressing the toughest and most persistent problems facing our kids, schools and communities. We believe that public education should be a community enterprise. A community must not abandon its public schools and children in their time of greatest need.
Following the same logic, poorly performing schools must not be tolerated, period. We believe that we must unite to find solutions that work for all of our kids. This sets us apart from voucher supporters, who know that the "school choice" they clamor for cannot guarantee a good education for every child. In order to give all our children equal access to high-quality education, we must concentrate on fixing the schools that we already have. We must push for greater accountability, because if excellent schools can be provided for some students, they can be provided for all students.
When families, schools and communities work together, children succeed, and our communities grow and prosper. Together, we can make a difference.
I will also close with President Barack Obama's words from the presidential debates. "Where we disagree is on the idea that we can somehow give out vouchers as a way of securing the problems in our education system. If Senator McCain were to say that vouchers are the way to go, I disagree with him on this because the data doesn't show that it actually solves the problem."
Let's hope that Obama's words continue to shape our debate on education policy, both nationally and locally.
Doug Wells of Southeast Portland is president of Community & Parents for Public Schools.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
IDRA recently outlined its principles for family leadership in education that have been basis of our work with families, schools and community. As the lead for parent involvement these principals are very much also mine. A school principal that models and carries out these principles creates a family-friendly school we would want to document, spot-light and promulgate as a laudable and replicable example. These principles are broad statements with multiple ways of carrying them out. The actions and behaviors are measured organically and holistically by the results with children, families, staff and teachers. There is no singular template or a singular management style for achieving a family friendly school. I can nevertheless point to the campus leader who has been critical to fostering that wonderful result.
The principles applied to principals
1. Families can be their children’s strongest advocates.
Our first premise draws on the potential that all families have in speaking for, defending and supporting their children. The concept of parents as advocates has been difficult to capture in the research and literature, especially connecting it to student achievement. It is key to our vision. The principal holding this premise does not have an unreal, romanticized view of the reality of our families. She/he does not ignore that there are dysfunctional families in all classes, races and communities. Nevertheless, her/his view of families is that each must be approached with respect and high expectations.
2. Families of different races, ethnicity, language and class are equally valuable. Each group has assets, traditions and a language that is worthy of respect. The principal’s experience has shown that when this principle is present and evident in the outreach and work done with families, there is a marked increase in the amount and quality of families’ engagement with their children’s schools and education.
3. Families care about their children’s education and are to be treated with respect, dignity and value. The principal is aware that every major survey conducted in the Latino community has placed education as the number one issue of concern or very close to the top. Surveys, interviews and conversations with parents of all races, classes and national origin have reinforced this almost universal concern that families have for their children’s education and the desire to be treated with respect. She/he acts on this knowledge.
4. Within families, many individuals play a role in children’s education. The principal acknowledges, accepts and respects whoever the key caretakers of children beyond the genetic parents. The combination of all who live within a home are important influences on children and the principal attests that they can be a collective force for creating excellent schools.
5. Family leadership is most powerful at improving education for all children when collective efforts create solutions for the common good. The family friendly principal looks beyond the individualistic, charismatic leader model, agreeing that the lone leader focus it is too narrow and does not sustain communities, families and excellent schools over time. As wonderful as the neighborhood mom in sneakers haranguing the school board about a serious concern is, the principal knows that our neighborhood schools need a network of families, co-supporting and co-creating action that improves schools. She/he realizes that our neighborhoods need a network of families who continue to support their neighborhood schools as each generation of children flows through them. The family friendly principal welcomes collective efforts that are nourished by the rich & deep democratic roots and sustained with peer compassion among families. She/he acknowledges that child rearing is a difficult and isolating responsibility, so she/he facilitates cooperation and revolving spokespersons so that when there is individual burnout, others from the network keep up the good effort.
6. Families, schools and communities, when drawn together, become a strong, sustainable voice to protect the rights of all children.
The family friendly principal accepts that schools must be transformed; that for positive change to be lasting in the school requires internal and external leadership; that when the internal suasion of the principal coupled with the external support and strength of the parents, there is solid foundation for the innovation to be sustained. The principal truly believes and practices the expectation that with her/his leadership from within the school in welcoming collaboration and enthusiastic connection with families and with the broader community from without, all together can achieve the cherished dream – excellent schools for all children.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Because these were parents from an economically disadvantaged Title I high school the school receiving those federal funds is required to consult with parents. But, to consult, that is to have informed dialogue, school personnel must explain and provide comprehensible information.
