Monday, September 30, 2013

Parents and Public Education

As we grapple with the minutia of boundaries and enrollment, here's some higher level thinking on education to challenge you.

From Ed Week, "What the Goal of Public Education?", author Tom Segal offers his and others' ideas:

Reform, however, has more to do with the learning experience itself. What should we be teaching? How do we think about accountability? How do we balance standards with the complexities of population diversity? Undoubtedly, technology is typically an offshoot of this dialogue, a tool through which much of this reform can be delivered and administered. But they are not the same thing.

Reform is a big fancy buzzword that floats around one particular concept: what are we trying to get out of this educational experience, and how do we adjust the current system to reflect these changes? 

In your opinion, what is the current goal of the American Public Education System?

and..

What should be the goal of the American Public Education System?


(The US DOE has their own but it doesn't speak to the purpose of public education.) 

From Ed Week's Finding Common Ground, "Do Schools Work Enough to Engage Parents?":

Schools sometimes send conflicting messages to parents. One day...they hold one hand up asking them to come in...and other times hold a hand up stopping them from entering. 

School communication isn't perfect, and parents aren't always perfect either. Every day a very diverse set of parents send their kids to school; some of whom want communication every day and others who could care less if they ever hear from the school at all. 

They refer to a report by Public Agenda that talks about three different groups of parents:

"Potential transformers -- parents who seem ready to play a bigger role in deciding how schools operate;
School helpers -- parents who say they could do more to help out at the schools their children attend; and
Help seekers -- parents who are concerned about their own children's learning and seem to look for more guidance from their schools on how to help their children succeed."


Which one are you?   (Or, are you one but wish you were another?)

Also, did you know the pushback from parents on testing is because YOU (yes, you)  are a union lackey or sheep?  The conservative education blog, EAG News, thinks so.

When asked why they oppose the student assessments, “opt-out” parents offer reasons that read like talking points from a teacher union memo. Parents claim the standardized assessments are being unfairly used to evaluate teachers’ classroom performance and that they’re leading to a narrowing of the curriculum, commonly known as “teaching to the test.”

They also say the tests are evidence that K-12 reform is allowing big corporations to control the education process.

They left out using up classroom time to test, tying up computers and libraries, stress on students, all those things.

And uh oh, it's spreading:

What’s distressing about the “opt-out movement” is that it’s proof some parents are falling for the unions’ anti-testing propaganda.

The AP reports that the anti-testing sentiment is popping up all across the country – from Seattle, Washington to Providence, Rhode Island. The movement appears to be growing, thanks to social media sites which allow unhappy parents to connect and organize protests.

The AP also notes there are no consequences for parents who keep their children home on testing day, which means this movement could keep growing.

I can say only one thing.  Baaa.

Remember that NY Times op-ed about wealthier parents in wealthier districts and how maybe we should share the wealth?  A parent in San Francisco has taken that idea in another direction.  From Ed Week:

And although California districts have received increased aid due to a new state school funding formula this year, Todd David, a father living in San Francisco, told the San Francisco Examiner in an article on Sept. 22 that parents alone still can't make up for years of funding shortfalls.

So David, along with other local parents, founded edMatch, a nonprofit organization that asks private companies to match every dollar raised by parents at local schools. Last year, San Francisco parents at the district's 114 schools raised a total of $6 million. That meant that edMatch gave each of those schools an additional $50,000. For some schools, those edMatch dollars are a much-appreciated bonus. Parents decide how the additional funds are spent and they report back to the nonprofit to share their best practices. 

Allowing parents to control how edMatch donations are used could result in some interesting choices. Are San Francisco parents having iPad versus kiln debates? Most local education foundations work with school districts to identify which needs will be supported by the money raised.

"The key to school success is more than just money," David told the Examiner, "it's parent involvement that makes the difference."

6 comments:

Jon said...

This might not be too popular given the anti-testing message in your post, Melissa, but I'd say the goal of US public education should start with math and reading at or above grade level. Reading and math are tools with which a child can learn on their own and without which they are crippled for life. I'd say the primary goal should be making sure 90% or more of children have at least those basic tools at or above grade level.

As for what the goal currently is, it seems badly scattered and confused, to the point that public education seems satisfied with what should be unacceptable outcomes for children. I'd like to see a much more focused primary goal, something that is clear, easily understood, and easily measured like math and reading at or above grade level, and then any other goals specific, measurable, and focused entirely on improving educational outcomes.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wait, who said anything about being against testing? I didn't and the article didn't. I'm not against testing. We need it but we are way gone to the far side and need some common sense about why we test and what we use the results for.

I agree that if we don't get to children early, they are crippled for life (without some extraordinary measures to help them).

Jon said...

Of the responses in that the Ed Week article on what the goal of public education should be, the only one that is close to what I am saying is John Katzman who said the goal is "to turn out students who, over the next 30 years, are economic successes, good citizens, and happy people. Each of those things is highly measurable, and any short-term metric that doesn't durably predict those long term metrics is worthless."

Anonymous said...

Should schools switch to teaching grit?

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/09/26/angela-duckworth-grit/

Here is the link to register to take the Grit Survey yourselves:

http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/register.aspx


GMG

Lynn said...

GMG - instead of reading and math? Or what? To teach that, you'd have to give each child an authentic challenge.

Anonymous said...

I would argue that we have gone too far in a conceptual direction instead of teaching basic skills. Math is a perfect example of this with conceptual textbooks from elementary through high school in most Seattle public schools.

Administrators love talking about the joy of students discovering answers on their own. Instead, students fumble around and never learn the basics. No one is looking at high remedial rates in math in college, asking what skills incoming students are lacking.

Now we have Common Core standards taking all the oxygen out of the room, giving the Seattle school district more years to spend money on anything but better textbooks. More time wasted.

S parent