In a previous article, "Raising the Bar on Parent Engagement," I noted that dynamic and informed parent engagement is required for educational reform to benefit all children. "The No Child Left Behind Act gives parents increased influence over the education of their children in public schools, and curriculum is central to that education. But are parents and other laypersons unable to inform the technical aspects of education?" (2007)
One analogy can be found in health care, which is certainly technical, complex and seemingly inaccessible to the layperson. But in spite of layperson technical ignorance, contemporary enlightened doctors want patients to be informed about their health, their medical options and have more control over what happens in their health care.
Education also can be made more accessible to families and laypersons. Just as a patient does not have to become a doctor to have clear understanding of his/her body, or the meaning of a medical diagnosis and the possible paths available to better health, likewise a parent and a student can have a clear understanding of what helps and hinders his or her learning, what different options are available to learn and what alternatives could prove more compatible to the child’s learning and academic achievement.
In this way, families and communities can hold their schools to high standards and success for all students. As educators, we must have ongoing conversations with families about standards and how children can be supported to learn. Bilingual forums in lay terms inform and enable families to learn about the specifics of standards, how they are measured, and how they are assessed and can empower them to ask the right questions. We, my colleagues and I, know this first hand because we do this often and experience wonderful dialogues with families that represent the gamut of social class, education and experience. See: Authentic Consultation,
Latino Parent Engagement in High School Math , Engagement Sounds Sparks and Movements
Quality Schools Action Framework
IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework, our institutional change model, includes the following as key elements:
- fair funding,
- governance efficacy,
- parent and community engagement,
- student engagement,
- teaching quality, and
- curriculum quality and access (Robledo Montecel, 2005).
Parent and community engagement is: creating partnerships based on respect and a shared goal of academic success and integrating parents and community members into the decisionmaking processes of the school.
Curriculum quality and access is: the educational programs of study, materials and other learning resources such as technology and their accessibility to all students. It also relates to assessment and accountability – the school practices related to fair and unbiased assessment of students and degree that schools take responsibility for the academic success of all students.
These two factors should not be dealt with in isolation. In point of law, school personnel have an obligation to consult with parents and community members about students’ access to a high quality curriculum.
So: Title I Must Continue Informed Dialogue
Whatever changes and modifications are made to the new federal education law as the new congress convenes, it will be important that the consultation with informed parents continue as a requirement. We recommend that all schools support authentic dialogue and true listening of the families whose children are served by public schools. Families can be and ultimately are the strongest and most consistent advocates for the educational success of their children.
(This post is a slightly edited & tweaked version of an article just published in the IDRA January 2009 Newsletter Parent Consultation and Curriculum – Meaningful Dialogue)
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
● ● ● Seven Resolutions We Must Make and Keep for Kids ● ● ●
Resolution #1: Count All Students; Make Sure All Students Count As 2008 drew to a close, the U.S. Department of Education set final regulations for a uniform way to calculate graduation rates across states. We’re making progress on the issue. But a 2008 survey by the Data Quality Campaign finds that just six states now have all 10 essential elements of a robust longitudinal data system.
Take Action: Be the voice for transparent counts and accountability in your community. Visit the Data Quality Campaign to find out how your state is faring, then press for all needed systems to be in place to count and account for every student. If you are a school leader, convert data to action by convening a school-community forum to set out a joint vision for students, look together at outcome data and form a plan for improving results. IDRA can help. For a model of how cross-sector, cross-race leaders have gathered for such forums as part of IDRA’s Pathways to Graduation project in southern and southwestern states, see: A Community Speaks – A Report on Little Rock’s Coalition-Building for Education: Blueprint Dialogues for Action or IDRA’s Blueprints for Action teamsite.
Resolution #2: Replace Silver Bullets with Sea Changes Education Week’s Diplomas Count 2008 found that while graduation rates have “inched up” nationwide, still only 71 percent of ninth graders graduate with a diploma four years later. IDRA’s most recent study of attrition shows that eight Texas regions have higher school attrition rates than they did two decades ago. When one in three students doesn’t graduate with a high school diploma, it’s time to stop tinkering around the edges of the problem.
Take Action: Holding on to all students and preparing them for success calls for comprehensive action. We must make immediate changes to keep from losing students who are right now at risk of dropping out. But we must also transform teaching and learning so that all students thrive. For a model of coordinated action, visit IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework or tune in to “Action for School Change” a Classnotes podcast episode that features IDRA president and CEO, Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, describing the four elements needed for school success. In promoting systemic change, school-community-family partnerships are key. Organized Communities, Stronger Schools, research findings from the Annenberg Institute, found that “successful [community] organizing strategies contributed to increased student attendance, improved standardized-test-score performance, and higher graduation rates and college-going aspirations in several sites.”
Resolution #3: Value All Children, without Compromise Research on IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, implemented in the United States and Brazil, shows that the single most important factor in keeping students in school is to ensure that there is at least one caring adult who values them, follows their progress and helps keep them on track. The results are evident: since the program’s inception in 1984, over 98 percent of participating students stay in school. To date, the program has kept in school more than 25,000 young people who were previously considered at risk of dropping out.
Take Action: Refuse to define students in terms of deficits; instead, recognize and build on their strengths. To learn more about how to put a valuing model and service learning at the core of dropout prevention, visit the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program web site , listen in to: “Learnings from the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program,” “Dropout Prevention for Students with Special Needs,” “Creating Leadership Opportunities for Students,” or visit “Valuing Youth with Disabilities Educational Outcomes and the Art of Culture.”
Resolution #4: Start Early, But Don’t Stop There Investment in quality pre-K programs pays off, according to study after study including state data released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). In Enriching Children, Enriching the Nation: Public Investment in High-Quality Prekindergarten, Robert G. Lynch reports that annual benefits of investing in pre-K education outstrip costs by more than 12 to 1. Lynch finds that the benefits don’t fade over time: quality pre-K programs result in greater student success in school, higher graduation rates and job earnings.
Take Action: Support students from the start. To make the case in your community, click here for EPI factsheets on the costs and benefits of pre-K programs in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and here for data from Annie E. Casey’s Kids Count Data Center. Beyond promoting access to early childhood education, press for high quality programs for children of all backgrounds. To learn more on how to transform early learning centers into “centers of excellence” visit: http://idra.createsend3.com/t/r/l/jyurdd/uyyhilu/z.
Resolution #5: Secure 21st Century Teaching Quality – for All Students In spite of the emphasis on quality teaching built in to the No Child Left Behind Act, children in high-poverty schools in America are more likely to be taught English, science and mathematics by an out-of-field teacher than those in a low-poverty school. Teaching quality and student-teacher relationships are critical to success, but as education researcher Dr. Linda Darling Hammond asserted in an interview with PBS, schools are still “constructed as though teaching doesn’t matter.”
Take Action: Take a lead role in promoting equity and 21st Century teaching quality in your district and state for all students. Help shape the conversation about teaching and learning for today’s students and how this must be tied to professional development by visiting the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ “Route 21” web site. To zero in on strengthening teaching quality, see: “Seven Principles for Effective Professional Development for Diverse Schools” by Dr. Abelardo Villarreal, director of Field Services at IDRA.
Resolution #6: Overcome Inequities It is not news that we continue to face structural inequities in our public school system. As one example, citing “palpable injustice” in July 2008, Judge William Wayne Justice ruled that the state of Texas failed to effectively educate secondary level English language learners and to monitor school district compliance with the Equal Educational Opportunity Act. Texas is not alone. Education Week’s Quality Counts 2009: Portrait of a Population points out that across the country, academic achievement gaps between English language learners and their peers are significant and persistent.
Take Action: Be an advocate in the capital, courtroom and classroom for quality schooling for every student. The basic rights of English language learners to a quality, equitable education are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, in federal and state legislation, and court rulings (EEO of 1974, Lau vs. Nichols of 1974, U.S. vs. Texas of 1970). For a review of court rulings that establish children’s rights, visit: http://idra.createsend3.com/t/r/l/jyurdd/uyyhilu/yd and “A Framework for Effective Instruction of Secondary English Language Learners ” by Dr. María Robledo Montecel. To help schools and communities look together at questions of educational equity and create a plan of action, the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity (SCCE) has outlined Six Goals of Educational Equity (#1: Comparably high academic achievement and other student outcomes; #2: Equitable access and inclusion; #3: Equitable treatment; #4: Equitable opportunity to learn; #5: Equitable resources; #6: Accountability). You can use these as a yardstick to measure your progress or as a lightening rod to galvanize change.
Resolution #7: Open Pathways to College We know that schools are most successful when they see high school graduation as a minimum milestone and look to prepare their students for the future beyond secondary school. At Ysleta ISD in El Paso, for example, kindergarteners don gowns and sashes naming their selected future university – an approach at the outset that is tied to the district’s long-term goals for student achievement. But the future does not look so bright when students are not adequately prepared to succeed in college or find that college costs put this option out of reach. Measuring Up 2008 national and state report cards on higher education awarded almost every state in the country an “F” in college affordability.
Take Action: Develop partnerships with local community colleges and universities, make sure all students get the kind of college and financial aid counseling found in elite schools and advocate for adequate funding for higher education. Tune in to "College Access for Low Income and Minority Students" for a conversation with Aurelio Montemayor, M.Ed., director of the IDRA Texas Parent Information and Resource Center, on how K-12 schools can actively support college access for their students. Promote Sound Preparation: Make sure, for example, students "get math." In Students Whose Parents Did Not Go to College: Postsecondary Access, Persistence and Attainment , Susan Choy reported that more than three out of four high school graduates (76 percent) who took advanced mathematics courses in high school enrolled in a four-year college or university. Robert Moses, founder and president of the Algebra Project said: “I believe that the absence of math literacy in urban and rural communities throughout this country is an issue as urgent as the lack of registered voters in Mississippi was in 1961… and I believe that solving the problem requires exactly the kind of community organizing that changed the South in the 1960s.”
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Right now it is vital for us to remember the Spirit of the Child. Embrace the special qualities of wonder, curiosity, creativity, imagination, dreaming, love, joy and happiness. begin to let go of the myth that was instilled in you to work hard and begin to play as you once did. If you do not remember how, find a child and ask them to teach you.
The quote is from a blog/zine I just read. The complete post that precedes this section is a harsh but, to my view, true indictment of the myths and platitudes we scatter so easily to our children, our young and expect all the long-suffering wage-earners to accept: work hard and you will be rewarded. Imagine if I chose to list the tired phrases often used by leaders (especially of the party that just lost the presidency & congress). The reader would not be rewarded from the hard work of reading the cliches. I thought the post Hard Work Leads to Poverty had been written by some crusty old community organizer from the 60s. See below and judge whether my prejudice was correct:
Female 46 years old Live Oak, FL I am a kid who refuses to grow up. I inspire people to have fun and stop the endless cycle of working yourself to death. I am a mother of two daughters and my best playmates. I am a speaker, playshop leader and a creative muse.
I don't publicly rant (much) about the general abuse and disregard of our blue-collar workers, our working-stiffs who do the dirty, difficult, under-paid and maligned grunge work. But I can't help but being hooked by the tone: rage, frustration, righteous indignation and ultimately hopelessness and despair. I want to keep myself honest about how complex and difficult the life is for the families of the children I'm most concerned about.
In defense of social civility & my excesses, I still have trouble distinguishing which battles to pick, when to hold my tongue and especially discerning between telling a truth clearly, politely but assertively in contrast with an-out-of-control tantrum with tonsils extending beyond the lips.
It's especially difficult when I ignore the ridiculousness of social organizations we form, supposedly to deal with the needs of children in our schools: I blurt out humor-from-hell dipped in absurdist/60s hippy confrontation of hipocrisy in some middle-class norm-ruts. I've been reported to officers of a national organization (on whose board I sit) for actions unbecoming to a board member. Ok, I won't tell a presenter with a sleepy audience if there is no response to attempts to facilitate conversation and keep a workshop alive, to 'take his clothes off'. Yes, it's an inappropriate cheap-shot. A national media reporter if present would have quoted me and the organization would have a public and general membership image problem.
Forget that we do have unconscionable classrooms and public schools, children not being supported to learn and love learning, families vilified, students stigmatized and our urban public schools in danger of being shut down by the private sector slathering at the mouth to get those public education dollars. It's hard to sit politely listening to themes far from the urgent problems. The organization was lucky I didn't really go berserk, take my civilized mask off and release not just inappropriate humor, but scream about the Titanic furniture we are rearranging about five minutes before it's date with big ice-block.
I learned in the 60s & 70s that just getting my social-injustice-anger jollies off is counterproductive, distracts from the message and hides the problem. I agreed to be an upstanding board member...but jiminy-crickets, the children in our public schools, our children, not 'those children', our students, our treasure and our future are in danger. We need to put a fire under public opinion, public will, public support for our public schools.
Many, many entrepreneurial and creative educators have quick answers for what is wrong. But the underlying message is "Public Schools are Hopeless" That righteous indignation is not mine nor on my side. I want the schools to be excellent and equitable, but I don't want to close the doors, any more than I want to erase the neighborhoods where families live.
Return to the brilliant and passionate writer of Hard Work Leads to Poverty, & see she ends up exactly where I do: on the side of hope, possibilities and re-connecting to the vision of the schools (and world) we want to create. It's in the quote opening this note & the opening Wordle created from positive words.
Keep the faith in the children and their families. If we don't, who will? If not now, when?
Sunday, January 11, 2009
From V. Ryan Sarti (firstname.lastname@example.org) on Linked InIf you read Thomas Friedman's "The World Is Flat" you begin to realize how important education and critical thinking really are. Just because there are no explosions on the news doesn't mean we don't have an educational crisis on our hands.
Daniel's comment about inspiring others is a real gem. Thank you for some great insights.
Strong families, even single parent families provide the foundation for strong students. Educational challenges in all neighborhoods are often family based.
Teachers like Corinne may do a great job in the classroom, but the classroom only lasts a few hours a day. The rest of the time, peers and parents are the key influencers. The President has to find a way to address that. Sometimes supporting parents and student to take responsibility can come from Community. But the Community has to be strong, focused on helping, and supporting education and results.
Cathy Miller made some solid points. Her comment about keeping the federal government out of education is a two edged sword. I am a fan of small government. State and local efforts are the key to success. But, when they fail, where can they turn? Unfortunately, it is the federal government.
Wish list: It isn't always about money. Our nation's worst school district (Washington DC) spends $17,000/year/student. That is the same amount as the New Trier District, which is one of the better districts in Illinois and in the country.
Wish: stop equating money and results. There is no correlation.
Where are the teachers unions in all this? Why don't we see more initiatives from them about education and results?
Wish: More innovation and results from teachers unions. Some educational leadership would be good.
Part of the reason we provide education is to help people be able to support themselves when they transition into the real world. I have seen the quality of applicants diminish over time.
Wish: greater collaboration between business and education to help students be better prepared when the graduate.
Wish: Rebuild the sense of community in America to support education and reduce crime. That also helps to raise property values, which is often the source of funding for education.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Coalition-building and community capacity-building are critical, though often neglected, change strategies in improving graduation rates.
One hundred percent graduation and preparation for success should be our goals for all children and the measure of our success.
While critical for students who are at immediate risk of dropping out, discrete dropout prevention programs cannot change the systems that give rise to risk in the first place.
Fair Funding – Availability of funds in a school district to support a quality educational program for all students.
Governance Efficacy – The capacity of administrative and supervisory personnel to deliver quality educational services to all students, along with the policymaking and pro-active support of a school board to hold on to every student.
Parent and Community Engagement – Creating partnerships based on respect and a shared goal of academic success and integrating parents and community members into the decisionmaking processes of the school.
Student Engagement – School environment and activities that value students and incorporate them into the learning process and other social activities within the school with academic achievement as a result.
Teaching Quality – The preparation of teachers and the placement of teachers in their fields of study. Teaching is informed by continual professional development. Also the practices that teachers use in the classroom to deliver comprehensible instruction that prepares all students to meet academic goals and ensures that no child is left behind or drops out of school.
Curriculum Quality and Access – The educational programs of study, materials and other learning resources such as technology and their accessibility to all students. Also relates to assessment and accountability – the school practices related to fair and unbiased assessment of students and degree that schools take responsibility for the academic success of all students.
Even though this blog is my personal statement, and I have a disclaimer about it in the side column, it's pretty hard to separate me from an organization that I've worked for since 1975 & for whom I'm a senior staff member. I've included the framework complete and unchanged from our organizational website because it is the foundation for my wishlist for the new and improved Elementary & Secondary Education Act, whatever it is labeled in the new iteration.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Rather than give my personal statement of criticism of NCLB, I am suggesting some on-the-ground roles and projects. I decided to publish my requests because: A) I want to highlight particular programs, projects & roles that my experience has shown to have direct impact on school transformation and student achievement. B) If NCLB is modified rather than a completely developed from scratch, these ideas can easily included in existing sections of the law. and C) I wanted to illustrate to my readers the direction taken in our community work, our parent leadership in education experiences, and the inter-generational experiences that illustrate student leadership and community use of technology to hold schools accountable.My wish list is within the very specific arena of family leadership in public education; If the focus was teacher & teaching quality, it would be a different wish list. My wish list is also based on a set of Family Leadership in Education Principles championed by my organization and guide my work as director of the Texas IDRA Parent Information Resource Center.
If you read this and chose to respond, please take a moment tell me what you think of my recommendations, especially as you send me your list of priorities.